It's a new year and there's nothing like a little bit of athletic girl power to get you off the couch and back on the court. Take a look at these incredible female athletes who have definitely made their countries proud.
Zsuzsanna Jakabos – Swimming, Ukraine
Born in Ukraine, Zsuzsanna “Zsu” Jakabos found her life’s calling at only 8 years old. Her parents encouraged her to take swimming lessons, and she entered competitions in no time. After spending most of her life preparing for the Olympics, she finally qualified for the Summer in 2004.
But Jakabos’ truly shone in her second Olympic appearance in Beijing in 2008. There she came in sixth place for the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay. She also competed in the 2012 Olympics, but it was not until 2016 in Rio De Janeiro that she saw the same heights of success.
Maria Sharapova – Tennis, Russia
A rarity in her home country of Russia, Maria Sharapova’s name is now synonymous with modern female tennis players. She first appeared at the Olympic Games in 2012 competing in the quarterfinals where she beat Kim Clijsters, the WTA’s no.1 ranked player. To date, she is the only Russian woman to hold the Career Grand Slam.
During the same Olympic competition she went on to beat her compatriot Maria Kirilenko, before going on to compete against tennis superstar Serena Williams. She lost the match but gained her first silver medal, becoming the WTA No. 2 player. Since then, she has sat at No. 1 a whopping five times!
Michelle Jenneke – Hurdles, Australia
Another Olympic prodigy, Michelle “Shelly” Jenneke was competing professionally at an astoundingly young age. In 2010 she attended the Youth Summer Olympics, coming second place for the 100m hurdles when she was just 17. She soon received wide attention, though for unexpected reasons.
Instead, she went viral for a pre-game warmup dance. She didn’t let internet fame go to her head, however, going on to win the 100m hurdles at the 2016 Australian National Championship. Though this qualified her for the 2016 Summer Olympics, she failed to make it out of the heats. We have a feeling a comeback is on the way.
Alex Morgan – Soccer, USA
Another star soccer player, Alex Morgan, first gained international attention in 2012, at the Summer Olympics in London. That year she made headlines as one of only two players in the US Women’s National Soccer Team to score both 20 goals and 20 assists in one year. Her only peer being legendary player Mia Hamm.
Unfortunately, her team didn’t see quite the same success at the 2016 Summer Olympics, failing to make the top three. However, after winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup it’s safe to say they are gearing up for success in the next competition. Morgan was even named as a co-captain of the team in 2018.
Ashley Wagner – Figure Skating, USA
While Ashley Wagner may not have been born in the United States, she’s become a prize competitor in contemporary American figure-skating. Born in Heidelberg, Germany, Wagner’s military family moved all around the US. Despite the transient nature of her early life, her love for figure-skating was unbreakable.
Though she came fourth in her most recent competition at the time, Wagner had a strong enough reputation to be chosen for the US Olympic figure-skating team. In 2014 she went on to fulfill her dreams by competing at that year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It was there that she won her first bronze medal.
Ellen Hoog – Field Hockey, Netherlands
In 2004 Ellen Hoog first joined her national field hockey team, going on to hold an incredible 127 match streak with 32 goals scored! It’s no surprise she went on to Olympic success, winning her first gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. As if that wasn’t enough, she soon beat this personal record just four years later.
At the 2012 Olympics Hoog had to make the penalty shootout in the semi-finals match against New Zealand. She made the shot, taking Netherlands to their second gold, then returning for a silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. You wouldn’t believe her secret to success - the team watches The Notebook together before a final match.
Dorothea Wierer – Biathlon, Italy
It’s hard enough to excel in one sport - imagine having to compete in two! This is the case for Dorothy Wierer, an Olympic biathlon champion. Biathlons combine both rifle shooting and cross-country skiing (yes you heard that right), and Wierer has impressed on the world stage with her ability to do both.
At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Wierer and the Italian biathlon team took home the bronze medal for mixed relay biathlon. She repeated this success at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, winning a second bronze for her home country alongside her teammates.
