41 Badass Female Athletes Who Prove Title IX Still Matters


The 41st anniversary of title IX, the legislation that has given equal leverage to women and girls in athletics, took place last month. In 1972, Title IX required gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding. These stipulations have made an incredible difference for women and girls in athletics. As a rugby player, Title IX has made possible the funding of my club for the past 35 years, offering me the empowering, life changing experience that I enjoy with the Brown Women’s Rugby Club.

As we celebrate the 41st anniversary of this monumental piece of legislation, we must be aware of the way in which women’s access to equity is being eroded each day. A celebration of Title IX would not be complete without an acknowledgement of the many struggles female athletes face today. Some include: The sexualization of female athletes, their trivialization in the media (PDF) and the obfuscation of the many who have been out and proud for years.

However, despite the struggles that lie ahead, a celebration of Title IX gives us 41 (Thousand? Million?) reasons to celebrate equality in athletics.


1972: Tennis player Billie Jean King named Sportswoman of the Year by Sports Illustrated Magazine.

1973: Marcia Frederick is the first American to win an Olympic Medal in Gymnastics at the Olympics. She wins on the uneven parallel bars

1973: Linda Myers becomes the first U.S. world champion in archery

1974: Ann Meyers, a high school basketball player, makes the United States Basketball

1975: Margo Oberg, 22, becomes a professional surfer and wins the Hang Ten International in Malibu, the first women’s international surfing competition.

1977: Cindy Nicholas, 19, swims the English Channel in both directions in just 19 hours and 55 minutes

1977: Lucy Harris becomes the first woman to be drafted by an NBA team (New Orleans Jazz).

1978: Carol Blazejowski, "Blaze," Montclair State, is the first recipient of the Wade Trophy. She sets a collegiate scoring record (male or female) in Madison Square Garden with 52 points in a single game.

1979: Tracy Austin, age 16, wins the U.S. Open singles tennis championship, becoming the youngest player to win the title. She is named the Associated Press' Female Athlete of the Year for tennis.

1978: Evelyn Ashford was the first woman to be granted an NCAA track scholarship to UCLA. In 1979, she competed in the Olympic to beat the East German 100 and 200-meter record holder.

1988: Kristin Otto, 22, wins six gold medals for swimming at the Seoul Games. She took the gold in the 50 free, 100 free, 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly, 4x100 freestyle relay and 4x100 medley relay — to claim the most extensive collection of gold medals ever won by a woman in a single Olympics.

Internationally Renowned

Flo Hyman is honored as the best volleyball player of all time. She was instrumental in popularizing the sport in the wake of Title IX. She won Olympic silver in 1978, but passed away in the middle of a match on January 24, 1986 from a connective tissue disease that she did not know she had.

Marie Lou Retton ushered an era of U.S. dominance in gymnastics when she successfully challenged the “Eastern Bloc,” or the Russian, Hungarian and Romanian teams, at the LA Olympics in 1984. A small (4’9, 93 pounds) but incredibly powerful gymnast, Retton is best remembered as the 16-year-old who became synonymous with the LA Olympics.

Jennie Finch lead the United States’ Softball team to victory at the 2004 Summer Olympics and silver at the 2008 Olympics. A powerful pitcher, the Times declared her the most famous softball player in the world.

Maya Moore holds the record for most points scored at the basketball powerhouse UConn. In 2011, Nike made her the first woman to sign a sponsorship deal. She holds a victory record of 150-4, the best for any man or woman in NCAA history.  

Kristine Lily holds the record for most appearances in international games (over 300). Her career spanned four decades and she was both the oldest and youngest woman soccer player to score for the USA.

Fu Mingxia won gold at every single event she ever entered during the span of her three Olympic games. Fu started her diving career at the age of 11, executing dives with precision and agility. She won her first Olympic gold medal in the Barcelona 1992 Games at the age of 13.

Lisa Leslie graduated from the University of Southern California and started playing for the newly-inaugurated WNBA in 1997. Since then, she has played for the Los Angeles Spark and remains the leading WNBA. She is the owner of four Olympic medals and several MVP titles.

Dara Torres is the 46-year-old mother of two who has spent her career swimming only 50-yards at a time — and collecting awards in the process. She is tied for the most Olympic medals won by a woman in swimming, 12 in total, over 5 games. Torres’ long career and her endurance are a testament to her mental and physical fitness.

Lynn Jennings has set several records in cross country including ten American, has won nine National Cross Country awards and 3 World Awards. In 1992, she earned bronze at the Barcelona Olympics.

Courtney Kupets is known for her performance as a gymnast at the Athens 2004 games. She attended University of Georgia after the Olympics, and there, she led the university to four straight NCAA championships.

