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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
10 Lolo Jones
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."
8 Dominique Dawes
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.
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.
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.
4 Natalie Gulbis
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.
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.
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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