These women challenged the system to pave the way for others.
As if they weren’t bad-asses enough, female athletes often claim victories on and off the court. We’ve rounded up a few of our most inspiring stories of sportswomen who changed the game.
Madge Syers was a figure skater in 1902 – except that all the competitions were for males only. She entered the World Championships anyway because there wasn’t an actual rule stating she couldn’t. She won silver and the gold medallist, a man, was so impressed with her that he offered her his medal. #Slay
The Boston Marathon used to be a no-girls-allowed race back in 1966. So 23 year-old Roberta Gibb decided to hide in the bushes at the race with her brother’s running shorts and a hoodie pulled over her head. She waited until enough people passed, and joined the crowd. She finished among the top third of the race. Today, women make up nearly half of the race.
The first triple aerial somersault was performed by a woman in 1897. Lena Jordan was 16 years old at the time, which is impressive considering the restrictions placed on what women could and couldn’t do with their bodies.
READ MORE: It’s 2016 So Why Is Sport Still So Sexist?
Lucy Diggs Slowe
Up until 1917, African American women had never won a national sports title. But Lucy Diggs Slowe, a valedictorian and founder of the first black sorority, made history when she won the first American Tennis Association’s tournament.
Back in 2009, an 18-year-old Caster blew everyone away at the World Championships when she set a time of 1:55:45 for the 800-meter event. In fact, she set a new South African National record like a #Boss.
South Africa’s female Olympic swimmers almost didn’t have representation for the second time in history. That is, until open water swimmer Michelle Weber qualified for Rio this year. She’ll be the only woman competing for Team SA, and earlier this year, she became the first South African woman in 13 years to win the Midmar Mile. Game. Changer.
In 2016, we launched a campaign to cast the spotlight firmly on our sportswomen — true superheroes with equal parts grit and grace. From hearing their stories to actually seeing their faces, we believed it was time to give female athletes the recognition they deserve for being such sporting badasses, despite everything from insufficient funding to lack of media coverage… We salute them every damn day and hearing each one of their stories has made us as a team both incredibly humble and hugely inspired.
Know of someone who fits the bill? Email us at TellWH@WomensHealthSA.co.za or tag us on social media using the hashtag #SAWomenInSport.
Looking for more? Here are six times women took to the streets to protest for gender equality.
Check out our March issue for our #SAWomenInSport feature on hockey player, Shelly Russell.