20 Great Women Who Can Play with the Men

Amber Lee@@BlamberrSports Lists Lead WriterMarch 17, 2012

20 Great Women Who Can Play with the Men

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    Women's sports may not be as popular as men's, but they've come a long way in terms of establishing equality. In the days back before the WNBA or even the LFL, many sports and careers in sports broadcasting were completely out of reach for women. 

    Thankfully, all that has changed.

    For nearly every scholastic or collegiate men's sport offered, there is a female equivalent offered as well. The same holds true for international competitions like the Olympic Games.

    The whole "separate but equal" thing works because, in terms of size and strength, most women can't compete with their male counterparts in a given sport. 

    Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

    Over the years there have been a number of trailblazing women who have bucked the system and dared to compete with the boys—all with varying degrees of success. Although it can't be an easy road for most of them, there's something to be said just for trying.

    Today, it seems that more women than ever are giving it a go against the men. Some are following in the path of others that came before them, while others are forging their own paths and making history in the process.

    Here are 20 great women, past and present, who have competed with men. 

Candace Parker, WNBA

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    WNBA star Candace Parker plays forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, but she has some experience competing with the boys.

    Two years after becoming the first girl in Illinois to dunk a basketball in a high school game, Parker won the 2004 McDonald's High School All-American dunk contest in Oklahoma City, competing against some of the top male athletes in the country. 

Eri Yoshida, Minor League Pitcher

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    In April 2010, Japanese pitcher Eri Yoshida signed a contract with the Chico Outlaws, making her the first woman to play professional baseball in the U.S. in a decade. 

    Yoshida has impressed a lot of people, including recently retired Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, with whom she had the opportunity to train. 

Michaela Hutchison, Wrestler

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    In 2006, Alaskan high school sophomore Michaela Hutchison became the first girl in the country to win a state wrestling title while competing against boys. 

    Hutchison won the 103-pound weight class at the state championship and entered the tournament ranked No. 1 in her weight class. 

Rosie Napravnik, Jockey

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    In 2011, 23-year-old jockey Rosie Napravnik became just the sixth woman in history to compete in the Kentucky Derby. None of the first five female competitors finished better than 11th place. 

    Napravnik, aboard Pants On Fire, didn't win the Derby, but she made history as the first female jockey to ever crack the top 10—she finished in ninth place. 

Ariko Iso, Athletic Trainer

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    In 2002, Ariko Iso became the first full-time female athletic trainer in NFL history. Iso spent nine years with the Steelers and worked three Super Bowls with the team. 

    In 2011, Iso accepted the head football trainer position at Oregon State—her alma mater—and was again the first female to hold the position. 

Billie Jean King, Tennis

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    Tennis legend Billie Jean King is best known for defeating Bobby Riggs in their epic Battle of the Sexes match in 1973.

    Riggs had made a habit of blasting women's tennis as inferior and challenged King to a match on several occasions before she accepted. 

    King eventually accepted his challenge after being offered the chance to play him for a winner-take-all prize of $100,000.

Ellen MacArthur, Sailing

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    English sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur is one of few women to compete in the male-dominated sport.

    In 2005, MacArthur broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. 

Libby Riddles, Dog Mushing

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    Wisconsin native Libby Riddles moved to Alaska just before her 17th birthday and soon took up dog mushing. She competed in her first race in 1978 and took first place in the event.

    In 1985, Riddles competed in the famed Iditarod for the third time and became the first woman ever to win the race. 

Sonya Thomas, Competitive Eating

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    Sonya Thomas is a competitive eater who holds dozens of world records and is better known by her nickname, The Black Widow. Don't let her 98-pound frame fool you, Thomas is ranked No. 6 in the world. 

    In 2011, Thomas won the U.S. Chicken Wing Eating Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. She ate 183 chicken wings in 12 minutes—beating her previous world record mark set a year earlier.

