Ronda Rousey, Danica Patrick and the Top 10 American Female Athletes Today
The Daytona 500 and UFC 157 are different in many ways, but both shared a female in the lead role in common.
The media couldn't get enough of Danica Patrick, the pole-sitter for the Daytona 500, as she looked to become just the second woman in the history of NASCAR to ever lead the race under non-caution circumstances. She accomplished that goal on Lap 90, when her GoDaddy.com car took over the top spot.
Like Patrick, the UFC's Ronda Rousey also made history on Saturday night when she became the first woman to ever win a fight in the Octagon, defeating Liz Carmouche in the first round of the bout. Her win solidified her place as the top female fighter in the sport.
With these women exuding plenty of "girl power" into their traditionally testosterone-filled sports, now seems like a good time to take a look at the 10 best female athletes in America today.
Gabby Douglas, Gymnastics
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Supplanting teammate Jordyn Wieber as the top all-around gymnast in the world, Gabby Douglas won two gold medals in the 2012 Summer Olympics when she won both the all-around championship and the team championship. By doing so, Douglas became the first American ever to win gold medals in both areas.
The 4'11" gymnast from West Des Moines, IA was nicknamed "The Flying Squirrel" by Márta Károlyi, USA Gymnastics' National Team Coordinator, for her incredible aerial performance on the uneven bars.
Allyson Felix, Track and Field
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After finishing second in both Athens and Beijing, Allyson Felix had something to prove not just to the rest of the world, but to herself in 2012. She did just that in style at London, winning the gold medal in the Women's 200 Meter.
Felix ran a blazing race of 21.88 seconds, easily defeating second-place finisher Shelly-Ann Fraser, who completed the race at 22.09.
Not only did Felix perform well as an individual; she also was a part of two gold medal relay teams, as she and other top American runners took home the top prize in both the 4x100m relay as well as the 4x400m relay.
Felix now sits atop the sport with four total Olympic gold medals to her name to go along with two silver medals.
Lindsey Vonn, Skiing
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One of the greatest female skiers of all-time, Lindsey Vonn is one of only two women who have ever won four overall World Cup championships. She has done so in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Vonn got off to a slow start in 2013, largely due to illness, but got things going at Lake Louise when she swept all three races. The three wins moved her career total to 56, second place all-time among women.
Unfortunately Vonn took a serious spill earlier this month at the Alpine World Championships in Austria. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital and it was later learned that she tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee, in addition to fracturing her right tibia. The injury will likely keep her out for an extended period of time.
Danica Patrick, NASCAR
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After becoming the highest-finishing female in the history of the Daytona 500 at 8th place, Danica Patrick's popularity hasn't even come close to reaching its full potential.
Patrick sat atop the pole position to start the race and remained in the top 10 throughout most of the day, running third near the end of the race.
Her remarkably consistent race must be respected, as she is doing something that none of the other athletes on this list are by competing against men. Sure, she's in a machine, but the skill and determination needed to compete at this level don't overwhelm her.
Serena Williams, Tennis
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One half of the most famous twins in the history of tennis, Serena Williams has been among the most dominating athletes in the world since her debut in 1995.
With a career record of 566-110, Williams has won 30 Grand Slam titles: 15 in singles, 13 in doubles and two in mixed doubles. She is also a four-time Olympic gold medalist.
She currently ranks as the No. 1 female tennis player on the planet, a feat which she has accomplished numerous times throughout her career, starting in 2002, when she defeated her sister Venus to win a Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.
Alex Morgan, Soccer
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At only 23 years old, forward Alex Morgan was the youngest member of Team USA's roster at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. In 2012, she took over as perhaps the team's best player when she scored a game-winning goal against Canada, her 20th of the year, becoming just the sixth American female to do so.
Morgan was the 2012 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year, as she became one of only two U.S. women to ever record 20-plus goals and 20-plus assists in the same season. She crushed those totals with 28 goals and 21 assists.
Missy Franklin, Swimming
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Perhaps the brightest of all the young stars on this list, Missy Franklin burst onto the national scene at the 2012 Summer Olympics when she won four gold medals, including two individual (100m backstroke and 200m backstroke) and two team (4x200 m freestyle, 4x100 m medley) awards.
The 17-year-old also holds the world record in both the 200-meter backstroke, as well as a portion of world the record on the 4x100-meter medley relay.
As a result of her incredible 2012 year, Franklin was named the World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine and best female swimmer of 2012 by FINA Aquatics World Magazine.
Allison Schmitt, Swimming
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Like her teammate Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt is one of the young stars in American swimming who have helped propel the team to glory at the Olympics and World Championships.
Schmitt made her Olympic debut at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where she won a bronze medal on the American 4x200-meter freestyle relay. She took that momentum to London in 2012, when she won a total of five medals, including three gold in the 200-meter freestyle, 4x200-meter medley relay and the 4x100-meter medley relay.
Ronda Rousey, Mixed Martial Arts
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In 2008, Ronda Rousey broke ground by becoming the first American female Judo practitioner to ever win a medal at the Olympics. In 2013, she blew the lid off another sport when she became the first ever woman to win a fight inside the UFC Octagon, defeating Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 on Saturday night.
Rousey's dominance can be easily seen on her spotless 7-0 record, but a closer look shows just how good she has been.
The 26-year-old Rousey has never even allowed an opponent to make it out of the first round and has won every single fight with the same maneuver—a horrifyingly effective armbar which has broken numerous opponents' arms.
With the UFC title now on her mantle, Rousey will await her next challenge.
Kayla Harrison, Judo
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Following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Rousey, Kayla Harrison might just be the greatest women's judo practitioner that the United States has ever produced.
While Rousey became the first American woman to medal in the sport at the Olympics, Harrison topped that by earning a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Harrison's triumphant story of abuse from previous coach Daniel Doyle only helped propel her into the spotlight, but her performance in her craft that has made her one of the top female athletes in the world today.