All sports are not created equally. Every form of competition comes with a distinct set of biased opinions and preconceived notions that have been forged by sports society over the years. In football, fans expect to see ripped meatheads battle to knock each other out. In basketball, people envision gangling giants, who can either slam the rock, or finesse the defender with a fadeaway bucket. In golf, images of rich, upper middle class bros, cloud patron's heads.
As all sports are not created equally, neither are the players, especially when it comes to female athletics. Many of these accomplished women defy conventional norms that have been established, over time, by the culture of their beloved games. Women are getting more involved in sports than ever. They're not just sticking to traditional feminine activities. Women can play hockey, basketball, MMA, can compete in bodybuilding, whatever they want. People often have biased opinions about women competing in a certain sport, but when you look at a lot of women today and what sports they're playing, it shows that you have to throw any assumptions aside.
Set your stereotypes aside and open your mind to these 15 female athletes whose looks will change the way you feel about their sport.
15 Hillary Knight - Hockey
Normally, we view hockey players as tough-nosed brutes, who can crosscheck an opponent into the boards or poke one through the five-hole. When it comes to looks, these athletes are usually worse for wear, and a short a few teeth. That's not the case for most of women's ice hockey though. These ladies are talented, tough, and beautiful, none more than US forward, Hilary Knight!
The former Wisconsin Badger (and their all-time leading goal scorer) draws crowds on, and off the ice. The 28-year-old two-time Olympic silver medalist lives the life of a full-time women's ice hockey player, which you don't see very often. Knight has artful stickhandling skills, but can laser the puck into the top shelf when her team needs it. In 2018, she may finally grab the Gold in Pyeongchang, and deke her way into America's hearts.
14 Alexandra Kosteniuk - Chess
Ah, the chess club. The precursor to mathletes, A/V club, and the debate team. To most people, the game of chess conjures up images of nerds hiding indoors during recess and old men hustling tourists in the city park. Well, to be accurate, you should add one more image to that list: smokin' hot women. Especially professional chess player, Alexandra Kosteniuk.
With a combination of both brains and beauty, the "Chess Queen" was the Women's World Chess Champion in both 2008 and 2010. The 33-year-old Russian is no rook, becoming a grandmaster back in 2004. It must be intimidating for opponents to face-off against such a beautiful lady, then get treated like a pawn when she traps their king in the corner with nothing but a bishop and a knight. Alright, all the chess pieces have been mentioned. Moving on.
13 Paige VanZant - MMA
Let's be real. Most, female MMAers aim to be as intimidating as possible in the octagon. Outside the ring, these ladies may look like walking goddesses, but inside the Octagon, with tight corn rows, bulky mouthpieces, and the occasional bloodied eye, they are more like warriors.Yet, there is one exception to that rule: Paige VanZant. The 125 poundfighter (who recently moved from strawweight to featherweight) looks stunning during weigh-ins, and inside the ring.
The skilled grappler is 7-3 during her MMA career, losing twice by submission, and once by decision. Her jaw-dropping looks have made her a popular favorite among UFC fans, even landing her an appearance on Dancing with the Stars, in which she came in second. At only 23 years old, hopefully VanZant, aptly nicknamed "12 gauge" for her love of hunting, can ground-and-pound her way up to a featherweight title in the future!
12 Camille Leblanc-Bazinet - CrossFit
The trendy craze of CrossFit has swept the nation over the last decade. Pretty much, these former gym class heroes try and be the best at working out. They spend several hundred dollars a month exercising in old warehouses filled with rusty equipment, trying to increase their time in basic calisthenics. Why do we know all of this? Because it's an unwritten, mandatory rule to tell every unsuspecting listener that you do CrossFit.
While most female CrossFitters are just your average Jane, tormenting their joints with poor form after a day in the office, some have made a career out of this fitness trend, learning to control their movements, and fine-tuning their bodies. Take 2014 CrossFit Games champion, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, for example. The 29-year-old Canadian has perfected her craft, and has the body to prove it. She always dominates the competition, and looks beautiful doing it. While you can probably tell I'm not a fan of CrossFit, there is no doubt that Leblanc-Bazinet changes the way I feel about the sport.