Nancy Lieberman, NBA D-League Coach

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    Nancy Lieberman is a former professional basketball player who played and coached in the NBA and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

    In 2009, Lieberman became the first female head coach of an NBA Development League team when she accepted a position coaching the Dallas Mavericks' D-League affiliate.

Germaine De Randamie, MMA

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    Dutch Muay Thai fighter Germaine De Randamie began competing in Strikeforce in 2011 and is an up-and-coming talent in MMA. 

    De Randamie is best known for her 2007 fight with Belgian actor Tom Waes, who had agreed to fight her after just three months of training. He was knocked out in the first round. 

Seana Hogan, Ultra Cycling

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    Ultra racing cyclist Seana Hogan is one of the greatest competitors in the history of the sport—male or female.

    Over her career, Hogan has set a number of world records in cycling and won countless transcontinental races. 

Katie Hnida, NCAA Kicker

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    Katie Hnida is a former football player and as the placekicker for the University of New Mexico Lobos, she became the first woman to score in an NCAA Division I-A game. 

    Due to her success in high school, Hnida was invited to joined the University of Colorado football team as a walk-on placekicker by then-coach Rick Neuheisel. 

    Hnida suited up for games, but never saw any playing time at Colorado and eventually transferred to New Mexico. 

Stefy Bau, Motocross

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    Italian motocross rider Stefy Bau began riding a bike at the age of two—and two years later, she got her first gasoline-powered dirt bike.

    Obviously, that was a sign of things to come because Bau was competing (and winning) local junior races within years. 

    Bau eventually turned pro and moved to the U.S. to compete in 1998.

    She racked up victories in women's events for several years before becoming the first woman ever to compete in the World Motocross Championship in 2005. 

Gayle Gardner, ESPN Anchor

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    Today, there are a number of female sports broadcasters that are household names and even more that are working their way up from local affiliates around the country.

    But without the trailblazing efforts of women like Gayle Gardner, their road would be a lot rougher. 

    Gardner was the first female sports anchor to appear weekly on a major network and is a role model for aspiring women sports broadcasters today.

Isabelle Beisiegel, PGA Golf

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    In May 2011, Canadian golfer Isabelle Beisiegel became the first female golfer in history to earn a playing card on the men's professional tour. 

    Several women, including Annika Sorestam and Michelle Wie, have played in individual events in recent years—but Beisiegel's achievement sets her apart from them. 

Manon Rhéaume, IHL Goalie

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    Manon Rhéaume is a Canadian ice hockey goaltender who achieved a number of firsts during her career, most notably becoming the first and only woman ever to play in an NHL exhibition game. 

    Rhéaume's career spanned almost two decades, and during that time she played for a number of IHL teams and won a silver medal for Canada's women's ice hockey team at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. 

Danica Patrick, NASCAR

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    Since beginning her career as an IndyCar racer in 2005, Danica Patrick has become one of the most recognizable faces in sports.

    After a number of historic achievements in open-wheel racing—including becoming the first female driver ever to win an IndyCar race—Patrick eventually shifted her focus to NASCAR. 

    In 2010, Patrick began racing in the Nationwide Series and had her career-best fourth-place finish at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway just over a year later. 

Fabiola Da Silva, Inline Skating

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    Brazilian inline skater Fabiola da Silva is the most decorated female athlete in X-Games history—in a seven-year stretch, she only lost one X-Games event. 

    Da Silva was so dominant against the female skaters in her sport that in 2000 the Aggressive Skaters Association created the "Fabiola Rule," which allowed women to compete in the formerly all-male vert competition. 

Carissa Moore, Surfing

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    Surfer Carissa Moore has been competing since age 12 and is one of the best surfers in the world.

    In 2007, Moore won the Quicksilver King of the Groms against an all-male field and scored a 10 in a Men's WQS in Mexico. 

    In 2011, Moore was the only woman to complete against the best male surfers in the world as part of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.