Game Changers: Iconic Moments in Women’s Sports History

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Once the ultimate underdogs, women have come from behind and truly began to dominate the sports world. Many have received high accolades, millions of dollars and acting gigs because of their stellar athletic abilities. Take a look at the most iconic females athletes and their legendary moments in sports history.

Ronda Rousey Wins Judo Olympic Medal


Although in recent times Ronda Rousey has fallen from fighting glory, Ronda certainly earned her place in sports history. She was the first U.S. woman ever to win an Olympic medal in Judo. She won the bronze medal, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She went on to become the face of UFC. She is a former bantamweight champion and won multiple consecutive fights. Her skills landed her roles in movies such as “Entourage” and “Furious 7.”

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Maria Sharapova Accomplishes Grand Slam


Russian-Born Maria Sharapova moved to the United States in 1994, and has been playing in the Women’s Tennis Association since 2001. She quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the best, in the sport. She made her mark on tennis history after defeating the famed Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon finals. She was only 17-years-old at the time. This Olympic medalist is also 1 of only 10 women to a career Grand Slam, meaning she has won The Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open.

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Dara Torres Becomes Most Decorated Female Swimmer

Although swimming may be synonymous with Michael Phelps, we think Dara Torres gives him a run (or swim) for his money. Torres was the first swimmer to represent the U.S. in 5 Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2008). At the age of 41, she became the oldest swimmer ever on the U.S. Olympic team. She has won 12 Olympic Medals: 4 gold, 4 silver, and 4 bronze. She is one of the most decorated female swimmers in Olympic history!

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Simone Biles Wins Multiple Golds


Simone Biles has taken the gymnastics arena by storm. When performing, during any category, your eyes are drawn to her. She is not only an athlete, but an artist. She was part of the U.S. “Final Five,” which won the gold-medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro. In the same Olympics, she won the individual gold medal for all-around, vault and floor. She has won a combined total of nineteen Olympic and World Championship medals – making her the most decorated American gymnast.

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Billie Jean King Beats Male Player


Talk about some serious girl-power, Billie Jean King was a pioneer in women’s sports. In 1973, she challenged professional male tennis player, Bobby Riggs, to a match. The match became known as the “Battle Of The Sexes.” Bobby was a pretentious and aggressive player, who thought he would win the match, no problem. However, Billie Jean King defeated him! Over 100 million people watched the televised match. Billie Jean King certainly goes down in history as one of the most important female athletes in sports!

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Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh Define Volleyball Standards


The duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh define great beach volleyball. The American doubles team won gold medals in beach volleyball at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. They are one of the most successful pairings in the Association of Volleyball Professionals. In 2008, the women had won 112 consecutive games and had won 19 straight titles. However, the two also had amazing individual careers in the sport.

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Every Country Had A Women Athlete Representative


At the 2012 London Olympics, every country present had a female athlete to represent them. For the first time in Olympic history, women were allowed to represent Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic Sultanate of Brunei. When the Frenchman, Baron de Coubertin, originally founded the Olympic games, he declared having women participate would be “incorrect, unpractical, uninteresting…” How times have changed, as women are truly declaring their prominence in sports!

Saudi Arabia's contingent takes part in the athletes parade during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium

Schweitzer Is First Female Boston Marathon Runner


Katherine Schweitzer truly used harsh and untrue criticism as a motivator. Her coach told her a full marathon would be too hard for a “fragile woman” to compete. However, that only motivated her more and she began training hard. She became the first woman ever to compete in the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry (261). She signed up for the race using a gender-neutral name, K.V. Switzer. At one point a race official tried to physically remove her from the race. Against all odds, Katherine completed the marathon.

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Danica Patrick Drives With The Boys


Formula 1 and other high-speed racing is still very dominated by men. However, when American, Danica Patrick, entered the sport, she showed women also belong. In 2008, she won the Indy Japan 300. She is the only woman to ever win an IndyCar series race. In 2009, she placed third in the Indianapolis 500, the highest finish by a woman ever. She currently competes in NASCAR races and is still breaking gender barriers.

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Hope Solo Breaks Goalkeeping Records


Although she has come under media criticism for issues in her personal life, Hope Solo is still one of the best goalies in soccer history. She won gold medals, with the U.S. Women’s team, at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She holds multiple U.S. goal-keeper records for most starts (190), wins (153), shutouts (102), wins in a season (26), consecutive minutes played (1,256), and longest undefeated streak (55 games). In 2015, she also helped the U.S. women’s team win its 3rd World Cup.

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Julie Krone Wins The Triple Crown


In 1993, Julie Krone became the first female jocket to win the Triple Crown. In 2001, she became the first woman inducted into the National Museum’s Racing Hall Of Fame. Even after retiring, in 1999, she came back to become the first woman to win the Breeder’s Cup, in 2003. Throughout her career she won over 3,700 races, despite being trampled on the racetrack, in 1993. Krone truly has determination which shows from her domination in horse racing!

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Mo’ne Davis Pitches To Victory


At 15 years old, you’d be surprised to see a girl so interested in sports. However, Philadelphia-native, Mo’ne Davis doesn’t have boys and shopping on her mind, but rather baseball. Davis was the first African-American female to play in the Little League World Series. She became the 18th female to ever play, but the first female to pitch and earn a shutout in the series. She also became the first Little League World Series player to be featured on the cover of “Sports Illustrated.”

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Becky Hammon Hired As NBA Coach


Going from a phenomenal career in college, Becky Hammon went undrafted in her rookie year in the WNBA, but was signed by the New York Liberty in 2009. She became a 6x WNBA All-American. In 2014, Hammon was hired as an assistant coach by the San Antonio Spurs. This made her the 2nd female assistant coach in NBA history, but the first full-time assistant coach. Becky sees her role as an assistant coach as a job, but the rest of the world views it as a step towards gender equality amongst all sports!

