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Top Ten Moments for Women in Sport

Sportette gives you the top ten moments that redefined Women in Sport - share your list with us on email, twitter or facebook

Sportette gives you the top ten moments that redefined Women in Sport – share your list with us on email, twitter or facebook


This list contains a catalogue of emotions for sporting fans. Each achievement made us cheer and reduced us to tears, they filled us with pride and inspired us in more ways than they can ever realise. A list like this is always going to be subjective so send us your thoughts and nominations for Sportette’s top ten moments for Women in Sport.


10. Layne Beachley’s 7 World Surfing Titles

Layne Beachley wins her 7th World Surfing Title

Layne Beachley wins her 7th World Surfing Title

With 7 world titles, Layne Beachley remains the most successful female surfer in history. Six of those titles were consecutive and she played an integral part in revolutionising women’s surfing. Layne learnt to surf at a time when there were few female surfers out in the lineup and was forced to deal with some sexist and intimidating surfers growing up. When Layne retired in 2008 she wasn’t to leave the sport, yet played a major role in developing it even further.  She staged the richest stand-alone women’s ASP event, the Beachley Classic at Dee Why and served on the board of Surfing Australia. Layne also established the Aim for the Stars Foundation that provides funding and support for young Australian women to pursue their dreams. Olympians Casey Eastham, Jessica Fox and Caroline Buchanan were all Aim for the Stars scholarship holders.




Jessica Watson was alone at sea for 211 days in her historic voyage

Jessica Watson was alone at sea for 211 days in her historic voyage

9. Jessica Watson’s Around the World Voyage

At just 16 years of age, Jessica Watson did what many experienced sailors would never dream of attempting. This wasn’t your typical teenage adventure, it was the dream of a young girl who had harnessed it for years.

While other teenage girls were talking about boys, partying,experimenting with alcohol and the like, Jessica was attempting to make history by sailing solo around the world. She’d copped plenty of criticism that she was too young and too inexperienced to take on such a feat and when she crashed her boat on the first night of a 10 day test run, the vulchers came at her. But undeterred and unintimidated, Jessica set off to conquer some of the most challenging seaways in the world. Unassisted and without any stops, it was just Jessica and the wide expanse of the ocean around her for 7 months. She battled loneliness, 12 metre seas, 75 knot winds and wild storms for 210 days, showing maturity well beyond her years and inspiring girls young and old to strive to achieve their dreams.





8. Danica Patrick’s Daytona Pole

Danica Patrick has made history on the track

Danica Patrick has made history on the track

Danica is the most successful female racing car driver and is currently competing in the NASCAR Series in the US. She started racing professionally in 2005 in the Indy Car Series and three years later became the first female to win an Indy Car race, Indy Japan 300. In 2012 she made the move to the NASCAR Series and in 2013 made international

headlines when she became the first woman to claim pole position at Sprint Cup race and it was in none other than the Daytona 500. Danica has had to cop plenty of criticism in her race to the top of her sport including some saying her low body weight gives her an unfair advantage, with others say she’s a marketer’s driver not a racing-car driver. With her contract with Stewart Haas Racing worth an estimated $100million over 5 years and with millions more coming in with sponsorship deals with Coke Zero and Go Daddy, there’s no doubting the influence and success of Danica Patrick.




7. Billie Jean King’s Battle of the Sexes

It’s ironic that one of the best moments in Women’s Sport is undoubtedly the most sexist.

Billie Jean King v Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes

Billie Jean King v Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes

It’s sad too that one of Women’s Tennis’ greatest pioneers had to partake in a chauvinistic and sexist activity to make her point known. And it’s also unfair that of all her 39 Grand Slam titles in both singles and doubles, this is the match that attracted the most attention.

The 1973 Battle of the Sexes. A 29-year-old Billie Jean King takes on the 55 year old Bobby Riggs. 30,000 people packed into the Houston Astrodome – the largest crowd ever to watch a tennis match and attracted a worldwide TV audience of 50million. Riggs entered the stadium on a rickshaw with bikini clad models while King was on a Cleopatra like thrown carried by male bodybuilders, but when the match was on, it was on and King took the match 6-4 6-3 6-3. The match was a necessary spectacle to revolutionise attitudes towards female athletes, the audience spread further than just tennis fans and King’s win was a step in the acceptance and respect to women’s tennis players. “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match,” she said. “It would ruin the women’s tour and affect all women’s self esteem.” King was a revolutionary, she formed the WTA and was instrumental in the fight for equal prizemoney for women in Grand Slams – in 1972 after winning the US Open she refused to compete the following year if there wasn’t equal prizemoney…the next year there was.



6. 1977 Melissa Ludtke v MLB Commissioner

This moment didn’t take place on the field, in a game or at a race. Instead it was in the courtroom where an historic decision was made that would change the future for all female sports journalists.

The sign the female sports journos were met with

The sign the female sports journos were met with

The pioneers were the female sports journos at the time and one in particular Sports Illustrated’s Melissa Ludkte who took the MLB to court for banning women journos from the locker rooms after matches. For years the female journalists would be locked out of the change rooms while their male colleagues walked straight in and were able to get the quotes from the players directly after the match. The women were forced to wait outside and often missed the only opportunity to talk to players as well as their deadlines.

