Sport used to just be about men and how good they were, until women realized they were just as good if not better than the guys. The first Olympics did not feature women, but over time the ladies fought to be on the same stage as the men, and when they did they proved they belonged there. There have been many amazing female athletes over the years, but these are the women who blazed a trail for others and broke new ground.
Mixed martial arts, or cage fighting if you’d prefer, was a largely a male-dominated sport until Ronda Rousey came along. She first rose to fame at the Olympics, where she competed for the USA in judo, before making the switch to the cage. Rousey fought in the UFC and quickly became a star.
Not only was she the biggest female fighter on the roster, but she was the biggest name as well. On top of that, she was largely responsible for record PPV buys as well as attendances. If it wasn’t for Rousey, female fighters might not have made the breakthrough to headline fight cards like the former Olympian.
The Swedish golfer really helped put ladies’ golf on the map. At a time when the women’s game was finding its feet on the golf course, Sorenstam was becoming as successful as her male counterpart, Tiger Woods. She is still at the top of the career earnings list for female golfers, despite having retired many years ago. Sorenstam was so good, in fact, that she became the first female golfer to play on the men’s PGA tour since 1945, and she won a total of 90 international championships.
Few female athletes embody empowerment like Serena Williams. Since breaking onto the scene with her sister Venus, the tennis star has gone on to dominate the game unlike anyone else. She has 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name, more than anyone else in the modern era, male or female, and looks set to add to that number in the future. Serena is also an icon for feminism and black women in a sport that has been white-dominated since it was created.
In 1992, Manon Rheaume made history by becoming the first female athlete to ever play in the NHL. All through her life, she was an outstanding goalkeeper, and she made it her life’s goal to play in the NHL, despite the odds. Her grit and determination paid off, and she was signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent.
She wasn’t just a member of the squad, though, and actually got some ice time in the major league. It’s little surprise that Rheaume went on to play for the Canadian women’s team at the Olympics, helping her country win the silver in 1998.
These female athletes have ensured their names will never be forgotten thanks to their skill and groundbreaking careers. They are an inspiration to women and men everywhere and are proof that if you are determined and dedicated enough, the sky’s the limit.