Even the top female athletes don't have it easy. Not only do they often have to perform better in their respective sport than their competition, they often have to be among the best looking in their industry to get the recognition they might deserve. Pulling double duty, talents like Danica Patrick, Serena Williams, Paige Spiranac, Ronda Rousey, Lindsey Vonn and others are walking billboards for their sports and if their looks start to fade, fan interest starts to fade with them.
In other cases, fan interest might be at an all-time high but the casual fan of each athlete might be shocked to learn their favourite female athlete is much older or much younger than they might have expected. Say what? Didn't you know that bodybuilder was 71 years old? Because age is just a number and performance means everything, it's not shocking to learn fans are keeping track.
Below is a list of 15 female athletes (many quite famous) who do not look their actual age. Eight of these ladies are older than they look and seven are actually younger. Some look older on purpose while others have had time be unkind and these women have aged faster than they might have hoped. Some look younger simply because they're tiny, cute as a button or have young faces. At the end of the day, all of these women look fantastic and age really doesn't mean much to them.
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15 Older Than They Look: Serena Williams
Find a few photos of Serena Williams pre-baby and you be shocked to learn that she's already 36 years old. For most athletes, 36 is not young in professional sports, but in tennis, when you're good you're good. The best players tend to prolong their careers a bit more than others and can play well into their late 30's. For example, Roger Federer is around the same age.
Williams still looks great and that's what makes us marvel at her career. She's the most physically dominating presence to ever grace a women's tennis court and even though she's been dominating her opponents for years, we don't think she looks old when we watch her play. If you see her on the court, you'd think she's still in her late 20s. If you see her with her new baby, maybe early 30's. I wouldn't suggest she looks 36 though.
14 Younger Than They Look: Maria Sharapova
At the age of 30, Maria Sharapova is one of tennis' hottest women but she's also one of the more interesting players when it comes to her style choices. It is her way of dressing that plays a big role in thinking she might be older than she actually is. She's still only 30 years old, but by the outfits she chooses, many of which seem like they're from a more sophisticated time, you might peg her at least a few years older than she is.
She also became the worlds No. 1 women's tennis player in 2005 and at the age of 18. She's been that good for that long so you think when you hear her name that she's been around so long she has to be older than 30. But, she still looks great and probably has a few good years left in her.
13 Older Than They Look: Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick is in amazing shape so when you see her you think she can't be a shade over 28 or 29 years old. The reality is Patrick is 35 years young and an 18-year veteran of professional racing. Her best effort was a third-place finish during the 2004 season where she became the first woman to win a pole position in the series.
Patrick has become a household name in racing and also one of the most downloaded female athletes in the world. She struck it big with a series of GoDaddy commercials and set multiple firsts for women in the sport. Anyone that looks as good as Patrick does can get away with calling herself 29 for an awfully long time. She's one of those women who seems to get better and better looking with age.
12 Younger Than They Look: Paige Spiranac
Paige Spiranac is only 24 years old. She's one of the most attractive women in golf and she's been gracing the cover of magazines and been a pinup model for a few years now. Her rise in golf is nothing short of unprecedented but it's not really because of her golf skill. Posting photos of herself all over Instagram and other social media platforms, she's made a career out of looking amazing and often it means looking older than she actually is.
Her announcement that she'll be a part of the SISwim 2018 issue was accompanied by a photo that makes her look like she's at least 28-30 years old. She's a bombshell and she doesn't look that much older than she is, but it's rare to find a photo where she looks much younger than her actual 24 years.
11 Older Than They Look: Lindsey Vonn
She's about to play a major role in the sporting scene with the winter Olympics right around the corner so she's probably in the best shape of her life right now. You'd never know by looking at her that Lindsey Vonn is already 33 years old.
Part of what might make Vonn seem like she's younger than she is that we don't hear a whole lot about her when it isn't time for the Olympics. Yes, she has a way of staying in the spotlight with who she's dating or not dating but because we talk about her every four years, she's not front and centre like some other athletes. Sometimes you don't realize how much time goes by between Olympic seasons. Last time we really heard about her, she was 29.
10 Younger Than She Looks: Paige
Paige has been through an awful lot in her WWE and wrestling career. An in-ring performer since a young age, she's still young but has lived a more storied life than almost anyone else on the women's roster who are, on average, a good five to six years older.
Paige has had injuries that may end her in-ring career, she's had controversy over leaked photos, terrible relationships and a movie is being made about her wrestling family. All of this and she's only 25 years old. Her injury is a real bummer as she had a lot more left to give and if healthy, could have gone another 10 years. What she'll do now in WWE is uncertain but it sounds like the company is trying to find a job for her instead of just saying goodbye.
9 Older Than She Looks: Bayley
To many, Bayley is still the baby of the WWE. She's been around for a little while now between her stints in NXT and her time on the main WWE roster, but even with a new influx of female talent, Bayley is still sort of viewed as the huggable youngster trying to make her way and get noticed by the company.
So, when you realize she's 28 years old, it can be somewhat surprising considering you'd think maybe early 20s and no more. She's been wrestling for over a decade now and you'd never know it from her peppy personality. Part of what makes her seem so young (and 28 is not old, by the way) is that her biggest fanbase is made of young girls.
