It doesn’t matter who or what you are, everything gets old and for the most part, people are forgotten. There aren’t many people that make such a lasting impression that they’re remembered forever. Fame is fleeting, especially for athletes. Someone can be a superstar for a few years and then we move on to the next big thing.
Considering how young the internet and social media are, we take for granted that we have an easy access to follow athletes. Twenty years ago, you were lucky to learn anything about your favorite athletes from magazine articles or television interviews. We've become spoiled to the point where we know everything from their training schedule to their lunch.
Most of the women on this list achieved glory prior to the internet age, but many still live on thanks to social media. You no longer have to wait for the Olympics, X Games or some Rock N' Jock event to catch your favorite female stars in the workout gear or yoga pants we’ve all become accustomed to.
This list is dedicated to those female athletes from the past that time may have forgotten, but the internet has not. Their crowning athletic accomplishments may have taken place years ago, but nearly all of them still have a presence on social media, looking as good as ever. Or perhaps it’s just the yoga pants talking.
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15 Summer Sanders
Honestly, most won’t remember Summer Sanders the swimmer as much as they remember her as a television host. Sanders spent eight years alongside Ahmad Rashad co-hosting NBA Inside Stuff and has also spent time as an Olympic correspondent. Prior to that, Sanders was an Olympic gold medalist, setting a record in the butterfly at the 1992 games. At 44, Sanders continues to stay lean and mean, sharing pics of herself working out on her Instagram page. You’re welcome!
Sanders was a member of the Stanford swim team and still proudly supports her alma mater. She also claims to be a Buffalo Bills fan, which has got to be tough for someone who’s actually had some success in her career. Hey, at least it shows she can stay committed!
14 Kristi Yamaguchi
Is there any reason why dudes are watching figure skating outside of taking in the scenery? If they tell you they enjoy the competition, they’re most likely lying. That may not have been the case at the 1992 games when all eyes were on Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, thanks to the former being attacked by the latter’s husband. Not many were familiar with Yamaguchi at the time, but they surely did once she won a gold medal. Despite the controversial story surrounding Harding and Kerrigan, Yamaguchi was able to capture attention.
Since then, she’s married former NHL player Bret Hedican, won Dancing with the Stars and started a women’s active wear line. Yes, she looks like she could still fit into one of those leotards and look great.
13 Hannah Teter
You don't have to snowboard to know who to pay attention to when it comes to the X Games and Olympics. That’s what being a sports fan is all about, right? But what makes things easier is when said athletes appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. What is it about girls wearing bikinis in the snow? Not sure how that makes sense but it somehow does. Teter won a gold medal in the halfpipe at the 2006 Winter Olympics—the second American woman to do so—and returned for a silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She also snatched up a gold medal at the 2003 Winter X Games.
Since then, she's posed for the occasional magazine photo shoot but has mostly stayed out of the spotlight. Once again, Google is your friend.
12 Marion Jones
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Marion Jones cleaned up in the track and field events racking up three gold and two bronze medals. She was pretty much the face of the games for those of us rooting for the U.S. and became a household name for her efforts. Things changed quickly afterwards. In 2006, Jones was linked to a check fraud scheme and then pled guilty to lying about using performance enhancing drugs. Jones was stripped of her five Olympic medals by The International Olympic Committee, spending nearly six months in prison for her indiscretions.
Jones was the first woman to win five medals at a single Olympic event, and less than a decade later, she was completely erased from the history books. It's a shame things ended the way they did.
11 Ashley Force
Remember Funny Car champion John Force, who had three daughters that followed in his footsteps and also had a reality television show? No? Okay, most people wouldn't, but female racers definitely stand out from their male counterparts. Ashley was the oldest of the bunch, paving the way for her two siblings, who have accomplished plenty on their own. She has won a number of events and even beat her legendary father in 2008 to become the first female Funny Car winner.
She hasn’t raced since 2010 and is currently the President of John Force Entertainment, but she did renew her NHRA Funny Car License in 2014 which gives her the opportunity to race as a backup if needed. Let's hope we see her soon.
10 Lolo Jones
Hey, so, is Lolo Jones still rocking the V card? She may be a 34-year-old virgin, but she’s also participated in the 2008 Summer and 2014 Winter games, one of the few athletes who’s competed in both versions of the Olympics. It’s almost like Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders or Brian Jordon playing both professional baseball and football. Jones once said that maintaining her celibacy is tougher than training for the Olympics. I can believe it seeing as there were nearly half a million condoms passed out at the Rio games. You think there may be a few athletes having a good time? Jones is a hurdler and bobsledder who appeared semi nude in the 2009 ESPN Body Issue which she said was tough considering her strong Christian morals.
9 Gretchen Bleiler
Gretchen isn't exactly a name that most of us would associate with a hot female athlete, but here we are. Bleiler is a snowboarder by trade, having won numerous X Games halfpipe events, as well as a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Bleiler has appeared in FHM and ESPN’s Body Issue and won an ESPY award for Best Female Action Sports Athlete. She was also the first female to perfect an inverted backside 540, known as "The Crippler."
