Jessica ennis olympics homecoming

12 Times Women in Sport have Blown our Minds

From the Williams sisters to Jessica Ennis, these 12 women show us what it means to be a super athlete

By Shannon Wilson, 27 April 2016
12 Times Women in Sport have Blown our Minds

From setting new records to achieving world firsts, women in sport are hitting new heights each year and proving they can keep up with the men in any discipline. With the Tour de Yorkshire Asda-sponsored women's race just around the corner, we've picked 12 amazing moments where women in sport have inspired, shocked and amazed us. Meet the talented female athletes who deserve a spot in any hall of fame.

1. JESSICA ENNIS WINS THE OLYMPIC HEPTATHLON, 2012

This moment goes down in British sporting history as being one of the most stressful, but ultimately amazing, to watch. Jessica Ennis, the poster girl for the 2012 London Olympics, was primed to win the Heptathlon. However, in the final lap of the race everyone watched with bated breath as two rivals eclipsed her, before she triumphantly sprinting past them in the last few seconds to take the gold. 

2. PAULA RADCLIFFE SETS A WORLD RECORD AT THE LONDON MARATHON, 2003

After only running the London Marathon for the first time the year before, Paula Radcliffe set the as yet unbeaten world record with her time of 2:15.25 in the London 2003 race. The crowd went wild.

3. THE WILLIAMS SISTERS (EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.)

Venus and Serena Williams are two of the most iconic female tennis players ever so obviously any time they play against each other is a moment in history, no matter who wins. From their first match in the 1998 Australian Open, to Wimbledon and the many US Opens, there's nothing like watching these two play tennis together. Not only have they won every title imaginable (more than once), but they've also emerged with their tight sisterhood intact. Now that’s something to be proud of.

4. BILLIE JEAN KING BEATS 'MISOGYNIST' BOBBY RIGS, 1973

King, a 70’s tennis star, went down in history for this much-hyped match where she faced-off former Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs – a well known misogynist. Dubbed the 'battle of the sexes', King was fighting for more than just a win on the court – she was fighting for the rights of female athletes everywhere, and of course, she smashed it! 

5. DIANA NYAD BECOMES THE FIRST PERSON TO SWIM FROM CUBA TO FLORIDA WITHOUT A PROTECTIVE CAGE, 2013

Yes you read that right. This amazing woman was the first PERSON (not woman) to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage (you know, the kind that swimmers wear to protect themselves from sharks and in shark-infested waters)! Oh and she's 65. 

6. DANICA PATRICK BECOMES THE FIRST WOMAN TO WIN AN INDYCAR RACE, 2008

When Danica Patrick zoomed across the finish line of the Japanese Indy, she became the first (and only) woman to win an IndyCar Series race. The next year, she took third place in the Indianapolis 500 and cemented her position as the only woman to ever make the top three, proving not just that ladies can be excellent drivers but that they can be serious competitors in any male-driven sport. 

7. NICOLA ADAMS BECOMES THE FIRST EVER OLYMPIC BOXING CHAMPION, 2012

Adams is a British boxer that took part in the 2012 games. This awe-inspiring and nail-biting match won her the Olympic gold – making her the first ever woman Olympic boxing champion, not to mention an outspoken member of the LGBT community. 

8. LIZZY YARNOLD WINS EVERY MAJOR TITLE IN HER SPORT IN JUST 407 DAYS, 2014

Lizzy Yarnold rightly won sportsperson of the year in 2014. A skeleton racer, Yarnold made sporting history that year by winning EVERY major title in her sport in just 407 days including becoming an Olympic, World and European Champion. Now that's a moment to remember.

9. MARTINE WRIGHT, 7/7 SURVIVOR, COMPETES IN VOLLEYBALL AT THE PARALYMPICS, 2012

Martine Wright lost both legs in the 7/7 London bombings and went on to make headlines in 2012 for her amazing performance in sitting volleyball at the Paralympics. An ambassador for disabled sport, she is testament to sport’s power to transform lives.

9. JO PAVEY BECOMES THE OLDEST FEMALE EUROPEAN CHAMPION IN HISTORY, 2014

A long-distance runner who has run in every Olympic Games since 2000, Jo Pavey set the record for being the oldest female European champion in history with this European Athletics Championship race in 2014. Inspiringly winning her gold medal in the 10,000m at the age of 40, Jo’s determination and dedication showed women everywhere that they are never too old to accomplish their dreams.

10. JESSICA WATSON BECOMES THE YOUNGEST WOMAN TO SAIL ALONE, 2010

She may not have even had a driving license, but she wasn’t about to let that stop her. This incredible moment went down in history when Jessica Watson, a 16-year-old girl, became the youngest person to sail the entire world SOLO. Yes that's right, all by herself. No help. Just her and the sea. Ignoring all the naysayers, she went on to inspire kids and adults everywhere to follow their dreams.

12. SARAH ATTAR BECOMES THE FIRST SAUDI ARABIAN ATHLETE, 2012

The 2012 Olympics were amazing for a number of reasons, but one of the most important was that it was the first time every country in the games sent female athletes to compete. Attar was one of these first timers. Bravely challenging the social conventions of her country, she became the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in the Olympic track and field. Although she didn’t win a medal, it was an emotional 'first' that prompted a standing ovation from the crowd, and tears and pride all round.

Asda Women's Tour de Yorkshire race is taking place on Saturday 30th April. Find out more atletour.yorkshire.com.