Hot on the heels of the US women’s soccer team lifting the World Cup trophy after their victory in France over the Netherlands and with the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 revving up to begin on 12th July, all across the globe – from the football field to the athletics track – the women of sports are dominating headlines, social media and the world.
Read on to find out about some of the current champions and which faces you’ll want to keep an eye out for this year and beyond.
It was only a few weeks ago that California-born midfielder Megan Rapinoe led the US women’s soccer team to a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, held in the Stade De Lyon in France.
A multi-talented athlete with two Olympic Games under her belt, not to mention a gold medal from London 2012, these days Rapinoe is fast becoming just as recognisable for her advocacy work as she is in her sporting accomplishments.
The only athlete ever to score a goal directly from the corner at an Olympic Games match, as co-captain of the US women’s team since 2018, Rapinoe is becoming one of the best known faces in sports and has been instrumental in the recent surge in popularity of women’s soccer both in and outside of the United States.
With 1.7 million followers on Instagram, Megan is inspiring a generation of young girls who want to compete at a professional level to become the best athletes they can be, both on and off the pitch.
Strength, grace and determination are just three of the words that could be applied when describing Columbus-born US champion gymnast Simone Biles.
Whilst Simone might not achieve quite the same headline status that our previous entrant onto this list does, she is the undisputed queen of women’s gymnastics across the globe and the winner of the most World Championship gold medals by a woman in sporting history.
A gold medallist in the 2016 Olympic Games held in Rio, Brazil, Biles is the first female gymnast to win three consecutive world titles and continues to make history with her unparalleled achievements.
Known for being a positive role model for young athletes all over the world, Biles was named as ‘one of the most influential people in the world’ as well as being named as the Laureus World Sports Sportswoman of the Year 2017 – a title which she reclaimed once again this year, beating off some serious competition.
She might only be 24 years old, but Ester Ledecká made history at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang by winning the gold in two different sports at the same game. Ledecká took first place in both Skiing and Snowboarding, beating the previous title holder of the skiing event record by a fraction of a second.
The skilled sportswoman hails from the Czech Republic and has been a keen athlete since childhood. When it comes to snowboarding she has held three World Cup titles as well as two world championship goals.
Ledecká is often praised for being remarkably modest and showing great humility when it comes to her record-breaking achievements, she is also known for keeping her ski goggles on when talking to reporters after her winning feats.
When it comes to warmer seasons, Ledecká is just as likely to be seen playing sports on the sand as she is in the snow. A keen volleyball and softball player, Ester is definitely the sort of multitalented player to watch.
Running the Ironman is no easy feat – it involves 2.4 miles of rough water swimming, a 115-mile bike race and is capped with the Honolulu Marathon, a 26 mile run around the Hawaiian island where the annual World Championship takes place.
Swiss athlete Daniela Ryf has won first place in the event not once, but an impressive four times, in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. With the 2019 event just around the corner, it remains to be seen whether Ryf will take the title for another year.
The current record holder for both full course at 8 hours and 26 minutes and the bike event at four hours and 26 minutes Ryf is completely dedicated to remaining in peak physical condition, training from six to seven hours per day. Originally a competitive distance runner, Ryf made the switch to triathlons full time in 2014, making her rise to the top all the more incredible.
Women’s football (in Europe, soccer in the US) has definitely been one of the sports grabbing the world’s attention over the past year, with more girls than ever-rising through the ranks to play at a professional level.
Vivianne and her team might have been beaten to the World Cup by Megan Rapinoe and the US team but they still made it through the competition to take second place.
At only 22 years old, Miedema is the top all-time goal scorer for Orangeleeuwinnen, the Netherlands international women’s team. Considered to be one of the fastest rising stars in the game, Miedema not only represents her country as captain but also plays forward for Arsenal women’s football club in the UK.
She often posts about the team on Twitter where she has a growing following of over 34,000. Vivianne shows great pride not only in her own achievements but that of her fellow players, making her an inspirational role model for young athletes all over Europe and beyond.
Yet another incredible success story from the 2018 Winter Games, Paralympian Lena Schroeder made history when she became the first woman in 24 years to play para ice hockey at the international level.
Not only this, but Lena shares the ice with her male player counterparts, making her one of the few female athletes to compete at this level in a co-ed team.
Lena shares a dressing room, training schedule and her victories with her teammates and is often cited as saying she is not treated, nor does she expect to be treated, any differently to the men on her team.