A young Melissa Ludtke working for Sports Illustrated

A young Melissa Ludtke working for Sports Illustrated

Their initial campaigns to be allowed in were met with outright refusal by the MLB and they also started receiving hate mail from fans.

Then at the start of the 1977 World Series, the New York Yankees players voted in favour of allowing Ludkte access to their change room after the matches, but soon after the MLB overturned it and declared all women would be banned from the locker rooms. It forced Ludtke to resort to legal action and in 1978 the Federal Court Judge ruled in favour of Ludtke and declared it illegal and a violation of the 14th amendment to ban a female sports reporter from a male athlete’s change-room.




5. Chris Evert v Martina Navratilova

Foes on the court friends off it. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova's rivalry captivated the tennis world.

Foes on the court friends off it. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s rivalry captivated the tennis world.

It was the rivalry that captivated the tennis world and put women’s tennis firmly in the spotlight. It lasted 80 matches over 16 years and is still considered one of the best rivalries in the history of tennis and modern sport.

The former rivals remain good friends today

The former rivals remain good friends today

Chris Evert was considered the American sweetheart with a killer instinct while Martina Navratilova was one of the fiercest tennis players ever to grace the world’s courts and led their head-to-head record 43-37.

Yet underneath all the competition, cameras and championships lay camaraderie, a friendship that would continue well beyond their playing days. There were so many different factors at play that went well beyond the tennis court, sexuality, stardom, relationships, yet it’s the respect these two continually showed each other and that friendship that endured that made them champions and continues to serve as a great example for athletes of any sport.



4. Nadia Comaneci’s Perfect 10

She was just 14 years old when she made sporting history, recording the first perfect 10 at the 1976 Olympics.

Nadia Comaneci next to the scoreboard that didn't cater for perfect 10s.

Nadia Comaneci next to the scoreboard that didn’t cater for perfect 10s.

Considered so unattainable, the scoreboard wasn’t even made to cater for the slim possibility that someone could perform a 10, hence the score appeared as 1.00.

Nadia’s flips, fluidity and flexibility makes even the most rigid of us believe we too could fly on the uneven bars, arch our bodies like contortionists and perform aerobatic pirouettes just like her. She was flawless, graceful and humble, a true champion who went on to score 6 additional 10s over the course of the Montreal Games winning her 3 Gold 1 Silver and 1 Bronze and won 2 gold and 2 silver in the 1980 Oiympics. Nadia inspired generations of gymnasts and athletes alike and her routines remain revered and unrivalled to this day. She taught little girls out there that anything is possible.





3. Cathy Freeman’s 400m Olympic Gold

 It was the 49.11 seconds of the Sydney 2000 Olympics we’ll never forget.

Cathy Freeman runs in sporting fokelore at the 2000 Sydney Olympics

Cathy Freeman runs in sporting fokelore at the 2000 Sydney Olympics

Cathy was the face of the Olympics anointed with the honour of lighting the flame at the opening ceremony. She was Australia’s golden girl. 110,000 packed into the stadium’s stands, millions watched on the television, there were live sites packed with thousands mosaiced across the country, even within the stadium walls, all officials, employees, competitors and cleaners stopped for this one precious minute of the Games, the most important minute of the Games.

The pressure Cathy was under was enormous, she wasn’t just racing for her country, but her people as well, the expectation was explosive and Cathy handled it in the only way she knew how. She ran from it. The nation held a collective breath as Cathy in her green and gold head-to-toe body suit soared down the straight into the history books. The look of shock and relief was evident on Cathy’s face as she digested what she had just achieved. Her dream. Her nation’s dream. The stadium, the live sites and lounge rooms across the country erupted in celebrations and pride.





2. Steffi Graf’s 1988 Golden Grand Slam 

Steffi Graf's Golden Grand Slam has never been repeated.

Steffi Graf’s Golden Grand Slam has never been repeated.

The greatest women’s tennis player of all time, Steffi Graf was ahead of her time when in 1988 at the age of 19 she completed what no man or woman before her had done and what no one has been able to do since – win all four grand slams and an Olympic Gold Medal in the one calendar year. Graf was the number one ranked player for a record 377 weeks, the longest period of any tennis player male or female since the WTA and ATP began issuing rankings. She was number 3 when she retired having won 22 Grand Slam singles titles – the most of any male or female since the introduction of the open era.






1. 1999 Women’s World Cup Final

It was the event that captivated the sporting world and stole headlines from the biggest sports in the tough American market. Never before had a women’s match attracted so much media, so much attention and it didn’t disappoint.

Brandi Chastain rips off her shirt as the USA win the 1999 FIFA World Cup

Brandi Chastain rips off her shirt as the USA win the 1999 FIFA World Cup

In 1999 the USA hosted the Women’s World Cup and quickly the team had stolen the national sporting spotlight as they won their way through to the Final against China. 90,000 people crammed into the Rosebowl to watch the match live while 40million were glued to their TV screens worldwide as Brandi Chastain fired the winning goal in the penalty shootout into the back of the net. It sent the stadium into a frenzy, elevated the team to rockstar status and the image of Brandy ripping off her shirt, sliding to her knees, with just her sports bra showing remains one of the most iconic images of women’s sport. This achievement strikes a chord with Sportette as it represented exactly how women’s sport should be accepted, respected and celebrated. It’s a shame that its legacy didn’t live on but it did show the world what could be achieved and what we should be striving towards.


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