Natasha Hastings – Track and Field, USA
Natasha Hastings first made her presence known in 2008, competing at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. She was the newest member of the US Olympic Track and Field Team, and one of the youngest at 22 years old. Alongside teammates Mary Wineberg, Monique Henderson, and Sanya Richards-Ross, she helped bring her home country success.
Her participation in the heats brought the team to the relay finals, where they took the gold medal. Though Hastings was replaced by another teammate for the finals, she was still awarded the gold medal for her contribution. In 2016 she went on to come fourth place in the 400m at the Olympics in Rio.
Jaqueline Carvalho – Volleyball, Brazil
Making her Olympic debut at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Jaqueline Carvalho was lauded for bringing the gold home to Brazil alongside her volleyball team. No doubt she wasted no time practicing for further success, as she claimed her second gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
We can’t help but wonder where she puts all of the medals in her household, considering that her husband Murilo Endres has won two Olympic silver medals of his own for the male volleyball team. We’re excited to see what their son makes of himself, as success clearly runs in the family!
Katie Ormerod – Snowboard, United Kingdom
At the tender age of 16, British teenager Katie Ormerod was already making a name for herself as a snowboarder. She almost qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics, only narrowly missing out. But she landed a double cork 1080 that year, the first female to do so. There was no doubting she was going to make it to the next ceremony.
But Ormerod kept busy, snagging third place at the Big Air World Cup in 2016, and first place in 2017. She was soon being described as “arguably Britain’s best medal chance for PyeongChang 2018,” However in a tragic turn of events Ormerod broke her heel, and was unable to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Kailani Craine – Figure Skating, Australia
Kailani Craine is a break-out name in Australian figure skating, winning a whopping six Australian National Championships in the sport at age 21. She also won silver medals at the Torun Cup in 2015 and the Warsaw Cup the following year. By the time she was selected for the 2018 Winter Olympics, she was more than qualified.
Despite finishing 17th, Craine made it clear what she thought was most important in the sport, saying “I think my goal and what I’m looking for in a great figure skater is if they make me smile.” We don’t doubt she’ll see the success she deserves at the next Winter Olympics.
Silje Norendal – Snowboard, Norway
Silje Norendal may be a world-class snowboarder, with multiple trophies under her belt and several gold medals won at the Winter X Games - but in many ways, she’s just like anyone else in their mid-20s. For one, she still loves her pop music, so much so that it influences her performance on the slopes.
In an interview with the New York Times, Norendal revealed that her music choices have a direct impact on her snowboarding, and she has to be careful about what she chooses to listen to. She even admitted that during the 2014 and 2018 Olympics she was listening to the Spice Girls as she competed!
Leryn Franco – Javelin, Paraguay
Leryn Franco has lived multiple lives in her short time on earth. Now in her 30s, the former prize-winning athlete works as a model and actress, but for many years she was known as a record-breaking sportswoman in her home country of Paraguay. At just 16 she broke the Paraguayan record in the javelin and triple jump for under 17s.
When the world was preparing for the 2004 Summer Olympics, the young Franco was a shoo-in to join her country’s Olympic team. She went on to represent Paraguay for javelin in the following two ceremonies, at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Talk about a powerhouse woman!
Lindsey Vonn – Alpine Ski Racing, USA
Lindsey Vonn is without a doubt one of the best alpine ski racers alive, claiming over 82 World Cup victories. These victories span five different types of skiing - the slalom, giant slalom, downhill, super-G, and super combined. She is one of only six women to win in all five categories.
By then it was undoubted that Vonn was going to compete at the Winter Olympics, and she made her debut in Salt Lake City in 2002. She won her first gold medal in Vancouver in the downhill category, the first American woman to do so. She was named the Sportswoman of the Year by the US Olympic Committee.