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Diana Nyad Swims From Cuba To Florida


Diana Nyad certainly has the heart of a lion, or should we say shark. Nyad became not only the first female, but first person ever, to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. A feat which she accomplished in 2013, at the age of 64, after trying 5 times! Throughout her life, she also swam around Manhattan and from the Bahamas to Florida. No sea is too big for Diana and she certainly made multiple strokes towards proving how strong women can be!

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Lindsey Vonn Skis To Ultimate Victory


Lindsey Vonn has represented the United States as an alpine skier in three Olympic Games and has won a gold and bronze medal. In 2010, she became the first ever American woman to win a gold, in the downhill. She is the most successful American ski racer, with 67 World Cup wins. She is 1 of only 4 females to win 4 World Cup Ski Championships, as well as 1 of 6 women to have won the world cup in all 5 disciplines of alpine skiing.

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Flo Jo Is Fastest Woman In The World


Some say the late Flo Jo could have beaten the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, as Flo Jo is considered the fastest woman of all time. In 1988, she set the world records for the 100m and 200m, in track and field, which have yet to be broken. Unfortunately, she died in her sleep , in 1998, from an epileptic seizure. However, she will always be considered one of the best female athletes ever.

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Kelly Kulick Strikes Out The Men


Bowling is many people’s favorite pastime, and known as sport that is really commanded by men. However, in 2010, Kulick became the first woman to ever compete in bowling’s prestigious “Tournament of Champions.” Not only that, she went on to beat the 62 male professionals, in the tournament. She defeated the number one seed, Chris Barnes, by 70 pins in the finals. Unfortunately, Bowling is not highly covered by the media and Kulick did not get as much recognition as she deserved. However, she has definitely made her mark on sports.

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Sarah Thomas Refs In The NFL


Sarah Thomas is not knowing for her athletic skills but rather her officiating talents. In April 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first female line judge in the National Football league. However the NFL was the only first for her. She was also the first female woman to officiate a major college football game, officiate a bowl game, and officiate in a Big Ten stadium. Thomas helped show Women can play by the rules and still succeed in sports!

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The Williams Sisters Make Tennis Great Again


The Williams Sisters have certainly changed the game of women’s tennis. In 2001, the sisters were scheduled to play each other during the U.S. Open. ESPN aired the match prime-time. Before the Williams sisters, the match was normally shown as a half-time event. The sisters brought back tons of media attention, to the sport. Not to mention, they dominated the Olympics together in 2000, 2008, and 2012. They also show that in the end family is what really matters, even though they have to beat each other, from time to time.

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Molly Huddle Runs Into Marathon History


In 2015,  Molly Huddle decided to take on the New York Half Marathon. She went on to win the race, with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 41 seconds. She was only 7 seconds short of breaking the U.S. female half-marathon record that was set by Dena Kastor, in 2006. In 2016, she also set the American record in the 10000 meters at the Olympics. That same year, she again ran and won the New York Half Marathon.

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Mia Hamm Becomes International Soccer Legend


Mia Hamm is the legendary American soccer player. Hamm led the U.S. National team, as their lead striker, to its second win of the World Cup in 1999. She was named the Women’s FIFA World Player of the Year the first two years the award was given. Until 2013, Hamm held the record for most international goals of any player with 159. This Soccer Hall Of Fame Member is credited with bringing popularity back to women’s soccer.

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Nadia Comăneci Gets A Perfect 10


At the young age of 14, Nadia Comăneci became the first gymnast ever to score a 10, from the judges. She became the first gymnast to ever receive a perfect score! She was given the honor for her flawless performance on the uneven bars at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. She went on to score 6 more perfect 10’s in Montreal and won 3 gold medals. She is still-considered one of the best gymnasts in the world and brought worldwide attention to the sport.

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Manon Rhéaume Drafted Into The NHL


Out of all the women on this list, Manon Rhéaume may have completed one of the most historic firsts. In 1992, she became the first woman ever to play in any of the four major North American sports leagues (NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB.) She played for the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Team in two pre-season games as a goalie. Till this day, she is the only woman to do.

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Gretchen Bleiler Lands Inverted Trick


For a long-time snowboarding was dominated by men, until Gretchen Bleiler got ahold of a board. Bleiler began riding professionally, in 1996. However, she became a legend, in the sport, when she landed the “crippler 540.” This action paved the way for women, in the sport, as it was the first time a woman landed this particular inverted trick. She went on to medal multiple times at the X-games and won a silver medal in the Halfpipe competition in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

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Tania Cagnotto Dives Into Italian History Books


Italian native, Tania Cagnotto, made a splash in sports, when she was only 15-years-old and and qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Unfortunately, she only placed 18th during the Olympics. However, she went on to win gold at the 2015 FINA World Champions. She became the first Italian female to do so. She continued her Olympic journey in 2016, in Rio De Janiero, and won a silver and bronze medal. However, many of her applause after her dives, may have been due to her her shoot for famous men’s magazine in Italy in 2013.

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Nancy Kerrigan’s Comeback Story


Kerrigan is best known for the 1994 scandal “The Whack Heard Round the World.” Kerrigan was on her way to the locker room before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, when Shane Stant, fellow competitor Tonya Harding’s ex-husband’s friend, hit her in the leg with a police baton. Tonya pleaded guilty to a felony of hindering the prosecution. Nancy went on to win silver at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics just six weeks later. Even through scandal, Nancy was able to show the strong determination of a true athlete.

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