If you’re looking for a little inspiration to get up and go after your goals, look no further than these 25 female Olympic athletes. Whether it’s on the soccer field, the tennis court, in an Olympic sized pool or on some snow-covered slopes, these Olympians are leading the pack and making their countries proud.
1. Zsuzsanna Jakabos – Swimming, Ukraine
Taking to the water at a very young age, Zsuzsanna “Zsu” Jakabos’ parents signed her up for swimming lessons. Jakabos began competing at the tender age of 8, and hasn’t looked back since. Practically preparing her whole life to enter the Olympic stage, she first represented Ukraine in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
It wasn’t until Jakabos’ second Olympic competition in 2008 in Beijing that she achieved the best placement of her career, finishing in sixth place in the 4 x 200 m freestyle relay. Jakabos participated in the 2012 Olympics in London, although it was four years later at the 2016 Rio Olympics that she’d repeat her 2008 performance.
2. Eugenie Bouchard – Tennis, Canada
Tennis ace Eugenie Bouchard was breaking records on behalf of her home country Canada before she even stepped foot on an Olympic court. In 2014, Bouchard became the first player representing Canada to reach the final of a Grand Slam singles tournament at the Wimbledon Championships. In fact, 2014 was a great year for Bouchard on the court.
After reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open and the French Open, Bouchard broke into the top five ranking (and the first Canadian female player to do so). Although she was defeated by the world no. 2 at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Bouchard will hopefully be back in 2020.
3. Maria Sharapova – Tennis, Russia
As the only Russian female to hold the Career Grand Slam, Maria Sharapova represented her home country admirably in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Sharapova made it all the way to the quarterfinals, where she won over former Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) no. 1, Kim Clijsters, and advanced to the semifinals.
Playing against fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, Sharapova defeated her too, making it to the Olympic final against Serena Williams. Although she lost to Williams, Sharapova still walked away with the silver medal, and overtook the WTA no. 2 spot. Sharapova has gone on to hold the no. 1 spot on five separate occasions.
4. Jaqueline Carvalho – Volleyball, Brazil
Jaqueline Carvalho made it onto her country’s volleyball team for the first time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. There were no first time jitters for Carvalho, who helped her team win the gold. By the time the 2012 Summer Olympic games came around, Carvalho was ready to serve her country their consecutive gold medal in the sport.
Carvalho’s two gold medals must look nice next to her husband’s, Brazilian volleyball player Murilo Endres, two silver medals. The couple have a son together, and based on his parentage, it’s only a matter of time before he’s representing Brazil at the Olympics too.
5. Michelle Jenneke – Hurdles, Australia
Showing a lot of promise early in her competitive career, Michelle “Shelly” Jenneke won second place at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics for the 100 m hurdles when she was only 17 years old. Two years later, Jenneke reached international attention, although not for hurdling, rather for a pre-race warm-up dance that went viral.
Warm-up dances and viral internet fame aside, Jenneke won the 2016 Australian National Championship 100 m hurdles final, qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Jainero. Unfortunately Jenneke didn’t make it out of the heats, but she’s hoping to hurdle her way towards a second chance in 2020.
6. Shelina Zadorsky – Soccer, Canada
Originally from Canada, soccer star Shelina Zadorsky has played all over the world with the Australian W-League club Perth Glory, Swedish club Vittsjö GIK, and finally with her home country’s national soccer team. Having represented Canada at FIFA in 2008 and 2012, Zadorsky was a shoe-in to play in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Jainero.
Zadorsky wasn’t just on the roster for the Canadian national team in 2016, she played all 90 minutes of the last four games Canada played including, of course, their final match. The Canadian National Women’s Soccer Team went on to win the bronze medal, but they have their sights set higher for 2020.
7. Alex Morgan – Soccer, USA
Soccer superstar Alex Morgan made her debut on the international Olympic stage in 2012 in London. Morgan’s performance in 2012 put her up alongside all-time great Mia Hamm as the only US Women’s National Team players to record at least 20 goals and 20 assists in the same year.
Although the Women’s National team didn’t come in the top three in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, they’re fresh off a 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup win. Named a co-captain of the US Women’s National Team in 2018, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are sure to be exciting for Morgan.
8. Ashley Wagner – Figure Skating, USA
As an army brat, Ashley Wagner was constantly moving around with her family. Born in Heidelberg, Germany, Wagner has lived all over the United States, but no matter where she was, she always maintained her love of figure skating. Flash forward a few years, and Wagner would ultimately be named to the U.S. Olympic team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Due to her strong international competition record, Wagner was given a spot representing the U.S. in figure skating, despite coming in fourth place at a qualifying competition earlier that year. Seems as though Wagner was the right choice, as she won the bronze medal at the team event.
