There was once a time when the sports industry was considered to be dominated by men. However, that’s old news now. The women are now back in the game; they’re smashing world records, setting examples for the generations to come, making money, breaking barriers, and sparing no stone unturned in their attempts to break past the set limits. These brilliant women now stand to represent the best in their respective sports, and have helped in paving the way for other women in this industry. Let’s have a look at few of the most powerful and influential women in the world of sports:
She is ranked no. 1 in women’s singles tennis. This 23-time Grand-Slam champion is considered as one of the most influential sports woman of all time and was announced the sportsperson of the year in the Sports Illustrated magazine in 2015. Due to her excellent performance in the U.S Open and her victory over Martina Hingis for the title in just her second full year on the tour. She became a National Sensation, and marked her name in history by being the second African-American woman to win a Grand-Slam Singles title, and the only female athlete to transcend the $50 million bullseye in career wages.
Her net worth in the year 2016, as claimed by Forbes, expectedly hit the mark of a $150 million, even though that’s not the driving force behind her strong determination to be a powerful contender in the sport. She has made an indestructible mark on the industry and will forever continue to remain a legend.
This incredible swimmer is a five-time Olympic Gold medalist who continues to hold a world record for the 200m backstroke. This brilliant, young athlete was titled the Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year in 2012. Franklin made her first appearance on the National Platform at the 2008 U.S Olympic team trials at just 13 years of age. It is indeed true that she could not make the cut to qualify for the 2008 Games, however, due to her indomitable spirit and determination, she won numerous medals at World Championships in the 2012 London Olympics.
Franklin was a proud winner of four gold medals and a bronze, establishing the 200m backstroke world record and the 400m relay record. Her five-medal record was the most won by any female contender in London and second overall, after her American Swimming counterpart, Michael Phelps, who won a total of six medals. In the year 2013, Franklin became the first young female athlete to have won a total of six gold medals at a single world championship.
BABE DIDRIKSON ZAHARIAS:
A multi-talented athlete who won medals in the hurdles, javelin, and high jump at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles before she became the first female athlete to come through with flying colours and play in the men’s PGA tour event in 1938. Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias has been a proud recipient of 3 medals, which included two golds- in track and field at the 1932 Olympics, has been an AAU All-American basketball player, and won 41 professional golf titles. She was also the founding member of the LPGA Tour.
She started playing golf in the year 1935. Didrikson Zaharias stood out to be the first woman in the history of sports to play in a PGA event after just 3 years of playing and learning the sport. She competed in 3 PGA events in the year 1945 and made it through all three. Amongst all the records that she has established and the honors that she has received, is one that involves her being named the Associated Press’ Female athlete of the year, about 6 times in total. Didrikson lost her life to colon cancer in 1956, when she was 45. She continued to play even while she was fighting the illness and went on to win 2 events in 1955 and was one of the highest-ranked golfers in her last days.
As she was growing up, Rudolf was a patient of polio, scarlet fever and pneumonia. The doctors claimed that she may not be able to walk again, and yet, she made her debut at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and won bronze as part of the 4x100m relay team. However, she made the most significant impact in Rome Olympics in the year 1960 when she became the 1st American woman to win 3 golds and smash world records in the 100, 200, and 4x100m relay. Her remarkable and noble accomplishments, along with the first ever international TV coverage of the Olympics, made her a star in the U.S and abroad. She was announced as the Associated Press’ female athlete of the year in 1960 and 1961. She may have retired in 1962 but she continued to remain a trailblazer for both civil and women’s rights. She expired in 1994 but her legacy continues to exist.
BILLIE JEAN KING:
This legendary athlete turned the game around. Billie Jean King was the first female athlete to have won more than $100,000 as prize money in a single season while also being the first female athlete to be named “Sportsperson of the Year” by Sports Illustrated. This groundbreaking tennis player is best remembered and admired for her legendary play-off against Bobby Rigg, in 1973 in the great “Battle of the Sexes”, wherein she defeated the former No.1 ranked and declared male chauvinist. This victory stood as King’s hallmark of lasting achievements in a life dedicated to activism for equality. She set a record for winning 20 Wimbledon titles between years 1961 and 1979, 13 U.S titles, four French titles, and two Australian titles. In 1974, she became the first ever president of the women’s Tennis Association.
Much before Danica Patrick had even come into existence, Janet Guthrie had already gone on to become the first female to secure a starting position in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, in 1977 and ended up breaking gender barriers. In the 1978 Indy 500, she secured the 9th place which was considered to be the best ever performance by a woman until the year 2005, i.e. the year in which Danica Patrick took the fourth place.
Over the course of her four-years long career in NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Racing), Guthrie took part in about 33 races. Earning the 6th place in Bristol in 1977 till date remains to be the best accomplished by a woman in a top-class NASCAR race. She drove in her final Indy 500 in 1979 and her last Daytona 500 in 1980. Absence of sponsors demanded her to exit the world of auto-racing where the men set the rules. “Janet Guthrie- A Life of Full Throttle”, her autobiography was issued in 2005, followed by her initiation into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
ANNE MEYERS DRYSDALE:
Drysdale became the first female player to sign an NBA contract with the Indiana Pacers as a free agent in 1979. She could not succeed in making it through to the final roster but she certainly opened the doors for the future female professional athletes and she went on to play in the Women’s Basketball League and is presently the Vice President for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and NBA’s Phoenix Suns. She is a woman of firsts. In 1974, she was the first player to be a member of the US National Team while she was still pursuing high school. Her spectacular performance and athleticism dazzled the UCLA and consequently, she was awarded with a four-year athletic scholarship by the university.
This accomplishment of hers made its impact on history, making Drysdale the first female athlete to be a proud recipient of a Division I scholarship and one of the four inheritors of Title IX. Drysdale was instate in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Boston Celtics star player Bill Russell spoke of her as “one of the best players ever” irrespective of the gender. Drysdale’s life story is an incredible evocation of one of today’s most distinguished women’s basketball treasures, and an unvarnished look at the boldness, belief, and determination that is requisite in order for one to be a champion, on and off the court.
Whiley is one of the strongest and most invincible spirits among most female athletes. This Paralympic bronze medallist and six times Grand Slam Champion in women’s wheelchair doubles with her Japanese teammate Yui Kamiji. Whiley stood out to be the only British female athlete to have been victorious at Wimbledon 2015 and has been a significant nominal leader in the midst of the increasing prevalence of Wheelchair Tennis.
Whiley was picked on and strong-armed as a child, ridiculed for her osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that gave her fragile bones as a baby. However, she didn’t let it break her spirit, and instead claimed that it only made her stronger. She insisted that such a life-long tribulation had transformed her into the warrior that she is today. For those seeking a new, promising role-model, they need not look any further, as Jordanne Whiley is the one. She has not only fought the barriers and stereotypes of gender and disability sport, but she’s also motivated and persuaded others to believe that they do not need to be perfect in order to go after their passion and dreams.