Irene Schouten – Speed Skating, Netherlands
Growing up working for the family business is always going to instill an intense work ethic in a young person. And Irene Schouten is no exception. After working for her family’s tulip business, Schouten brought that dedication to speed skating, where she excelled in inline, marathon, and all-around skating.
In 2018 Schouten earned her place at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, winning her first bronze medal for long-track skating, known as the ‘mass start event’. The young Olympian brings a little chaos to the sport, saying that “If everything’s under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
Allison Stokke – Pole Vault, USA
Allison Stokke first gained widespread attention for her sporting skills as a college athlete, breaking the UCLA record for freshman pole vault. Determined to continue that upward trajectory, Stokke hit her stride when she began training for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
But being accepted to the games became her highest achievement, as she could not clear the opening height for the US Olympic Trials. Despite this, she gained internet fame in her post-training career as photos of her had gone viral. She soon stated that she disliked online fame, preferring the accolades of her sports career.
Darya Klishina – Long Jump, Russia
Darya Klishina certainly is a well-rounded sports star. Initially, her passion for sports was fired up by volleyball, her favorite game as a young girl. Fortunately her father, a former professional athlete, soon began encouraging his young daughter to try the long jump instead.
Klishina hit the ground running (or jumping?) and by 2016 she had been granted permission to compete at the Rio Olympics, despite a ban that had been placed on Russian athletes at the time, due to anti-doping legislation. She came in ninth at the long jump final.
Justine Dufour-Lapointe – Freestyle Skiing, Canada
Competing against the finest athletes in the world is hard enough - but what happens when one of those athletes is your sibling? This was the predicament Justine Dufour-Lapointe found herself in, as she stood on the Olympic podium right beside her sister.
In 2014 Dufour-Lapointe took the gold medal for freestyle skiing at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, while her sister Chloe received the silver medal for the same competition. But Justine proved herself to her family by taking a second silver at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Kaetlyn Osmond – Figure Skating, Canada
Kaetlyn Osmond has only been competing on an international level since 2012, but she has experienced every level of achievement when it comes to the Olympics. In 2014 she attended her first ceremony at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where she took the silver medal alongside her team.
Four years later, at the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, she ranked third in the team event’s short program, which contributed to the Canadian team's eventual gold medal. As if that wasn’t enough, she also won her own bronze medal (and the 27th medal for her country) at an individual event.
Anna Gasser – Snowboard, Austria
Another overachiever, Anna Gasser started her career as a gymnast, competing with the Austrian National Gymnastics Team. In 2010 she took the plunge into professional snowboarding, eventually qualifying for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Sadly she fell short of the requirements, coming tenth overall.
But that did nothing to stop her, as she finally made it to the Olympic stage in 2018, at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. At the inaugural big air competition, Gasser won the gold medal, stunning audiences and setting the stage for her next performance in 2022.
Madison Chock – Ice Dancing, USA
Madison Chock and her skating partner Evan Bates, got the shock of their lives when they were selected for the US Olympic team in 2014. The pair competed together in Sochi, where they finished eighth place. But they didn’t let it dampen their spirits.
Four years later they made their comeback at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Alas, Chock and her partner found themselves crashing to the ice during the free dance, after attempting a combination spin. Thankfully the pair are both looking forward to pricing themselves in 2022.
Aly Raisman – Gymnastics, USA
Since 2012 Aly Raisman has been stunning judges and audiences at the Olympics, as both an individual athlete, and team leader. That’s right, the young American has led two separate teams through the Olympics - the “Fierce Five” in 2012, and the “Final Five” in 2016.
In 2012 she took gold for the US in the team and floor competitions, winning gold medals, as well as a bronze in the balance beam event. Raisman was announced as the “most decorated” of the US gymnasts that year. In 2016 her team took another gold medal win, and Raisman herself took two silvers.
Hope Solo – Soccer, USA
Goalkeeping is one of the most high-pressure positions in all of soccer, so hats off to Hope Solo for thriving as a goalkeeper. She joined the US Women’s National Soccer Team back in 2000 and kept her position in the team for sixteen years. Over that period she helped see her team to Olympic gold success.