They might not have triumphed at the games, but Lena is proof that sports can become more inclusive if people have the strength and determination to succeed.
Schroeder, who was born with Spina Bifida which has left her unable to walk, and she was the only woman out of 135 registered players at the Pyeongchang games. Her goal is for women’s paralympic hockey to become a recognised sport.
English track and field competitor Katarina Johnson-Thompson is fast becoming one of the most recognisable faces in European athletics.
Hotly tipped to be the new Jessica Ennis, Katarina recently took gold on the opening night of the 2019 European Indoor Championships. Competing in both the pentathlon and heptathlon, Thompson came close to breaking the world record only missing out by a narrow margin.
The event was the second time in her career that Katarina has just fallen shy of the record, however, the determined athlete won’t let that stop her from continuing her fight to reach the top of her game.
Katarina is currently ranked 18th in the world for the heptathlon event.
The INF Netball World Cup is due to take place between 12th and 22nd July 2019 and will be held in Liverpool in the UK. Amongst those tipped to watch during the competition is 26-year-old Australian Gretel Tippett.
A member of the Queensland Firebirds, Tippett will represent her country by most likely playing in the goal attack position. Since joining the team Tippett has made a name for herself within the netball world by demonstrating lightning-fast reactions and incredible accuracy.
Tippett is a player who inspires plenty of discussion with her modern take on playing styles, causing some controversy amongst more traditional players.
There is, however, no denying that Tippett’s confidence and entertainment value on the court is likely to see the Australian team well into the contest.
England Captain and defender for the Manchester City women’s team, English player Steph Houghton holds 112 senior caps. Like many of the women in this list, Steph has been playing for years but is only recently achieving international attention.
Houghton was able to achieve one of her personal goals in May of 2019 when she lifted the women’s FA cup following Manchester City’s 3-0 victory over West Ham at Wembley.
Steph wants to encourage more girls to take up football from an early age and is keen to see the sport develop further as its popularity grows.
She is also an avid supporter and patron of the James Milner Foundation, a charity which helps get young people into sports like football, rugby and cricket.
Women’s MMA – or mixed martial arts – is not a sport for the faint-hearted. With iconic fighters like Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano becoming household names and massively raising the profile of the sport, 20-year-old US competitor Valeria Loureda is one of a new crop of upcoming MMA stars.
The flyweight competitor already has 4 victories under her belt according to Bellator and is ranked 67th in the United States Women’s category. With her career just starting to gain momentum, Loureda looks likely to become one of the preeminent fighters on the world stage.
Her most recent Bellator match against Larkyn Dasch in Madison Square Garden ended in a unanimous judge’s decision after three rounds, with Valerie being handed the victory after an impressive performance.
At 11 years old Anna Hursey may still only be a child, but there is no doubt that this incredibly tenacious player will go on to become one of the new women of sport in the years to come.
She made waves in the sporting world when she stepped up to compete against players twice her age only being defeated at the quarter-finals of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
The youngest person ever to play in the competition at any sport, Hursey has been playing table tennis since the age of 5.
The Welsh youngster was also honoured with the title of Young Sportsperson of the Year at the 2019 Pride of Sports Awards. She was also a nominee for the 2018 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.
The current female middleweight champion of the world, Claressa Shields is a well-known figure in the world of boxing. Having held numerous titles since 2017, Shields is famed for her 2012 Olympic gold medal win.
Shields rose from humble beginnings and a troubled childhood to become an inspiration for female boxers the world over. The Olympian takes her responsibility as a role model very seriously.
Claressa not only competes herself but also acts as a boxing mentor for young hopefuls rising through the ranks, helping them to achieve their personal goals. With just over 40,000 followers on Twitter, Shields has an impressive career record and is proof that you can achieve anything with hard work and determination.
Although she may not have been victorious at the summer 2016 Olympic games, 32-year-old Lubna Al-Omair is one of the few Saudi women to have competed at a professional level on the international stage.
Up until 2012, Saudi Arabia prohibited women from entering one of the Olympic Games stadium with only two female representatives being present at the 2012 events.
She was the founder of the first women’s fencing club in her country and was the first Saudi woman to represent her country in the sport. This incredible achievement is balanced with Lubna’s impressive business career and her role as a wife and a mother.
Whilst Lubna may not be pursuing a career in international sports any further, her commitment to her field and the sacrifices she has made to reach her goals has made her a role model for young women in her country and abroad and makes her definitely worthy of a mention on this list.