9. Hope Solo – Soccer, USA
We can’t imagine how stressful it is to be the sole goalkeeper, but soccer star Hope Solo isn’t one to crack under pressure. Solo was first made goalkeeper of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team in 2000, a post she kept until 2016. In that time, Solo would assist her team in taking home to Olympic gold medals.
The U.S. National Team first won gold in 2008 in Beijing, and then again in 2012 in London. Widely regarded as one of the best female goalkeepers worldwide, Solo holds many records, including most wins in a season (26), consecutive minutes played (1,256), and longest undefeated streak (55 games).
10. Ellen Hoog – Field Hockey, Netherlands
Since first joining the Netherlands national team in 2004, Dutch field hockey player Ellen Hoog has played in an impressive 127 matches and scored 32 goals. Winning gold in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Hoog was back in 2012 – only the London Olympics would be even more exciting.
Hoog became the first player to decide a major match with a penalty shootout when she took the winning shot in the semi-finals against New Zealand. After the Netherlands won gold again, they’d be back in 2016 to score the silver medal. So what’s the secret to success? According to Hoog, before each final, she and her teammates all watch The Notebook together.
11. Dorothea Wierer – Biathlon, Italy
As if cross-country skiing or shooting weren’t difficult enough on their own, biathlon combines the two. Thus, any biathlete who can not only compete at the complex sport, but come in the top three at an international competition like the Olympics, like Dorothea Wierer, is a seriously impressive winter sports star.
Italian biathlete Wierer, along with teammates Karin Oberhofer, Dominik Windisch and Lukas Hofer took home the bronze medal in the mixed relay biathlon event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Coming together again with Windisch and Hofer, and the new addition of Lisa Vittozzi, Wierer again would win the bronze for mixed relay at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.
12. Natasha Hastings – Track and Field, USA
Making it onto the United States Olympic Track and Field Team in 2008 when she was only 22, Natasha Hastings had an incredible first experience at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Competing in the heats for the relay team along with Mary Wineberg, Monique Henderson and Sanya Richards-Ross, Hastings helped her team qualify for the finals.
Although she was ultimately replaced by Allyson Felix for the finals, because the US team won the gold, Hastings won a gold medal too for her participation in the heat. Hastings was named to the track and field team again in 2016, and finished fourth in the 400 m.
13. Katie Ormerod – Snowboard, United Kingdom
Already at 16 Katie Ormerod was showing impressive promise as a snowboarder when she almost qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics representing the United Kingdom. That same year she became the first female snowboarder to land the difficult double cork 1080, and a spot on the 2018 Olympic team was well-within reach.
Ormerod spent the next few years competing, placing third at the Big Air World Cup in PyeongChang in 2016, and winning the same competition in Moscow the following year. By 2018 Ormerod, was described by news outlets as “arguably Britain’s best medal chance for PyeongChange 2018,” but after breaking her heel during training, had to withdraw from the Olympic Games.
14. Kailani Craine – Figure Skating, Australia
As a five-time Australian National Champion in figure skating from 2014-2018, 21-year old Kailani Craine is only getting started. Before landing a spot representing Australia in figure skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Craine had a silver medal from the 2015 MNNT Cup, and another silver medal from the 2016 CS Warsaw Cup.
Although Craine ultimately finished in 17th place at the Olympics, with so much of her career ahead of her, a win at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is well within her sights. But whether she wins or loses, Craine has said she only cares about one thing, “I think my goal and what I’m looking for in a great figure skater is if they make me smile.”
15. Silje Norendal – Snowboard, Norway
Norwegian snowboarder Silje Norendal lives a fairly extraordinary life in comparison to the average person in their mid-20s. She’s a regular gold medal winner at the Winter X Games, competing in halfpipe, slopestyle and boardercross. But if there’s one way Norendal is just like any millennial, it’s in her competition pump-up music.
Norendal told the New York Times that the music she listens to when she rides can have a big impact on her snowboarding performance – so song selection is super important. When she competed in the 2014 and 2018 Olympics, Norendal was likely making her way down the slopes to the Spice Girls, she has said. A little girl power can’t hurt!
16. Leryn Franco – Javelin, Paraguay
Currently working as a model and actress, Leryn Franco was a world-class athlete at a very young age. Born in Paraguay to Uruguayan parents, by the time she was 16, Franco had broken the national record for the under 17 javelin and triple jump.
As the South American under-23 champion by the time the 2004 Summer Olympic team was being put together in Paraguay, Franco was an obvious choice to represent her country in Athens. She competed in javelin throw at the Olympics again in 2008 in Beijing, and for the last time on the Olympic stage in 2012 in London.
