They are world and Olympic champions, record-breakers and global activists with decades of experience being at the top of their game. These female athletes share what drives them, what’s important to excel in your chosen sport or career and how to share your passions and success with others.
1. Mikaela Shiffrin
As a World Cup alpine skier, two-time Winter Olympic gold medalist, and the youngest slalom ski champion, Mikaela Shiffrin is a role model for many. From young girls in high school to established female athletes, Mikaela’s track record combined with her goal “to inspire people to be part of the sport, be active and comfortable with themselves” reflects the legacy she wants to leave. The American shares who inspires her, the importance of family and her drive to constantly innovate on the piste in her ‘Three Words With’ interview.
2. Mary Keitany
Mary Keitany is a three-time London Marathon champion and the marathon world record holder, having won the 2017 London Marathon in a time of 2hrs 17mins 1sec. From the hills of Kenya to the streets of London and New York, she is a role model for female athletes around the world. As a mother, she also finds motivation in her family’s support. “My kids have grown up with my running, they understand I’m an athlete, and they know that I have to work extra hard for them,” Mary says.
Her track record is an inspiration for female athletes around the world as Mary uses her dedication and love for her family, and her sport can be a catalyst for success in both. Read more on how the Kenyan successfully juggles family and elite running in ‘What’s Your Game Plan’ with Mary Keitany.
3. Lindsey Horan
Lindsey Horan is a professional soccer player in the U.S. and was the MVP of the National Women’s Soccer League. Just before the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, she and her teammate at the Portland Thorns, Emily Sonnett, shared their early experiences of playing soccer.
“I was on the field with boys who were all better than me – technically, tactically, stronger, faster – and I proved that I was just as good as them and potentially better,” Lindsey says. Lindsey encourages female athletes around the world to never lose their passion and purpose here.
4. Asma Elbadawi
Asma Elbadawi is a Sudanese-British spoken word poet, activist, and basketball player who uses numerous outlets to speak up with purpose. Asma successfully campaigned the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hijab campaign for female athletes to be able to wear the hijab in professional basketball. She’s not only using her voice in sports but also in creating awareness for mental health and achieving well-being.
However big or small your audience might be, Asma believes people can succeed by using their platform with purpose. “Sometimes you have to put yourself into uncomfortable places. You might have to face a lot of challenges or you might not. But how do you know if you don’t go and try?” Read more about what inspires Asma in her ‘Three Words With’ interview.
5. McKenzie Coan
McKenzie Coan was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and was told she would never walk or even speak. But McKenzie has swum her way to tremendous success becoming a three-time Paralympic gold medalist. In the 2016 Rio Paralympics, she won gold medals in the 50m, 400m, and 100m freestyle and captured a silver medal in the 4 x 100m relay. Inspiring others who might struggle with a debilitating illness is what drives her life as a champion. “There’s literally nothing stopping you – the only limitations that exist are the ones that you allow to exist,” McKenzie says.
Turning obstacles into successes is what McKenzie does best and you can find out more in ‘Three Words With McKenzie Coan’.
6. Billie Jean King
Former world No. 1 tennis legend Billie Jean King is a pro at making history. She won 39 Grand Slam titles, of which 12 were single, 16 women’s, and 11 mixed doubles titles.
But what secured her legacy was challenging, and beating Bobby Riggs in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’, inspired female athletes worldwide to believe in their potential.
The secret to her success? Perseverance. Billie Jean didn’t stop challenging the norms on her retirement from the tennis court. She continues to create change and is a role model for female athletes and changemakers of all generations. “It’s very important that in law, in sports and in every area of life, everyone has an opportunity,” says Billie Jean.
7. Fiao'o Fa'amausili
As captain, Fiao’o Fa’amausili led the New Zealand Black Ferns to four Rugby World Cups. From world championship titles to serving in the Manurewa police force, Fiao’o puts her success as a leader down to living her STRONG acronym day in day out. STRONG stands for sharing the load, trusting your team, respecting your players, thinking about others first, allowing no negativity and being a good communicator and a great listener.
This leadership mindset not only pushes her teams to work harder but Fiao’o also focuses on family and bonding between teammates, reminding them that “We’re never above you, never below you but beside you”.
Fiao’o is now retired from the Black Ferns but her legacy in the world of New Zealand rugby lives on. Read more about this inspiring female athlete and the secret of her success in her ‘Three Words With’ interview.
8. Angelique Kerber
Former world number one and three-time Grand Slam winner, Angelique Kerber is a tennis champion that inspires. Thinking back to her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, she said what drove her to victory was her ability to reinforce her desire to win.
“Shortly before I went out onto the court, I kept telling myself I had to believe in myself if I wanted to win. And I showed Serena Williams that, too. I subconsciously sent out the message that it was not for nothing that I was her opponent in this final and that I believed I could beat her today,” Angelique recalls.
The German is clear that you have to approach every challenge like it’s the first time. Give your best, even if you were unsuccessful in the past. Read more about Angelique’s approach in her ‘What’s Your Game Plan’ interview.
9. Tori Bowie
It’s all about confidence for track and field athlete, Frentorish ‘Tori’ Bowie. The sprint sensation has the accolades to show just how far her fearlessness can go as the 100m world champion in London and three-time medalist at Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The American is also clear that happiness goes hand-in-hand with success. “If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, what’s the point doing it?” Tori says. Check out Tori’s ‘What’s Your Game Plan’ interview for more tips on chasing down success from one of the top female athletes in the world.
10. Kathrine Switzer
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. While she was an officially registered competitor, the race director tried to physically prevent her from competing. She managed to finish the race and became a symbol for female athletes around the world to break barriers.
“Capability and talent is everywhere; it only needs an opportunity,” Kathrine says. Find more inspiration in Kathrine’s story on how women won their running rights at the Boston Marathon.
11. Sasha DiGiulian
As a professional rock climber, Sasha DiGiulian is a three-time US National Champion and became the first woman in North America to scale grade 9a, 5.14d, regarded as one of the toughest sport climbs for female athletes.
She’s motivated to scale these heights and create new firsts to become a role model for others. Sasha is passionate about the need for gender equality and the value of engaging more young people in climbing and sports in general. She explains “for a long time, athletes were told not to speak out or be political. We have platforms that reach audiences, in some cases a much larger reach than some politicians.” You can read more about Sasha’s passions in her ‘What’s Your Game Plan?’ interview.