Most of us have, at some point in our lives, been inspired by some awesome people for different reasons. We often call such people our role models, as we look up to them for guidance and motivation to work harder. They keep us going when the journey is rocky. They could be our parents, teachers, popular writers or badass women in sports who have beaten all odds to be the best in their various disciplines.
We want to shine a spotlight on some of those women. The female athletes who have been a powerful force in the male-dominated world of sports. They have inspired countless people through their hard work, dedication and perseverance on the field, and by addressing some serious issues in the society off the field. These are 5 of the most inspirational women in sports, in no particular order.
Lindsey Vonn, skiing
You just can’t miss this name in a discussion on the best skiers in history. Lindsey Vonn is a true skiing legend. Lindsey is one of only two women to have won four World Cup overall championships (the other being Annemarie Moser-Pröll). She is also the first American woman to win in the downhill at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada.
She inspired a lot of people when she came back from injury (calling it #minorsetback on Twitter) with a strong performance winning the bronze medal in the 2018 Olympics. Lindsey Vonn is also empowering young girls through the Lindsey Vonn Foundation.
Marta Vieira da Silva is widely considered to be the best female footballer of all time as evidenced by the nickname “Pelé in skirts” given by the legendary Pelé himself. Her list of accolades is really impressive; she holds the record for most goals scored in FIFA World Cup tournaments with 17 goals, she is the first footballer (both genders) to score at five different World Cup editions and has also been named FIFA World Player of the Year six times.
Marta’s achievements are truly inspiring especially when considering the fact it was illegal for women in Brazil to play football from 1941 to 1979. And even after it was legalised, young girls like Marta still suffered widespread discrimination. She has also been inspiring younger generations to challenge stereotypes with her UN Women Goodwill Ambassador role.
Serena Williams, tennis
Certainly one of the biggest names in sports, Serena Williams is a true tennis powerhouse who did not let sexism or racism stop her from reaching the top. She has won a whopping 23 Grand Slam singles titles (second only to Margaret Court and more than any male player) and has broken all sorts of records in her career.
When asked if she considered herself to be “one of the greatest female athletes of all time”, she famously replied, “I prefer the word ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time'”. Serena Williams also wrote an open letter about sexism to inspire young women to be resilient. She can be proud that there is more ethnic diversity in tennis today than there was in 1995 when her professional career started.
Gabby Douglas, gymnastics
Though she is the youngest on our list of inspirational women in sports, Gabrielle Christina Victoria Douglas already has an impressive collection of medals and has also inspired countless people. Gaby is a three-time Olympic gold medallist and the first African American to be the individual all-around champion in Olympic history.
Gaby’s talents are not restricted to a gymnasium. At 17, she wrote a book about her life titled “Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith” to highlight the importance of determination and perseverance in her successful journey. Her life story is also portrayed in the 2014 movie, The Gabby Douglas Story. She is a known critic of bullying and a gender equality advocate.
Bethany Hamilton, surfing
Losing an entire arm could be an injury-ending career to some of the toughest people out there. But this was certainly not the case for Bethany Meilani Hamilton who lost her left arm in a shark attack while surfing off the coast of Kauai when she was just 13.
Even though Bethany lost her arm in that attack, she showed the world that her drive and determination to be a successful professional surfer were not lost as she won multiple first-place medals in surfing competitions. What an inspiration! Bethany is also supporting other shark attack survivors through her foundation, Friends of Bethany Hamilton.
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