8 Younger Than She Looks: Ronda Rousey
The thing with Ronda Rousey is that she dominated UFC quite a while ago. Then she faltered and disappeared from the sport for a little while. During all that, she acted in a few movies and is now onto what looks to be a second career by signing a deal with the WWE. It's a jam-packed full resume and it's the kind of busy that would make you think she took years and years to achieve all that.
The reality is, Rousey is only 31 years old and has plenty of time to become world famous twice. She's still doing movies, she's bound to be one of the most popular WWE Superstars in the history of women's wrestling and you wonder how long she can keep going? By the age on her driver's license, she has lots more time.
7 Older Than She Looks: Aly Raisman
She's a famous gymnast and in most of the photos you see of her, she doesn't look a day over 17. If you think that's being generous, you have to admit, she definitely doesn't look old enough to get served at a bar. But, Aly Raisman is actually 23 years old.
A two-time Olympian, she was the captain of both the 2012 "Fierce Five" and 2016 "Final Five" U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics teams. She is also the 2016 Olympic individual all-around silver medalist and floor silver medalist among other awards she's won including being the most decorated American gymnast at the Games in 2012. As awesome as she's been, it still feels like she's need you to boost a pack of cigs at the convenient store for her cause the clerk wouldn't believe she was old enough to buy them on her own.
6 Younger Than She Looks: Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is probably still a better athlete than most of us would ever dream of being, but every once and a while a photo gets taken that makes her look like she could be in her early 60's. In reality, Kersee is 55 years old. She was born March 3, 1962.
We feel terrible even putting her in this category because she's probably still in good shape despite overcoming severe asthma and she does so much good work for charitable organizations it feels bad to say a single negative thing about her. She still looks good and 55 is like the new 45 so she's not going to have to worry about much. But let's just say, sometimes the light of a camera doesn't so someone justice. The higher hairline probably doesn't help do her any favours when it comes to guessing her age either.
5 Older Than She Looks: Blair O'Neal
She's absolutely stunning and it's not that 36-year-old women can't be stunning, but you'd never know by looking at her that she's even 30. Blair O'Neal has made a golf career about being a pretty good golfer but an even better-looking female that transitioned her golf skills and looks into a modelling and hosting career.
The great thing about O'Neal is that she appears to be only getting started and that's rare for someone in her mid to late 30s. She has a massive career ahead of her and if you look at her social media pages, you know she's proud of being able to stay in shape and look much younger than she actually is. Again, 36 isn't old, but she looks like she's maybe pushing 30, at most.
4 Younger Than She Looks: Christine Sinclair
One of the most famous Canadian soccer players in history, having been the twelve-time recipient of the Canada Soccer Player of the Year award, she's currently a player for the Portland Thorns FC in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and a two-time Olympic bronze medalist. If her accolades in Canada weren't enough, she's also currently second worldwide in all-time international goals scored.
She's done all of this by the early age of 34. That may seem older for an athlete and maybe it is but she's still performing at a high level. Her photos, however, make her look older than 34. In this photo standing beside Canada's greatest male athlete ever, she looks like she could be 40. Not a huge discrepancy, but definitely older than she actually is. She looks a bit younger when she's on the field.
3 Older Than She Looks: Genie Bouchard
She's so sweet and innocent looking and the story of her going out on a date with an average non-celeb because she lost about over the 2017 Super Bowl is so cute, it screams like the behaviour of an unsuspecting teenager. But, Eugenie Bouchard is 23 years old and the world seems to love her one-of-a-kind style and personality.
In some photos, she looks exactly her age and in other photos, she looks like she's not even 18 years of age. She'll probably appreciate that when she's 30 and looks like she's 23. Bouchard is probably the most adorable female athlete in all of sports and for that reason, she seems younger than she actually is. Did we mention how cute the story is of her possibly dating this young guy she met because of a Twitter bet?
2 Younger Than She Looks: Aliya Mustafina
A two-time Olympic Russian champion, Mustafina doesn't look all that old, but her resume speaks like she's been around a while, she's married and has a baby. When you combine all of those factors, it might surprise you to learn that she's only 23 years old.
At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Mustafina won four medals, making her the most decorated gymnast of the competition making her one of the most decorated athletes. She also remains the last non-American to win an Olympic or world all-around title. In 2017, Mustafina gave birth to a baby girl named Alisa Mustafina-Zaytseva. She was originally supposed to be out of competition for a couple years but it was speculated she would return to training in 2017. She doesn't look old, but her new life makes her seem a lot older than she is.
1 Older Than She Looks: Ernestine Shepherd
She may not be world-famous but Ernestine Shepherd is pretty incredible nonetheless. She's the world’s oldest female bodybuilder and at 74 years old, doesn't look a day over 55. The amazing thing is, she didn't really start working out and weightlifting until she was age 56.
She decided to change her health when her sister died at a young age from a brain aneurysm and since that day, her typical routine includes waking up before the sun comes up, running 10 miles and then making it to the gym to strength train. She's been bodybuilding since the age of 71, runs marathons, and teaches fitness classes. She is absolutely an amazing story and she shares her success by telling people to eat well including plenty of rich protein, like egg whites and chicken, vegetables, and brown rice.