20 Female Athletes Who Were Game Changers in Their Sports


Female athletes have been known to be game changers. They’ve come up out of the blue and made it their mission to go ahead and make life more fun, more interesting and a lot more athletic, and no one saw it coming. While sports are often traditionally referred to as a men’s game, sports are for all. Men and women alike are just as talented on certain fields or courts, but women are not typically as recognized for their athletic prowess as men. These female athletes, however, are total game changers in their sports – and please, no Bruce Jenner jokes, okay?

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pat summitt

Pat Summitt

She was not a player, but she was still an athlete. You have to be in order to keep the head coaching job at Tennessee as the Lady Vols basketball coach for 38 years. She has 16 SEC championships, 8 NCAA championship and 1098 wins to her name as the head coach. She retired from coaching at age 59 due to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, but her impact on the sport is still felt today.

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Peggy Fleming

She won the figure skating gold medal at the 1968 Olympic games, and she is credited for making the sport famous in the United States. Before, it wasn’t something that was really noticed or talked about. While it’s still not the most famous sport in the states, it’s much more famous than it was in those days, and it’s because of the interest people showed after seeing Fleming’s skating skills back in the late 60s.

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bonnie blair

Bonnie Blair

Her Olympic gold medals were the basis for what put speedskating on the map in the US. A sport that typically is not recognized or even thought about by many, Blair was able to put the game on the map with her exceptional skill and her ability to make things happen. She’s an athlete that completely changed the game and made her career something even more impressive by doing so. She’s someone to whom many young female athletes look up to.

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billie jean king

Billie Jean King

The famous tennis player was known in her time to have been one of the most talented women on the tennis court. And she even participated in a match against one of the best players in the world, Bobby Riggs. She easily beat him and that’s when the game of tennis changed for women. She’s also credited with launching a magazine and bringing attention to the game as a whole, which is just part of the reason she’s such a game changer.

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mary lou retton

Mary Lou Retton

Her 1984 gymnastics Gold at the Olympic Games was enough to put her on the map. She was the first person ever to be located outside of Europe to win the gold, and she is a force with which to be reckoned. Her skill in gymnastics is impressive, and she is someone so good at what she does that she was also the first woman ever to be featured on the cover of the Wheaties box, an honor that once went to only the best athletes in the world.

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althea gibson

Althea Gibson

She goes down in history as the first African-American woman ever to be invited to play in Wimbledon, which is part of her game changing history. However, she also received a sports scholarship to college, and she was a game changer not just on the tennis court. She was equally as talented on the golf course, which was practically unheard of in her time, particularly considering her race and her gender.

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janet evans

Janet Evans

She’s a world famous swimmer who broke more records that we can even count in the game. She was famous during the late 1980s for her exceptional swimming talent, and she’s the reason swimming became such a popular sport, especially in the Olympics. She’s known as being a game changer because she holds more titles than any other swimmer in the world, and she’s a woman who just could not be stopped.

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steffi graff

Steffi Graff

Not only did this tennis superstar win four Grand Slam tournaments in one year (that’s all of them, by the way) she also took home the Olympic win in the Golden Slam. She was a killer tennis player who retired a number of years ago, and people remember her forever as being the woman who changed the face of the game, and that’s what allowed today’s famous tennis players to come in and dominate the way that they have been dominating for so long.

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nadia comaneci

Nadia Comeneci

You might remember her as the young girl who, in the 1976 Olympic Games, brought the gymnastics sport its first perfect 10. She killed her routine, and the scores she was given went down in history as the first set of perfect scores ever for a girl in her sport, and that’s how she changed the face of the game. She made it a competition, and she made it worthwhile for people to watch when she was on the bars doing her thing. Her wins were not her only wins; she dominated for years.

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danica patrick

Danica Patrick

She’s still the most famous female race car driver in the world despite retiring in 2018. Despite having only one Indycar Series win and zero wins in NASCAR, Patrick undeniably brought new fans and attention to the sport.

