It wouldn’t be fair to not include the one woman who placed the American Soccer scene on the map. Mia Hamm retired with a record 158 goals, two Olympic gold medals, a Women’s World Cup and even had a building named after her at the Nike Corporate campus. She’s been inducted to the World Football Hall of Fame and is often referred to as “The Most Important American Athlete of the past 15 years” by the media.
While Danica Patrick may be more of a household name as far as female stock car racing drivers are concerned, it was Janet Guthrie who first paved the way for women on the oval asphalt. Before Guthrie no woman had ever competed in the Indianapolis 500 or Daytona 500 and, in spite of pushback from the majority of her male competitors, Guthrie managed to make a sizeable mark on NASCAR, most notably when she finished sixth in Bristol in 1977, which till this day is the highest finish by a female driver (tied with Danica Patrick).
There’s not much we can say about Ronda Rousey that hasn't already been said. Her commanding presence in the Octagon is enough to make opponents’ knees tremble. While recent bouts haven't gone her way, it’s tough to argue against the MASSIVE impact she made in the testosterone-fueled world of MMA.
In 2008 a Japanese teenager by the name of Eri Yoshida became the first female to sign for a professional baseball team in an all-male league, when her sidearm knuckleball did enough to impress the scouts at a Kobe 9 Cruise tryout. Deceptively slight of frame, Yoshiba can make a ball travel at 101 mph, a skill she attributes to studying former Boston Red Sox’s pitcher Tim Wakefield.
A two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Women’s World Cup winner and the reigning FIFA Women’s Player of the Year recipient, Carli Lloyd has reached the zenith of a professional football player with grace and honor. She’s the first woman and second player ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final, duly earning her a spot on this list.
The first Aboriginal to represent Australia at the Olympic Games (1992), Cathy Freeman was a unifying force for a country that, ever since its inception, has suffered with overt and institutional racism towards its indigenous population. Freeman was the face of the 2000 Games in Sydney and despite the huge amount of pressure placed on her shoulders, managed to win gold in the 400m track and field event.
It took a Canadian to smash the glass ceiling confining women to the periphery of the USA’s four major men’s sporting leagues. Manon Rheaume (wo)manned the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning goal in a 1992 exhibition game. During an impressive 18-year professional career, Rheaume won gold at the IIHF World Women’s Championships and silver at the 1998 Winter Olympics with the Canada national team.
Regarded as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, the legendary Billie Jean King became a pioneer for equality and social injustice in the United States. Not only did she claim the “Battle of the Sexes” crown against 55-year old Bobby Riggs, her 39 Grand Slam titles, 16 Women’s Doubles and 11 Mixed Doubles titles put her in a league of her own.