In an article discussing the potentially unwarranted attention that Olympic-disappointment Lolo Jones was receiving during the 2012 London Olympics, TIME posed the following question: “[W]hy are some athletes mainstream stars, despite lacking the traditional credentials of mass appeal — like medals — while other, more accomplished jocks walk down the street unrecognized?” In the case of Jones the answer is simple: she’s attractive. And let’s face it, a big part of the reason why we tune in to watch female sports is the sex appeal, because female athletes are some of the sexiest women in the world.
While male athletes are almost solely judged by their athletic abilities (“Thank God,” sighed Anthony Davis, Ronaldinho, and Alex Ovechkin collectively, during their Ugly Athletes Support Group meeting), female athletes are judged largely by their looks, so much so that an attractive, yet unsuccessful, female athlete can become a household name, while a female athlete at the top of her game but who might not be considered classically attractive goes relatively unknown. Whether or not this is fair, or even ethical, is not for us to say.
Here are 15 female athletes who are predominantly famous for one thing: being good-looking.
15 Blair O’Neal
Many of you will probably recognize golfer Blair O’Neal’s face (and other physical attributes that shall remain nameless). This despite the fact that she’s not even in the LPGA, let alone a top ten golfer. In fact, we’re willing to bet that most people can’t even name a single golfer currently in the LPGA top ten world rankings (in case you’re wondering, Lydia Ko is the best female golfer at the moment).
O’Neal is famous for winning the Golf Channel reality television show Big Break: Dominican Republic, and shortly after she was being called the hottest woman in golf. Yet to say that she’s “in golf” almost seems like a stretch, considering she failed to make the LPGA and instead had to play in its developmental league, the Symetra Tour.
14 Paige VanZant
With a professional MMA record of 7-2 (including a 4-1 record in the UFC), Paige VanZant is no slouch in the octagon, but there’s no denying that she’s attained a certain degree of celebrity that she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish had she not been smoking hot.
Before becoming a pro fighter Paige was a model, a storyline that the media understandably jumped all over, leading to exposure and fame for VanZant before she had even proven herself in the octagon, with attention-grabbing headlines such as: “Meet the 21-year-old Who Quit Modeling to Become a UFC Fighter” and “Ex-model takes fast track to UFC glory.”
Her looks even earned her a spot on season 22 of Dancing with the Stars, which only furthered her celebrity status without having to throw (or absorb) a single punch.
13 Maggie Vessey
Chances are if you know who Maggie Vessey is then you’ve seen some of her sexy pictures floating around the internet… or you’re an avid middle distance track fan, which, I mean, who isn’t?
Vessey is an accomplished athlete in her own right, having competed at the 2009 World Championships in the 800m event (although she finished in 7th place) and taking home the gold at the 2015 World Relay Championships for the 4x800m event, but she’s not famous for what she’s accomplished on the track; she’s famous because she’s drop dead gorgeous. Most middling middle distance runners don’t have over 20k followers on Instagram.
Unsurprisingly, Vessey, who’s known for wearing extravagant outfits while running, which look like they would be more suited for the runway than the track, started her own clothing line in 2013, which combines workout wear with high fashion.
12 Anastasia Ashley
Surfing isn’t exactly one of the four major North American sports, to say the least. So in order for a professional surfer to become famous, they have to have something else going for them. And Anastasia Ashley indeed has something else going for her: her looks. In particular, her incredible body, which she’s not afraid to show off in barely-there bikinis, and her blonde, California girl style.
It’s probably safe to assume that Ashley has over 1 million Instagram followers not because she’s a good surfer (although she is, having won her first major national title by the tender age of 16 and receiving the Triple Crown Rookie of the Year Award in 2003), but because she’s hot.
On top of winning over fans, Ashley’s looks have won her endorsement deals and photo shoots with major magazines, such as Maxim and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
11 Eva Marie
Eva Marie has often been labeled one of the worst female wrestlers currently working in the WWE (in fact, she took first place in the “worst” category on our list of the “10 Best And 10 Worst Female Wrestlers Of All Time”), so why is it that she’s been one of the most recognizable faces (male or female) in the entire industry for quite some time now? Simple: she’s hot, like, really hot.
For their Year-End Awards, wrestlingrumors.net voted her one of the top three worst Divas of 2014, along with Cameron and Rosa Mendes. And while the others have all but disappeared from the main stage (Cameron was let go and it looks like Mendes’s role within the organization could change once she returns from maternity leave), Marie has remained front and center in the spotlight, despite little improvement to her wrestling skills.
10 Ellen Hoog
Ellen Hoog of the Netherlands is probably the most well-known field hockey player in the world. In fact, she might be the only known field hockey player in the world, because being the most famous field hockey player is kind of like saying you’re the most famous solipsist.
You can bet that Hoog—who is now a three-time Olympic medalist, including two gold medals—isn’t famous for what she’s accomplished on the pitch. She’s famous for being hot, having appeared in magazines such as FHM and Sports Illustrated wearing next to nothing.
Hoog might be the hottest field hockey player of all time, but I think we can all agree that Teun de Nooijer is the greatest player of all time. Am I right?
9 McKayla Maroney
To be fair, McKayla Maroney didn’t originally become famous because of her looks. She became famous after taking home the silver medal for the vault and the gold medal for the team event in gymnastics at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She furthered gained stardom after a picture of her making a pouty face during the medals ceremony went viral, which led to her taking pictures with the president and throwing out the first pitch at a White Sox game (remember, she didn’t even medal in the individual all-around event). However, she makes this list because she remains famous to this day due to her looks.
Despite retiring earlier this year and not competing in a major event since 2013, Maroney remains just as popular as ever, if not more so, with over 1.2 million followers on Instagram.