She no longer snowboards competitively, but you can still catch her on Instagram doing yoga poses and traveling the world. Seems like a rough life, doesn't it? It's good to see retirement from the sport is treating her well, as many athletes struggle after retiring.
8 Dominique Dawes
In 1996, the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team crushed it at the Atlanta Summer Olympics. Sure, Kerri Strug gets a lot of the fanfare because she stuck a vault on a messed up foot, but she wasn’t the only one who performed at a high level. Aside from being a member of the group that won the Team All-Around, Dawes won a bronze medal in the Floor Exercise, becoming the first female African-American gymnast to win an individual medal. Dawes was a three-time Olympian, participating and winning medals at the 1992 and 2000 Games as well. Dawes later appeared in a Prince music video and has hosted some Olympic coverage. If the videos on her Facebook page are any indication, she could probably still compete at a high level.
7 Amanda Beard
After winning gold in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Amanda Beard became a household name. Of course, we’re talking about athletes who we really only pay attention to every four years so take that for what it’s worth. She also picked up medals at the 1996 & 2000 games. In her spare time, Beard wasn’t shy about showing off her swimmers body, appearing in Playboy, FHM and Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue.
Sadly for Beard, she struggled personally with a mild case of dyslexia, bulimia and self-mutilation. She recalled her situation in a 2012 interview with CBS: "It started with my parents' divorce, the pressure I put on myself after the `96 Olympics, not dealing with puberty. All of those things I just constantly pushed down and tried not to deal with. Those things just kind of built off each other."
6 Gabrielle Reece
Before Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor were killing it on the sand, there was Gabrielle Reece, who’s probably better known for her pictorials than her serve. But make no mistake, Reece was a dominant player in the early 90s. Reece has appeared in Playboy and Elle, along with a number of other publications throughout her career. It's easy to see why. She was also Nike’s first-ever female cross-training spokesperson. Female volleyball players certainly have to thank Reece for a lot, as she allowed the sport to grow in popularity.
She’s still keeping in shape as a health and fitness expert, the creator of HIGHX Training and continued to play professional volleyball as recently as 2010. She’s also married to surfing legend Laird Hamilton.
5 Katarina Witt
The most senior member of this list, Katarina Witt was the rare East German female athlete that didn’t look like a dude as result of the rampant doping in her home country. Witt is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and won six consecutive European championships, which was only done one other time. Even better, Witt posed naked in Playboy to try and shed the good girl image of figure skaters, which became just the second issue to sell out in the publication’s history.
Witt skated professionally until 2008 and made a name for herself in Hollywood as well, appearing in the films Jerry Maguire & Ronin, while making cameos in episodes of Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond. She was definitely a game changer in the sport in various ways.
4 Natalie Gulbis
We understand the appeal of golf but we also understand those who would rather spend their time watching paint dry. Luckily, female golfers wear short shorts, providing viewers with something to pay attention to even if they're not big on golf. Natalie Gulbis wore even less in an FHM spread and the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. As for golf, Gulbis has earned nearly $5 million in her career, with 37 Top 10's and one career victory on the LPGA tour. Gulbis is probably better known for her looks than her game, but she has ensured herself of a career if she ever decides to stop golfing. It wouldn't be a surprise to see her gracing magazine covers for many more years to come.
3 Allison Stokke
Allison Stokke broke a number of American records as a teenager and went on to compete for the Cal Golden Bears, but became an international sensation after being photographed during a competition. The attention helped Stokke seal deals with Nike, GoPro and Uniqlo. What company wouldn't want her to represent them? While the attention she originally garnered may have come out of nowhere, it seems to have helped Stokke’s career because a pole vaulter probably isn't a profession that pays the bills.
Have you ever been to or watched a pole vaulting competition? Probably not, but I bet you would if you knew Stokke was there. She's definitely brought a lot more mainstream attention to the sport and you can't deny her fame only helps it.
2 Jennie Finch
Not only is the blonde pitcher an Olympic gold medalist, but she’s shown that she can hang with the guys. Finch has struck out a number of Major Leaguers including Mike Piazza & Albert Pujols and intimidated Alex Rodriguez enough to keep him from even entering the batter’s box.
She’s also the antithesis of what most imagine when they think of high-level softball players. She was named one of People Magazine’s most beautiful people in 2004 and has also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
She certainly helped change a lot of perspectives about the sport. It would have been cool if the MLB could have at one point staged an exhibition game involving some of the top female players playing with some of their stars.
1 Anna Kournikova
Okay, so you probably remember Anna Kournikova, but she all but fell off the face of the earth more than a decade ago thanks to a series of injuries that ended her professional tennis career. In her prime, Kournikova was the female athlete that changed everything with the rise of the internet. She became an international superstar just as the world wide web exploded and dudes across the globe started following women’s tennis as though they actually cared about the outcome. Case in point, Kournikova never won a singles title, but she was one of the most widely searched athletes online. On the other hand, she was a dominant doubles player, winning 16 WTA titles, many of them with partner Martina Hingis. Kournikova has been linked to professional hockey players and international music star Enrique Iglesias, breaking the hearts of millions of dudes across the globe.
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