The coolest group of female athletes that you might never have heard of is the USA Eagles Women’s Rugby Sevens Team. As Rugby is poised to make its reappearance at the Brazil Olympics in 2016, the USA Eagles team is ready to take center stage. Already, the Eagles have proven their power in the world rugby stage, earning third place this weekend at the Rugby Sevens Championship. A special shout outs to Brown Alumnae Emilie Bydwell.

Serena Williams is regarded as the best tennis player of all time. She hold titles, including 13 Grand Slams and the 2013 French Open Championship. She is praised for her long and astonishing career victories, including her three gold medals in the Olympic games. On Serena’s playing style, fellow tennis superstar Maria Sharapova wrote the following: “She’s a competitor ... no matter what the score, she wants to win those games and those points.”

Michelle Kwan is the most decorated U.S. figure skater in history. Michelle’s career has been synonymous with a decade of domination on the ice: She has won three gold medals at the Olympics and ten world championships. Kwan has distinguished herself off the ice as well: In 2011, she completed her graduate degree in International Relations and diplomacy at Tufts University.

The USA Gymnastics “Fab Five”: Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Weaver, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Kayla Ross, who brought home the gold at the London 2012 Olympics. In London, Gabby Douglas claimed the all-around gymnastics gold medal, making her the only African American gymnast in history to hold this title.

College Athletes

Brittney Griner was out and proud before many of the professional athletes followed her example. She was recently featured by Sports Illustrated, sharing the story of her quest to be her authentic self in the stifling and conservative world of college basketball. Her authenticity and candidness gained her thousands of admirers, and her basketball skills have earned her a spot with the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team, an NBA draft and endorsements from companies like Nike.

Loren Shealy is the Sports Illustrated 2013 Athlete of the Year. Shealy has distinguished herself playing lacrosse for the University North Carolina by earning both academic and athletic awards. She was chosen as athlete of the year due to her performance on the field — as the leading scorer for the NCAA — and off it.

Bailey Webster is a volley player for the University of Texas. She has led the longhorns to their first NCAA title since 1988 and has been voted Outstanding Player at the NCAA tournament.

Keilani Ricketts played softball for Oklahoma State and is the 2012-13 Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and recipient of the Honda Cup. Ricketts holds an impressive record at Oklahoma State: Most recently, she lead her team to the NCAA and the world collegiate softball championships.

Christine Nair is the decorated midfielder of Penn State University. She is ranked as the number one college soccer player in the country and has been a member of the USA National Soccer team since 2009. She has received All-American honors and named one of the to ten midfielders in the nation.

Nora Räty was goalie for the University of Minnesota’s Ice Hockey Team, where she was the most successful NCAA women’s goaltender of all time. She has won over 85 games with her team, putting her close to tying the NCAA all time record. Nora also plays for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and is a member of the Finland National Hockey Team.

Nicole Gibbs is one of the best tennis players in the nation. Playing for Stanford University, Gibbs was voted the Campbell/ITA singles and doubles Player of the year. She has received the Tennis Association All-American honor and finished her 2011-12 season with 41 victories and only 5 losses.

Annie Park plays golf for the University of Southern California and burst into the golf scene by leading USC to their third NCAA team golf championship and earning the 2013 Women’s Golf Collegiate Association, Pac-12 Player of the year and Freshman of the Year Awards, as well as the Honda honors award. In high school, Park distinguished herself by being the first girl to win the Nassau County Boy’s High School championship. With a few more years left at USC, Park is likely to reach more milestones.

Katie Reinprecht plays Field Hockey for Princeton University has lead her team for their first ever NCAA National Championship. Last year, Reinpretch was awarded the Honda Honors Honors award for excellence in collegiate athletics and participated in the 2012 London Olympics.

Kimberly Duncan has received the Honda Honors not once but twice. Sprinting for Louisiana State, Duncan won the NCAA 200m Championships for the third year in a row. She finished her college career with 10-time All-American titles and six NCAA titles.

Caitlin Leverenz is a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and a former swimmer for the University of California at Berkeley. She has represented the United States that Pan Am games and the Youth World championship. With the Bears, she lead the team to three NCAA titles and also won first place in the individual 200-yard breaststroke event.

Elena Delle Donne is no stranger to accolades. In 2012, she received the Honda Inspiration award, and in 2013 she was chosen as the best female collegiate basketball player in the nation. Chosen in the first-round of the WNBA draft, Delle Donne now plays for the Chicago Sky.

Soccer player Teresa Noyola Bayardo grew up in Mexico City and Palo Alto and attended Stanford University. She scored the only goal against Duke during her last year with Stanford, leading the team to an NCAA championship. A computer science and mathematics major, Noyola has represented the United States in their Under 20 program, but will now play internationally for Mexico.

For more fantastic women athletes, check out the following sites: 


Sports Illustrated