17. Lindsey Vonn – Alpine Ski Racing, USA
Breaking records for over a decade now, Lindsey Vonn is one of the best alpine ski racers in the world. With a total of 82 World Cup victories, Vonn is one of only six women to have won World Cup races in all five types of alpine skiing, including downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, and super combined.
Vonn first competed at the Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City, and again in 2006 in Turin. She’d go on to win the gold medal in 2010 in Vancouver for downhill — the first time an America woman has won that event, and was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sportswoman of the Year.
18. Irene Schouten – Speed Skating, Netherlands
Dutch speed skater Irene Schouten got her start seemingly far from the slopes, working for her parent’s tulip business. But it’s the same work ethic she had working in the family business, that she brings to every training session and competition. Competing in allround, marathon, and inline skating, Schouten earned a spot representing the Netherlands at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
By the time the closing ceremony took place, Schouten was taking home the bronze medal for the mass start event, a long-track skating competition. Schouten’s philosophy when it comes to speed skating is, “If everything’s under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
19. Allison Stokke – Pole Vault, USA
Early on in her collegiate career, pole vaulter Allison Stokke showed a lot of promise. In her first year of competition with the UCLA, Berkley team the Golden Bears, Stokke broke the school record for a freshman athlete. Improving with every year, Stokke hit her lifetime best while training for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Alas, Stokke was unable to clear the opening height of 4.25 m at the 2012 United States Olympic Trials. Stokke’s internet fame has persisted nonetheless, after some photos of her early competition days went viral. Stokke has spoken out against her internet fame, stating she’d rather be acknowledged for her pole vaulting achievements.
20. Darya Klishina – Long Jump, Russia
Getting her start in another sport entirely, Russian athlete Darya Klishina was initially a volleyball enthusiast. It wasn’t until she turned thirteen that Klishina changed her sport of choice to the long jump, thanks to the influence and encouragement of her father, a former athlete himself.
Klishina was granted special permission to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, exempting her from the suspension Russian athletes were sentenced with after breaching anti-doping rules. Although the decision was reversed, Klishina immediately appealed, and in the end was able to compete, coming in ninth place at the long jump final.
21. Justine Dufour-Lapointe – Freestyle Skiing, Canada
As the youngest of three skiing sisters, Justine Dufour-Lapointe wasn’t only up against the best of the best, she was up against her family too. Imagine being the Olympic champion in the moguls event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and standing up on the podium next to your sister!
When Canadian freestyle skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe took home the gold medal in 2014, her sister Chloe was actually up there beside her, having won the silver. Qualifying again for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Dufou-Lapointe took home the silver medal – surely doing her sisters (and country) proud.
22. Kaetlyn Osmond – Figure Skating, Canada
Competing internationally since 2012, Canadian figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond has been on every level of the Olympic podium throughout her career. Starting in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Osmond skated in both segments of the team event, ultimately leading the Canadian team to the silver medal.
Then at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Osmond finished in third place at the short program portion of the team event, contributing to what would ultimately be a gold medal for team Canada. Then in the individual event, Osmond set some personal career bests and won a bronze medal, as well as Canada’s 27th overall medal that year.
23. Anna Gasser – Snowboard, Austria
Initially part of the Austrian National Gymnastics Team, Anna Gasser started competing in snowboarding during the 2010/11 season, and she hasn’t looked back since. Gasser qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, although she’d ultimately fall during both runs, and finish tenth. Still, she was not discouraged, and came back to score a spot on the 2018 team.
In Pyeongchang Gasser competed in the women’s slopstyle final, finishing in 15th place, but she’d have one more event to show what she’s got on the slopes. Gasser went on to win the gold medal at the inaugural big air event, and hopes to have a repeat performance in 2022.
24. Madison Chock – Ice Dancing, USA
Along with skating partner Evan Bates, Madison Chock was first named to the USA Olympic team ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The pair finished in eighth place, but were determined to come back four years later to land in the top three.
Back for a second try in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Chock and Bates got their skates caught during a combination spin while competing in the free dance – falling to the ice. Coming in at ninth overall, Chock isn’t letting her first two Olympic experiences get in her head — the partners are already looking ahead to 2022’s Olympics in Beijing.
25. Aly Raisman – Gymnastics, USA
Massachusetts native Aly Raisman isn’t your average athlete – she was not only on the USA Olympic Gymnastic team in 2012, but the captain. Leading her team, dubbed the “Fierce Five,” Raisman was also the captain of the 2016 team, the “Final Five.”
At the London Olympics, Raisman got the gold in the team and floor competitions, in addition to the bronze medal on the balance beam. Finishing as the most decorated American gymnast at the games, Raisman reprised her role as captain in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, again winning the gold in the team event, and silver medals in the individual all-around and floor events.
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