11 Miki Sudo - Competitive Eating
Every year on July 4th, crowds gather at Coney Island to watch Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. You would think that the participants in this contest would be overweight, and sloppy, seeing as they shovel food down their gullets for a living. But not Miki Sudo! The professional eater (yes, that's a legit job) stays in shape and watches her diet outside of competitions, allowing her to dominate on "gameday." Behind her blonde hair, and charming smile, lies a fierce competitor, who defies the typical "eater" stereotype.
Since 2014, Sudo has won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest four years in a row, but she doesn't stick to just frankfurters. The native New Yorker isn't picky when it comes to the food, competing in contests with hard-boiled eggs, cake, tacos, burritos, shrimp, pie, chili, and even ice cream! She has truly ate her way into our hearts.
10 Chantal Sutherland - Jockey
It's time to hit the racetrack, and bet on Chantal Sutherland. The jockey world is dominated by men, who are normally extremely short and light, as to put less strain on the horse's back. But, the Canadian-born horsewoman has challenged the male-dominated industry, and became a successful rider. Oh yeah, did we mention that she's absolutely remarkable! People Magazine even included her in their 2008 edition of "100 Most Beautiful People," coming in at No. 39.
Stemming from her popularity on the track, Sutherland has modeled in Sports Illustrated and even bared it all in a photoshoot for Vanity Fair. Since stepping down from the international circuit in 2011, the "Danica Patrick of horse racing" regularly competes in the Southern California Circuit, and even grabbed her 1,000th win back in May of 2017.
9 Sarah Bäckman- Arm Wrestling
Yes, for all you haters, arm wrestling is a sport, not just a bar activity in which two men try and "measure up" to each other. Around the world, there are arm wrestling competitions, in which athletes train year-round to try and slam the other opponents arm onto the mat. While most of these athletes are extremely disproportionate, since they are using half of their body, not everyone in the arena looks like an ogre. That's where the beautiful, Sarah Bäckman comes in.
The Swedish real-estate broker lives a double life as a professional wrestler, and professional arm wrestler. A lot of men won't take a second look at Bäckman, since being jacked isn't considered very womanly. But, this whole article is about overcoming stereotypes, and we can say the former eight-time World Arm Wrestling Champion will definitely make you rethink her sport!
8 Julia Schwarzbach - Weightlifting
Flipping through channels during the Summer Olympics, you may have stumbled upon the women's weightlifting competition. Most of the ladies have the typical powerlifter body: big stomachs, broad shoulders, and a face only a coach could love. We don't want to dog on the sport itself, since these ladies go through hell and back to throw a barbell over their heads, but there is no doubting it's not a beauty contest.
That being said, Julia Schwarzbach (formerly Julia Rohde) will make you think twice about changing the channel. The German weightlifter cleans-and-snatches with the best of them, yet is set apart by her dazzling looks. Back in 2012 Olympics in London, Schwarzbach placed 9th in the 53 kg division, but captured the spirits of spectators around the world. Next time your quick to judge that chick at the gym, who is power cleaning in the corner, take a step back and reconsider.
7 Leryn Franco - Javelin
Honestly, many of you have a vague concept of the javelin, but don't know much of the details. Basically, competitors start on a 30-36.5 meter runway, and accelerate to top speed before launching the projectile through the air. The athletes pinky must be the closest finger to the top of the javelin, and it must break the ground to be considered a good throw. For the men, the javelin must weigh at least 800 grams, and for the women, 600 grams. Now that you have been schooled on the sport, let's get into why we actually care.
It's all because Paraguayan model, and part-time athlete, Leryn Franco, used to compete in the event. She competed in three Olympics, but never placed higher than 30th, with a personal best of 57.77 meters. But, her ravishing good looks landed her a spot in the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and helped launch her acting career. Now, you can forget everything you learned about javelin, and just go search for Franco.
