You'll Get a Kick Out of These Inspiring Female Athletes - E! Online

You'll Get a Kick Out of These Inspiring Female Athletes

3/27/2021 4:07:00 PM

You'll Get a Kick Out of These Inspiring Female Athletes

Yes, female athletes like Serena Williams, Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe have got game. But it's what they're accomplishing off the court, mat and pitch that has us cheering the loudest.

Jr.] quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.' So you need to not be silent."Laurent Masurel/WSL via Getty ImagesCaroline MarksThe youngest surfer ever to qualify for the Championship Tour at 15, two years later the California-based phenom became one of just two Americans to qualify for the sport's Olympics debut in Tokyo. Then, just as she was celebrating her 18th birthday this past Valentine's Day, she checked another item off her bucket list: posing for

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Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue."I went pro when I was 15. And you know, when you're 15 you're like becoming a woman and things start changing. You get boobs, you get a butt," shetold Red Bull. "It's so cool to see...huge companies like Sports Illustrated and [others] celebrating all different body types. It just makes you feel awesome. You don't have to be like the stereotype, skinny model body type. So I'm an athlete, like I have big legs, and I have a muscular body and it's awesome because they celebrate that."

Laurie Sparham/Disney Enterprises, Inc.Misty CopelandDancer Copeland has never worried too much about stepping a (perfectly pointed) toe out of line. Told at 13 that she was already far too old to harbor elite ballerina dreams, she nonetheless continued to bourrée forward, brushing off criticism that she was too muscular to fit the dancer mold.

Such chatter pretty much stopped when she was named American Ballet Theatre's first African-American female dancer in 2015, but the author and founder of is still talking about she and her contemporaries should be seen as athletes ("Dancers should have endorsement deals. Dancers should be paid. Dancers should have insurance," she told ESPNW) and the increasing importance of diversity on stage.

"One of the things I love about ballet is the tradition and history. And we should hold on to certain ballets. But I'm mindful of how race is depicted in the performances. I have the voice to say that I won't go on stage and perform as a slave girl," she

. "I want to be a voice for women of color in the ballet world and to a broader audience. I want to tell our stories truthfully and genuinely."AP Photo/Damian DovarganesThesecondthe New Jersey native qualified to compete in fencing at the 2016 Olympics, she realized she was set to make history. "I was going to have to use my platform as an agent of change," she recalled to

Los Angeles Timesof becoming the first Muslim-American athlete to wear a hijab while competing at the Games. "I knew that right away." Her goal, she continued, was to "change the image that people may have of Muslim women. We come in all different shapes, colors and sizes and we come from different backgrounds and we're productive members of society." The spot on

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TIME's list of The Most Influential People and the Barbie in her likeness were just a bonus.She's since penned an autobiographical best-selling children's book,The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, but the bronze medalist is nowhere close to done with her own story. As she told Lim

during the "On Her Turf" panel, "I feel like I've been an activist my entire life and I think that is just part of the role in being Black in America, you don't have a choice. But to learn to, not just to advocate for yourself but, advocate for your community."

Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News GroupKatie SowersWhen the kinesiology major was finishing up her studies at the University of Central Missouri, "I actually got turned down from a volunteer coaching job because I was a lesbian," Sowerstold Outsports

in 2017 of an unnamed amateur basketball league. "Without that experience, I would not be where I am today."And that's on the coaching staff of the San Francisco 49ers, the Women's Football Alliance vet becoming the NFL's second full-time female coach in 2017 when she was bumped up from intern to offensive assistant. Coming out shortly afterward, she also became the league's first openly gay and first female coach in Super Bowl history this past February.

As she continues to pursue her ultimate goal—a head coaching position in either college or the NFL—she remains floored by the power of her platform. "Signing autographs served as one of those moments when I realized the reality of the impact I was having on people," she told Outsports of one 2017 preseason game. "I had multiple families call me over and thank me for the doors I am opening for their daughters. I even met a few young girls who were so excited to see me and tell me their own story of the sports they play. It was a special moment that I will remember for a long time."

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesSimone BilesSure, every member of the gold medal-winning gymnastics squad at the 2016 Olympic Games was worth flipping out over. But the 4-foot-8 dynamo was undoubtedly their star, medaling in each of the five events she competed in, her balance beam bronze the only thing stopping her from a full gold sweep. And while she intends to be in Tokyo in 2021 to take to the mat one final time, the most decorated gymnast in World Championship history is already hard at work on her second act.

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Between her drive tohelp foster children(the Texas native was briefly placed in the social services system before being adopted by her grandparents) and her dedication to speaking out against the sexual abuse former team doctor Larry Nassar inflicted on the gymnastics community, she's deftly pivoting into her future as an activist. "I don't think of it as an obligation," the

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