Male athletes usually take the spotlight, whether for their sexiness (hello David Beckham!), their out-of-this-world athletic ability (go Michael Jordon!), or their indiscretions (bad Tiger). But, we’ve compiled a list of 10 inspiring, beautiful, record-breaking female athletes that have shown us that girls can do anything guys can do, and sometimes, they can do it even better! We tried to cover all the major sports, and if you think there’s another female athlete that deserves to be on the list, we’d love if you left us a comment below!
1. Lisa Leslie
Lisa Leslie proves that the WNBA is just as hardcore and legit as the NBA. Her basketball skills rank up there near the likes of Michael Jordan. In 2002, she became the first woman to dunk a ball in a WNBA game. Her record-setting didn’t stop there. In 2009, Lisa became the first player to score 6,000 points in a career. Her positive, can-do attitude inspires us all.
2. Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie started golfing professionally at the young age of 16, but has been playing golf since she was just 4-years-old. This golf prodigy has set unbelievable records in golf and has amassed a great deal of endorsement deals and hype, attracting fans from all over. And not only is she athletic, she’s smart too. She attended Stanford University (although she dropped out to focus on golf).
3. Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton is the youngest, and possibly the most inspiring, athlete on our list. This 20-year-old surfer is best known for surviving a shark attack where she lost an arm, and for her struggle to overcome the accident and get right back on that surfboard. Her strength through hard times and her perseverance for a sport she loves is what makes her not just an inspirational female athlete, but an American icon.
4. Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick is truly a woman in a “man’s sport.” Nascar racing is dominated by men, but Danica managed to set a record in 2008 as she became the first woman to win an IndyCar race. She certainly gives all of the male race car drivers a run for their money. Besides being a force to be reckoned with on the race course, this beautiful athlete has topped many lists of hottest celebs, including FHM’s ‘100 Sexiest Women in the World.’ A woman that can maintain her femininity while still being a strong athlete? We love it!
5. Jennie Finch
Batter up! Jennie Finch is one of the most recognizable softball players of all time. Her pitching skills helped lead the US Team to win a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics and silver at the 2008 Olympics. She brought a femininity to the sport that didn’t really exist before. While she retired in 2010 to focus on her family, she remains a pop culture icon for not only her athletic ability, but her beauty, grace and humility.
6. Michelle Kwan
A two-time Olympic medalist, a five-time World champion, and a nine-time U.S. champion, Michelle Kwan has taken the sport of figure skating by storm. She single-handedly brought figure skating to the spotlight, infusing it with the respect it deserved. She is the epitome of a graceful athlete, showing artistry and femininity as she glides skillfully around the ice rink.
7. Dara Torres
Winning twelve Olympic gold medals for swimming in her career is pretty impressive, but what’s more impressive is that Dara Torres won three of those silver medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she was 41-YEARS-OLD and the mother of a 2-year-old. Dara proves that moms won’t quit and can still achieve all of their goals!
8. Mia Hamm
We know ‘bend it like Beckham’ has a certain ring to it, but we prefer, ‘bend it like Hamm.’ This outstanding soccer player was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002. At the age of 19, she became the youngest American woman to win a World Cup championship. She retired in 2004 to raise a family, but she made her stamp as one of the best American soccer players in history, male or female.
9. Chris Evert
Chris Evert is a former world number 1 pro tennis player. Like many of the other athletes on the list, she’s broken records left and right. Her career win-loss record in singles matches is the best of any pro player in tennis history. She’s topped numerous “Best Female Athlete” lists, and was even named fourth on Tennis Magazine’s “40 Greatest Players of the Tennis Era.” In 1990, she had the honor of playing tennis with the president, George H.W. Bush, at Camp David. (Below is a link to Modernmom’s exclusive interview with Chris Evert!)
10. Gabrielle Reece
If there’s one woman who can do it all, it’s Gabrielle Reece. She is a pro volleyball player, actress, sports announcer, model, writer, and most importantly, a mother. This beautiful athlete has won a ton of volleyball tournaments and has been a spokeswoman for major companies like Nike. She does it all, while maintaining her beauty and charm.