Magazine article Ebony

10 Greatest Women Athletes

Magazine article Ebony

10 Greatest Women Athletes

Article excerpt

IN the world of sports, African-American women have made remarkable and lasting contributions, displaying a level of determination, dedication, perseverance and athletic ability to overcome the odds and to create new pages in the history books.

No matter the contests, Black women have been at the forefront of excellence, raising the level of competition and many times establishing standards in sports that once were unbelievable.

The success that Black women have enjoyed in the athletic arena is an enduring tradition. Long before Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie, and figure skating champion Debi Thomas, there were the likes of track stars Louise Stokes and Tydia Pickett, who, in 1932, became the first Black females to compete in the Olympics; Lyle (Toni) Stone, who became the first Black woman to play professional baseball when she joined the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League in July 1953; and Lynette Woodard, the first woman to join the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters in 1985.

Those individuals are among a distinguished group of competitors who have captured the imagination of the international community. And the athletes on these pages are 10 of the all-time greatest females in the entire sports arena. They are only a representation of the thousands of Black females who have competed and excelled and helped to make the world of sports what it is today.

MARION JONES, who is widely considered to be today's greatest female athlete, further established herself as one of the all-time greatest competitors when she won three gold medals and two bronze medals at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, to become the most-decorated female track-and-field athlete at a single Olympics. The 26-year-old sprinter and long jumper hopes to participate in at least two more Olympics before exhibiting another set of skills in the WNBA.

The legendary ALTHEA GIBSON, who became the first Black person (male or female) to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament after winning the French Open singles title in 1956, later won back-to-back Wimbledon singles titles in 1957 and 1958. Also in '57 and '58, she won back-to-back United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) national singles championships. Her career also included several doubles championships, most notably the Wimbledon women's doubles in '57 and '58 and USLTA mixed doubles in '57. Gibson retired from amateur tennis in 1958 and launched another pioneering effort in 1964 when she began her professional golf career and joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

WILMA RUDOLPH, who had to overcome a bout with polio as a child, captured the world's attention at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and gained international fame when she became the first American woman to win three gold medals at one Olympiad. She won the 100- and 200-meter dashes and was a member of the 400-meter relay team. The year after her heroics, she became the first Black woman to win the James E. Sullivan Award, the highest award in amateur athletics.

VENUS WILLIAMS, who has used a combination of power and finesse to put new focus on the way tennis is played, won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open singles titles in 2000, and like Althea Gibson did 42 years earlier, defended those titles in 2001. She and her sister, Serena (who is a former U.S. Open champion), made history at last year's U.S. Open when it marked the first time since 1884 that sisters competed against each other in a Grand Slam title match.

JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE, who was often described as "the best all-around female athlete in the world," overcame the effects of ashtma and established herself as one of track and field's most competitive and determined performers as a long jumper and participant in the heptathlon. In 1988, she won two gold medals at the Olympics in Seoul, exhibiting incredible will power in the heptathlon (a punishing, two-day contest that tests an athlete's strength, speed and stamina) and the long jump. …

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