Celebrating iconic women in sport
Every year on 8th March, International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world. But why is this day important?
Throughout history women have had many struggles with equality and opportunity. From being recognised politically, to underestimated physically, many women have historically had to fight to be recognised as equals.
This is why International Women’s Day is SO important. It gives women a chance to let their voices be heard, to challenge inequality and to celebrate some of the amazing achievements of women, in both the past and recent history.
So, this international women’s day we wanted to highlight the successes of 10 inspiring and iconic women in sport!
Our very own Beth Tweddle was the first female gymnast from Great Britain to win a medal at the Olympic Games, European Championships and World Championships!
At the 2002 Commonwealth Games she collected her first major medals: a Gold and two Silvers. Over the next 10 years, she went on to win over 20 more Gold medals, competing all over the world in major competitions. Beth received an MBE for her success, commitment, and training for the 2012 games.
Simone Biles is the most successful American gymnast of all time and has achieved an incredible 32 Olympic and World Championship medals so far! In fact, there are currently four skills elements that are named after her because they have never been achieved by another gymnast before!
Alongside her outstanding career success, Biles is known for sparking a worldwide conversation about mental health and the pressures placed on athletes after withdrawing from some of her events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In an interview, Biles gave some advice for young athletes: “I hope young women take away that it's OK to not be OK. You can speak up for what you believe, and you can do things alone”.
At only 17, competing at the Munich Olympic Games, Olga became the first gymnast to perform a back flip to catch on the uneven bars. In her honour, the move was named the Korbut Flip. And if that wasn’t daring enough, she was also the first to perform a backward somersault on the beam! Korbut brought a great deal of attention to the gymnastics in the 1970s for her incredible talent and charm.
Allyson Felix has received the most medals of any female track and field athlete in history and the only one to have ever won seven golds.
Not only has Felix broken Usain Bolt’s record for world titles, but two of them were achieved following the birth of her daughter. Allyson has become a major advocate for mothers in her industry campaigning for the protection of their pay through and after pregnancy.
At only 13 years old, Ellie Simmonds was the youngest British athlete at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
There, competing for Great Britain’s swim team, she became the second youngest Paralympian in British history to win a medal. Over the years she has picked up 15 medals in total, including 9 gold medals!
She was also the youngest ever recipient of an MBE (an award given by the royal family to recognise people’s amazing achievements and service to their country) at the age of only 14.
In 2005, Ellen MacArthur broke a world record and became the fastest person to sail around the world solo.
Since retiring from sailing, Ellen has dedicated herself to helping others by setting up two charities. The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust supports young people in rebuilding their lives and confidence after cancer. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works to fight climate change, aiming to eliminate waste and pollution and restore nature.
Serena Williams is considered one of the best tennis players of all time, having won four Olympic golds and a total of 39 Grand Slam titles. She and Venus Williams (sister and fellow tennis icon), are thought to have changed women's tennis forever, with their powerful style of play.
Alongside and now after her Tennis career, Serena has launched fashion and jewellery lines and helps new businesses lead by women and people of colour.
Hannah is a wheelchair racer and seven-time Paralympic champion. She holds the world records for the 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres, 800 metres and 1500 metres.
After being turned away from sport throughout her primary education due to her disability, in secondary school she competed in swimming, seated discus and wheelchair basketball before going on to find her passion for wheelchair racing.
Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. At the time women were considered too ‘weak and fragile’ to run marathon distance and were not allowed to run in the race. Despite being attacked by the race director who tried to physically pull her out of the race because she was a woman, Switzer managed to complete the Boston marathon.
Katherine played a major role in getting the women's marathon added to the programme of the Olympic Games in 1984. She also set up a marathon in London over 40 years ago which led to the official London Marathon that’s still going today!
The Lionesses are England’s national women’s football team. The team have gone from strength to strength in a very male dominated sport, reaching the final of the UEFA Women's Championship in 1984 and 2009. Last year, in 2022, the Lionesses won the European championship, making it the first trophy for an English senior team of either gender since the men's team won the 1966 FIFA World Cup.