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It’s taken decades for women to even have a shot at proving themselves in male-dominated sports. And while we’ve made strides (shout-out to Becca Longo, the first female football player to receive a scholarship for Division I or II), we’ve still got a looong way to go.
While we wait patiently for the first female NFL player, we’ll be over here gaining major inspo from these women who’ve paved the way for female athletes everywhere. From Billie Jean King to Danica Patrick, here are seven female athletes who have competed against men — and totally dominated.
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1. Billie Jean King
By now, you’ve probably seen the trailer for Emma Stone’s latest movie, Battle of the Sexes, in which she portrays the female tennis champ Billie Jean King. When retired tennis pro Bobby Riggs started sounding off about female tennis in the 1970s and subsequently challenged Billie Jean to a showdown, King reluctantly accepted — and she defeated Riggs in a straight set (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) on September 20th, 1973. The famous tennis match was, of course, dubbed the Battle of the Sexes.
2. Danica Patrick
When you think of race-car driving, a fully suited-up male probably pops into your mind. It makes sense, since it’s such a male-dominated sport. But then there’s Danica Patrick: she’s been crushing sexism in race-car driving since she was 16, and the now-35-year-old auto racer has made quite the name for herself in the sport. Not only has she created a sustainable career, she’s totally beat out her male counterparts multiple times. In 2008, she won the Indy Japan 300 — making her the first female to win an Indy race. In 2009, she came in 3rd in the famous Indy 500.
3. Diane Crump
In 1969, Diane Crump became the first woman to compete in a pari-mutuel horse race in the United States. The crowds were so indignant that a female was competing, that she ended up needing police escorts at the track. “The hecklers were yelling: ‘go back to the kitchen and cook dinner,” Crump recalled to CNN. And if that wasn’t enough, in 1970, she became the first female to ride in the Kentucky Derby. By the time she retired from racing, she had 235 wins — and you can bet they were all against men.
4. Carissa Moore
At just 25 years old, Carrisa Moore has already planted her feet in the Surfers’ Hall of Fame. She holds dozens of women’s titles, including 11 NSSA and 6 ASP Women’s World Tour wins. In 2007, she earned herself the title of Quiksilver King of Groms, where she competed against all male surfers — and in 2011, she was the only female to win a wild card spot in the competition, allowing her to compete as the only woman in the Men’s Triple Crown of Surfing.
5. Jackie Mitchell
As a publicity stunt in 1931, the New York Yankees played an exhibition game against the all-female Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. Babe Ruth, who was playing, was not worried about the Lookouts, saying, “I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate.” Badass 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell stepped up to the mound as the pitcher for the Lookouts, and struck out not only Lou Gehrig, but the one and only Babe Ruth. Prequel to A League of Their Own, anyone?!
6. Zhang Shan
At the 1992 Summer Olympics held in Barcelona, Zhang Shan took home the gold medal in skeet shooting. The event was mixed-gender, which made her win all the more poignant (note: the silver and bronze medals both went to men). We can’t help but adore her victory photo (pictured above). The bronze and silver medalists seem genuinely happy with their standings, even though they placed beneath a woman. #GOALS
7. Dame Ellen MacArthur
In 2005, sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur set the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. The title was previously held by Frenchman Francis Joyon. She knocked his time out of the part (beating him by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes, and 49 seconds). The total trip only took her 71 days, and she was able to achieve such speed by sleeping in only 20-minute increments. She recently founded the MacArthur Trust, which teaches people recovering from cancer how to sail.
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