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jennie finch

Jennie Fitch

She’s known as being one of the most prolific softball players in the history of the game, striking out more than a thousand batters on her time on the mound. She was seriously skilled on the field, and she managed to win Olympic Medals in two consecutive games. She’s one of the most famous softball players ever to enter the game, and she will be remembered for decades to come for her simple talent and her sheer desire to win.

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Lisa Leslie

She’s perhaps the most famous WNBA player in the history of the game, and she pretty much put it on the map. Women’s basketball is not typically as well-received as men’s, but Leslie’s amazing skill and her talent on the court provided the sport with a number of new fans and renewed interested in the game as far as women are concerned. She’s someone who changed the career paths of a lot of young women with her skill and abilities.

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Babe Didrikson Zaharias

She’s someone who really did change the game in her time. She won two golds and a silver medal in the 1932 Olympic Games, and she was more than just good at a few sports. She even was given the name Babe as a nickname when she showed off her amazing baseball skills, and people began referring to her as the female Babe Ruth of the game. She was one of the first women in history to prove female athletes were the real deal.

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jackie joyner-kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

She’s one of the most successful female runners in history, and it’s because she is someone who was able to come from behind on more than one occasion to win a race and make herself even more famous than she already was. She used her skill set and her talent to completely change the game and make it something we all remember women do every few years when the Olympics air, and that’s what we love about her and her talent.

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annika sorenstam

Annika Sorenstam

It’s been more than 7 years since the world’s most famous female golfer retired from her sport, but not before she changed the game with her wins, her titles and her sheer career earnings. Women are now playing golf for a lot more money, making more on endorsements and living much more successful lives thanks to Sorenstam and all she did for the sport. Today’s famous female golfers should call her and thank her for her skill and their current abilities.

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Sue Sally Hale

The 1950s did not care for women playing sports in the United States, particularly in the game of polo in southern California. In fact, it was completely forbidden. That’s why this amazing athlete used her mascara to draw on a moustache and donned baggy clothes so that she could play polo. She was known as Jones, the best player on the polo team. When people found out that Jones was actually Sue Sally, they were shocked and appalled, but her actions managed to change the game forever.

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Martina Navratilova

Her game was flawless. With 59 Grand Slam wins to her name, she’s one of the most successful tennis players in the world, and she will forever be remembered for her contribution to changing the game. She was someone who always brought her A game and never spent time outside of her work thinking about much of anything but work, and it showed in her skill set and her ability to win her matches every single time.

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mia hamm

Mia Hamm

The world of soccer was never the same after Hamm began playing professionally. Her skill and her ability on the field were so impressive she was often invited to play in the Olympics where she won medal after medal. She has so many championships and wins to her name that they’re impossible to list in a reasonable amount of time. Her skill has changed the game by making it cool to watch women play soccer, which brought attention to it in many ways.

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Venus and Serena Williams

Perhaps the most well-known tennis players in the world, these amazingly talented sisters have won so many titles that it’s almost impossible to go through the list to name them all. What I will say, however, is that they are significantly talented and they both have insane tennis skills. They’re also the most recognizable players in the world, and they even do a lot for charity, and that’s part of the reason they are so famous, so recognizable and so well-received by tennis fans. People love to watch them play, and it’s part of the reason that tennis has become so popular in recent years. We mention them together because they are sisters and because one goes with the other. In fact, they’ve been known to play together, against one another and they probably played together at home growing up and that’s why they’re so good.

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Elin Nordegren

Elin Nordegren

I know what you’re going to say; she’s not an athlete, but she is certainly a game changer in the golf world. We all know she’s the ex-wife of the most famous golfer in the world, Tiger Woods. He was one of the winning-est, most talented, most respected players in the game until their divorce.

Ever since then his game has struggled and he’s battle injuries and legal troubles. Talk about a game changer, she’s changed the world of men’s golf more than anyone.

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