6 Ellen Hoog - Field Hockey
If you don't watch women's field hockey, you should start! These ladies whip the ball around the field in short skirts and minimal protective padding. With the constant swinging of sticks, and rapid ball movement, which can eclipse over 90 mph, field hockey can be a dangerous game! That's why we need to support these ladies, especially when they are as talented and beautiful as Dutch midfielder, Ellen Hoog.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist not only dominates the pitch, but also prospers in the gym, as she promotes a healthy lifestyle on her Instagram, and on her personal website. Next time you are bored, tune in to ESPN The Ocho, or whatever channel field hockey is broadcast on, and cheer on Hoog and the rest the Netherlands squad.
5 The Russian Curling Team
While curling is popular in Canada, most Americans are bored by the slow action on the ice. These ladies slide rocks down curling sheet, hoping to land within the house. Jeez, I'm yawning just writing about it. Unlike a lot of sports, curling is about finesse, and even though there is some physical activity involved, it doesn't compare to other events.
When the Winter Olympics come around though, the Russian National Curling team breaks the mold of your typical competitors. Together, these ladies make up one of the best looking squads in the sport, and in many sports. With the beautiful and talented Anna Sidorova skipping for the team, the Russians will look to take home the gold in Pyeongchang this year.
4 Melanie Adams - Pole Vaulting
Imagine, running full-speed, planting a pole in the ground, and launching over 20-feet into the air! That seems absolutely crazy! Not only is it absolutely terrifying, but also sets the stage for some epic fails. You should be watching the pole vault not only for the nail biting suspense, but for these beautiful female athletes. While most track and field athletes have finely tuned bodies, Australian pole vaulter and model, Melanie Adams, is in a league of her own.
During the 2012 Summer Olympics, dirt.com name Adams the hottest female athlete at the games. Nowadays, according to her Instagram, the former athlete travels around the world, modeling from magazines, and just enjoying life. We just wish she would be in the spotlight a little bit more!
3 Oksana Grishina - Bodybuilder
We all have that image of a bodybuilder in our head. An intense, 'roided out monster. Pretty much Starla from Napoleon Dynamite. While those looks are reserved for the actual bodybuilding division in these large-scale competitions, most female fitness pros compete in other divisions. These divisions include Bikini, Figure, and Physique, to go along with the widely-known bodybuilding category. One newer division is the Fitness division, which incorporates bodybuilding with some sort of physical talent.
There is no better competitor in the Fitness division than former Russian gymnast, Oksana Grisina, who has won four-straight IFBB titles! Now based in California, Grishina helps others get into shape as a personal trainer, and is trying to bring more attention to her sport, so show her some love!
2 Gabriela Koukalova - Biathlon
For those of you asking, "what the hell is biathlon?"you aren't alone. You will see it on television in the coming months during the Olympics, and basically, these athletes combine cross country skiing and shooting, in a test of athleticism, and mental fortitude. Normally, many of the competitors are covered in winter clothing, obscuring their faces, but everyone can see the beauty of Czech competitor, Gabriela Koukalova, no matter what the weather is outside.
Koukalova is a two-time world champion, and brought home two silver medals in her events in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The 28-year-old is hoping to cement her spot as the world top biathlete in February of this year. Trust me, I'll be watching the event just for her!
1 Blair O'Neal and Paige Spiranac - Golf
The world of golf will never be the same after these two blonde bombshells. In a male-dominated game, highlighted by strict rules and dress codes, O'Neal and Spiranac have changed the game. On one hand, you have 36-year-old O'Neal, whose modeling shots have been plastered over the internet for years. She was even named one of the "50 Hottest Athletes of All-Time" by Sports Illustrated. On the other hand, you have up-and-coming star, 24-year-old Paige Spiranac, who not only wants to be known for her tantalizing beauty, but her golf expertise.
Between the two, they break all the norms of typical golfers, who are meant to be reserved and formal. These ladies take the cake when it comes to changing viewers how they feel about their sport, and that's why they make the top spot on our list.