8 Darya Klishina
After a shaky showing at the 2015 World Championships, where she finished in 10th place, Darya Klishina’s 2016 Olympics hopes were hanging in the balance. On top of her poor performance, she had to wait and see if she would even be allowed to compete in Rio, as the Russian national team was nearly entirely banned from the Games. However, she was eventually granted approval to compete, but she finished in a disappointing 9th place, far from medal contention. Still, because of her model good looks (that’s not an exaggeration, either; she is indeed a model), she’s possibly the most recognizable female long jumper in the world. You may not know her name, but chances are you recognize her face.
7 Meghan Hardin
Like Blair O’Neal, golfer Meghan Hardin got her start on the reality show Big Break. Unlike O’Neal, however, Hardin did not win (in fact, she was the very first contestant eliminated). She said of her brief time on the show: “Even though things did not turn out as planned for me on Big Break Atlantis, it was an amazing experience and was the right decision to make… The show opened up so many doors for me.” One door that it opened for her was to a substantial fan base.
Golf/hot girl fans soon took notice of Hardin, leading to her being called “golf’s latest pin-up girl,” surely a reference to O’Neal. Sporting News even wrote a piece on her called, “Who is Meghan Hardin and why should you care?” focusing not so much on her golf talents, but on her other, well, “talents.”
6 Lolo Jones
With over 400,000 followers on Twitter, at one point she was the most followed American track and field athlete (male or female) on the social media platform. This despite being considered an Olympic failure, having never won a medal even though she was considered the favorite to win the gold in Beijing 2008. After failing in the Summer Olympics, she tried her hand in the Winter Olympics as a member of the U.S. bobsled team, becoming a rare Summer/Winter Olympian. Yet still, no medals.
So then why is it that she’s one of the most recognizable American Olympians in recent memory? You guessed it: she’s hot.
After yet again failing to medal at the Olympics in 2012, TIME even wrote an article questioning whether or not she deserved the attention she was receiving, citing the fact that she was on the cover of several high profile magazines, was the subject of her own documentary, and made the rounds on late night talk shows, yet she wasn’t even a gold medal contender. Fair or not, the reason for all the attention she was receiving is simple.
5 Allison Stokke
Allison Stokke’s identity is so disproportionately tied to her appearance as opposed to her athletic ability that it probably wouldn’t surprise all that many people if it turned out that she doesn’t even know how to pole vault. She isn’t known as the pole vaulter who just happens to be hot; first and foremost she is hot, and the whole pole vaulting thing is such a distant second that it almost seems incidental.
An accomplished high school athlete, setting numerous U.S. records, she would go on to receive an athletic scholarship from UC Berkeley where she would continue to have success, but she’s never qualified for the Olympics and ranked outside the top 30 of female U.S. pole vaulters in 2015.
The amount of attention that Stokke has received for her looks has been used as a prime example of the double standard of male and female sports, a double standard that we are wholeheartedly reveling in with this article.
4 Danica Patrick
Daniel Tosh once joked that the only reason Danica Patrick is considered hot is because she works in a male-dominated field. In other words, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king (or, in this case, in the land of the male drivers, the female driver is hottest?). We can only assume that Tosh was being hyperbolic, as we feel that Patrick’s beauty stands on its own. However, we would argue that she is famous in large part because she is so attractive.
Since joining the Nascar Sprint Cup Series in 2012, she has finished in the top ten just six times and has yet to win a race—hardly Dale Earnhardt material. That said, we don’t want to make it seem like her fame is based solely on her looks. Her accomplishments—such as being named IndyCar Series rookie of the year in 2005 and IndyCar most popular driver from 2005-2010—are not to be overlooked.
3 Anna Kournikova
It might surprise you to learn that Anna Kournikova was once the number-one ranked female doubles tennis player in the world and won two Grand Slam titles in doubles. She was also a top-ten ranked singles player after regularly finishing near the top of the leaderboard at major events in the late 90s and early 2000s. This might surprise you because when you think of Anna Kournikova, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t “successful tennis player,” it’s “hot tennis player,” or maybe even “hot girlfriend of Enrique Iglesias.”
Thanks to her good looks, the Russian tennis player was one of the most Googled people in the world at one point, and was in fact the most Googled “sports query” of 2001, three spots higher than Wimbledon—as in, all of Wimbledon.
2 Michelle Jenneke
Millions of people watched Michelle Jenneke’s famous pre-race dance routine, but very few people stuck around long enough to watch the race itself. That’s because the video was titled, “Michelle Jenneke Dancing Sexy as Hell at Junior World Championships in Barcelona 2012,” and not, “Michelle Jenneke Wins 100m Hurdles Race.” If it weren’t for that peppy, hair-whipping dance, it’s safe to say that millions of people would not have tuned in to that race.
The gorgeous Australian hurdler had a disappointing showing at her first Olympics in 2016, failing to make it out of the first heat after finishing 6th in her group. After the race, Jenneke’s coach criticized her for being distracted by the worldwide attention that she had received for her looks, accusing her of not having her priorities in check.
1 Eugenie Bouchard
After a surprising second-place finish at Wimbledon in 2014, as well as semi-final finishes at two other Grand Slam tournaments that same year, it looked as though Canadian Eugenie Bouchard was set to take the tennis world by storm, even drawing comparisons to Maria Sharapova. But it turns out that the only thing Bouchard has in common with Sharapova is her looks, as she’s since fallen off the map and failed on many occasions to even make it out of the first round.
Despite her drastic decline, Bouchard is still one of the biggest names in tennis, with over 1 million followers on Instagram, roughly five times as many as current world number-one Angelique Kerber, which begs the question: what’s more important in female sports, looks or skill? We’d like to pretend that the point of this article is to raise awareness to this question, but, in reality, it’s more likely that we are merely reinforcing it. But hey, weren’t those women hot!?
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