Women’s competition in sports has been frowned upon by many societies in the past. In the first modern Summer Olympic Games in 1896, only male athletes competed. As the founder of the modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, attitude towards women was that envisioned an athletic event only for men. Women, be only allowed to take part as spectators, not as athletes.
The situation changed quickly though; and while women missed the first games in 1896, they made their debut in the Summer Olympic Games of 1900. 22 women competed in the following two sports events: golf and tennis. In the most recent Games at Tokyo, 49% percent of all competitors were women.
We are featuring 6 of the Most Influential Women in Sports.
1. Serena Williams: Serena Jameka Williams, is an American professional tennis player and former world No. 1 in women’s single tennis. At almost the age of 40 and after having a child, she is still one of the world’s best players. It was only through her determination, she has won Three Olympic Golds and 75 titles in her lengthy career, including 23 Grand Slams. She is also the only female tennis player to have been world number one for over 319 weeks. The Women’s Tennis Association ranked her world No. 1 in singles on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017.
2. Ronda Rousey: Another name that comes to our mind is MMA champion “Rowdy”. Ever since her amateur debut in 2010, since then Rousey’s career has skyrocketed. In November 2012, she became the first female fighter to sign the UFC. Three months later she became the first female fighter to headline a UFC event. To date she’s eight submissions and a TKO and No.1 pound for pound female MBA fighter in the world.
3. Sania Mirza: How can we forget about her, she is the most influential woman of all time. From turning professional at the age of 16 to someone who held the number one rank in doubles for 91 weeks, Sania changed the scene of Indian tennis.
She is the first and the only female tennis player from India to win six major titles (three each in women’s doubles and in mixed doubles).
She has won a gold and a bronze medal in 2014 Asian Games, a gold and silver in 2006 Asian Games, again a silver in 2010 Asian Games, a bronze medal in 2010 Asian Games, a bronze medal in 2002 in Asian Games. Apart from these, she has won many medals in Afro-Asian Games as well as commonwealth games.
4. Mary Kom: “Our boxing champion”. Being a boxer in India is challenging enough, let alone a female boxer. Mary had to face a lot of adversities as an aspiring boxing professional but she overcame all of them through perseverance, training and dedication. ‘Magnificent Mary’ is a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion, and the only female boxer to win a medal in each one of the six world championships. The Padma Bhushan winner is the first Indian woman boxer to clinch a gold medal in the Asian Games in 2014 in Incheon.
She has represented India in many games like World Championship, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Championship and also won those events.
5. PT Usha: Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambi Usha is a retired Indian Track and Field Athlete. She has been associated with Indian athletics since 1979. She is often called “Queen of Indian Tracks and Field”. She was a role model for girls when there were hardly women in sports.
Usha was first noticed in 1977 by O. M. Nambiar, an athletics coach, at a sports prize-distribution ceremony. In an interview with Rediff.com in 2000, he said, “What impressed me at first sight about Usha was her lean shape and fast walking style. I knew she could become a very good sprinter.” She won six medals at the inter-state meet for juniors, in Kollam in 1978, with four gold medals in 100 m, 200 m, 60 m hurdles and high jump, silver in long jump and bronze in 4x100m relay. In the year’s Kerala State college meet, she won 14 medals. She went on to win multiple medals at the 1979 National Games and 1980 National inter-state meet setting many meet records.
At the senior inter-state meet in Bangalore in 1981, Usha clocked 11.8 seconds in the 100 m and 24.6 seconds in the 200 m setting national records in both. At the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games, she won silver medals in 100m and 200m, clocking 11.95 s and 25.32 s. At the 1983 Open National Championships in Jamshedpur, she broke the 200 m national record again clocking 23.9 s, and with 53.6 s, set a new national record in 400 m. At the Asian Championships in Kuwait City the same year, she won gold in 400 m.
6. Billie Jean King: Billie Jean King is an American former female World No.1 professional tennis player. She has won 39 Grand Slam titles; 12 in Singles; 16 in Women’s doubles; and 11 in Mixed doubles. She often represented the United States in the Federation Cup and the Wightman Cup. She was a member of the victorious United States team in seven Federation Cups and nine Wightman Cups. For three years, she was the United States’ captain in the Federation Cup.
King is an advocate for gender equality and has long been a pioneer for equality and social justice. In 1973, at age 29, she won the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match against the 55-year-old Bobby Riggs. She was also the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Regarded by many in the sport as one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. The Fed Cup Award of Excellence was bestowed on her in 2010. In 1972, she was the joint winner, with John Wooden, of the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award and was one of the Time Persons of the Year in 1975. She has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year lifetime achievement award. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. In 2018, she won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.