Her first win came in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, followed by a second gold medal in London in 2012. Solo is considered one of the greatest living female goalkeepers, breaking multiple records including the longest undefeated winning streak (55 games), most consecutive minutes played, and most wins in a sporting season.
Dana Vollmer - Swimmer, USA
At only 17, swimmer Dana Vollmer was diagnosed with a rare heart condition that could have destroyed her career. Many would've been discouraged, but Vollmer pressed on, choosing to have a heart defibrillator at the poolside instead. She went on to win thirty-two medals in international competitions.
At the 2004 Summer Olympics Vollmer won her first gold medal for the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, she broke the Olympic record for the 100-meter butterfly, winning three gold medals all up. She competed one last time before retiring in 2016, winning a gold, silver, and bronze respectively.
Simon Biles - Gymnast, USA
One of the most exciting up-and-coming athletes in the world right now, Simon Biles is currently the most decorated gymnast in the United States. She even coined her own move, known as “The Biles,” which she displayed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
By 2020 Biles had laid claim to the most amount of world medals of any other living gymnast, an amazing achievement. At the Rio Olympics, she took home four gold medals and a bronze, the highest number of medals ever taken in women's gymnastics. It’s safe to say we are all waiting to see what she does next!
Alina Zagitova, Figure Skater - Russia
Considering she was named by her parents after Russian Olympic gold winner Alina Kabaeva, it only makes sense that Alina Zagitova went on to see such success in her sporting career. Young Alina found her love for figure skating at just four-years-old, after being encouraged by her father, who was a hockey coach at the time.
In 2018 Zagitova qualified for the Russian Olympic team and attended her first ceremony at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. There she won the gold for women’s singles figure-skating, breaking records as the youngest figure skater to win at only 16. The Russian team also won the silver for the team event.
Marianne Vos, Cycling - Netherlands
Marianne Vos was drawn to cycling as a child after watching her older brother compete as a professional cyclist. She soon made her own name in cycling, competing in national championships as a teenager. She qualified for her first Olympic competition in 2008, representing the Netherlands at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
There she took the gold for the women’s points race event. Due to that race, she became the first woman ever to be a world champion in the road, track, and cyclo-cross. In 2012 she won her second gold medal for the road race at the London Olympics. By 2016, she came in 9th place at the same road race in Rio.
Kristina Vogel, Track Cyclist - Germany
Born in Kyrgyzstan, Kristina Vogel emigrated with her family as a toddler. By 17 years old she was already representing Germany on the world stage as a junior cycling champion. By the time she made it to the Olympic games, she had already won track cycling championships around the world.
During her debut at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Vogel won a gold medal in the women’s sprint and a bronze medal for the women’s team sprint. Sadly in 2018, Vogel was involved in a collision with a Dutch cyclist. The accident has left her unlikely to compete in the 2020 Olympics.
Shelina Zadorsky – Soccer, Canada
A stunningly prolific soccer player, Shelina Zadorsky has been showcasing her skills around the world for over a decade. She has played professional soccer in the Australian W-League, for the Swedish club Vittsjö GIK, US club’s Washington Spirit and Orlando Pride, and various teams in her home country of Canada.
She also represented Canada in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2008 and 2012, making her a top pick for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Not only did she compete, but she played the entirety of her team's last four games, helping to win the bronze medal for Canada’s National Women’s Soccer Team.
Eugenie Bouchard – Tennis, Canada
This tennis protege was making a name for herself well before she reached the Olympic stage. In fact, Eugenie Bouchard was the first Canadian tennis player to reach the singles Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2014, one of the world's most prestigious sporting events.
That same year she reached the Australian Open and French Open semi-finals, and also became the first Canadian tennis player to rank in the top five. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, she was sadly defeated but is hoping to make a comeback at the next competition.