In honor of Women’s History Month: Women Athletes Who Influenced Sports In America Installment #3.
Florence Griffith Joyner (Track & Field) – Was considered the fastest woman of all time. This is based on the fact that the world records she set in 1988 for both the 100m and 200m still stand and have yet to be seriously challenged. She was a two-time Olympian and the winner of three gold and two silver medals. She was also known for her fashion sense by designing her own competition outfits. Most notably, she raced in a one-legged leotard at the 1988 Olympics. She later designed the basketball uniforms for the Indiana Pacers NBA team.
Jackie Joyner Kersee (Track & Field) – Is ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in women’s heptathlon and women’s long jump. She won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals in those two events at four different Olympic Games. She was voted the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated for Women magazine beating out Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Since her retirement, she has been involved with many philanthropic efforts, and has served on the USA Track & Field Board of Directors.
Billie Jean King (Tennis) – Is a former number one ranked tennis player. She won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 doubles, and 11 mixed doubles. She received world recognition in 1973 when she competed in the Battle of the Sexes, beating Bobby Riggs. That victory secured her position as an advocate for women’s issues. She went on to be the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association, (WTA), World Team Tennis, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Federation Cup Award of Excellence. She continues to be dedicated to gender equity in sports.
Micki King (Diving) – Was an Olympic gold medal winner in springboard diving at the Games in Munich. After she retired, she became a career officer in the U.S. Air Force attaining the rank of colonel. She taught physical education and coached diving at the U.S. Air Force Academy, becoming the first woman to serve on the faculty of a military academy, and the first woman to coach a male athlete to the NCAA championship
Julie Krone (Horse Racing) – Was the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown when she captured the Belmont Stakes in 1993. In 2000 she became the first woman inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. Since her retirement, she has devoted her time to motivational speaking, broadcasting and horsemanship instructor.
Nancy Lieberman (Basketball) – Is regarded as one of the greatest figures in women’s basketball. At age 17, she was the youngest player named to the USA Basketball team roster, and helped them to win the silver medal in the 1976 Olympics which was the first-ever Women’s Basketball Team Competition. At 18 she was the youngest basketball player in Olympic history to win a medal. In 2009, she became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks becoming the first woman to coach a professional men’s basketball team.
Nancy Lopez (Golf) – Is considered one of the greats in the history of women’s golf, and the best player from the late 70’s-late80’s. She was the youngest woman ever to be inducted into the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Hall of Fame. She is the only woman to win LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and the Vare Trophy in the same season (1978). Since her retirement, she has devoted herself to philanthropic endeavors.
Ann Meyers-Drysdale (Basketball) – Was the first player to be a member of the U.S. National Team while still in high school, and only the second woman to be awarded a four-year scholarship at UCLA. She was also the only woman to sign a contract with a National Basketball Association team, the Indiana Pacers in 1979. She has been a commentator for ESPN and is currently the Vice President of the WNBA Phoenix Mercury and the Phoenix Sun.
Shannon Miller (Gymnastics) – Was ranked as the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in U.S. history. She was also the most successful American athlete, by medal count, at the 1992 Barcelona Games winning a total of five, and she was a member of the gold medal winning Magnificent Seven team at the 1996 Atlanta Games. She is the only woman, in any sport, to be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame twice, as an individual and for her team. She currently runs her own health and fitness company and she is the president of the Shannon Miller Foundation dedicated to fighting childhood obesity.
Shirley Muldowney (Drag Racing) – Is the American pioneer of professional drag, known as the “First Lady” of drag racing. After meeting and overcoming discrimination in the sport, she went on to become the first woman to receive a license from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) to drive a top Fuel dragster. Her victories include the 1977, 1980 and 1982 NHRA Top Fuel Championships becoming the first person to win two and three Top Fuel titles.