Long has the debate raged. Can a female challenge a male on the sporting stage? It’s a complicated question muddled by physical disparities and alternate levels of professionalism. But it’s definitely worth a closer look.
For starters, some sports don’t come into the debate at all. Swimming and most disciplines in athletics rule themselves out purely based on times and measurements. There’s no point pitting a female in the men’s 100 meter final against the likes of Usain Bolt. Most of the men will run it in less than 10 seconds, a time never achieved in history by a female.
Others sports rule themselves out on the grounds of physical prowess. American football, rugby union, rugby league and Australian rules football for example are not overly conducive to this concept given size and strength differences.
But we shouldn’t stop the search there. Take a sport like squash for example. Once again physical power is a factor, but it’s not the dominating prerequisite. Court speed, control and accuracy all come into play and these attributes aren’t correlated to physical strength. Sports like golf and tennis to name a couple more also fall loosely into this category.
Basketball is another interesting consideration. Physicality is a crucial element of the sport but so is size. Who’s to say a female with the same dimensions as a man can’t be just as successful? As good as LeBron James is, he’d struggle to dunk the ball over a seven foot center be it a male or a female. Likewise, gender isn’t a factor when it comes to shooting accuracy or creativity.
We’re still a long way off introducing women into professional men’s sport on anything even resembling a semi-regular basis. Should it happen in the near future, here’s a list of 15 females who would more than hold their own.
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15 Nicol David
Any woman who sits top of her sport for nine years deserves a place in this list. Nicol David was the world’s best at squash for an incredible 109 months when she slipped to number two in September. I suspect it won’t be long until she reclaims top spot and potentially begins another streak. She’d be just fine against the men too.
Squash is one of those sports where the gender gap isn’t quite so substantial, and most club competitions around the world don’t bother separating men and women. David is a pocket rocket on court and a master strategist. Her finesse, surprising power and deft touches would be a significant obstacle for any man to overcome.
14 Laura Davies
She’s passed her best now, but Laura Davies could still take it to the men on her day. In 1994 she became the first European to scale world number one in the women’s ranks. Her glittering career has produced more than 80 tournament wins worldwide including 20 LPGA tour events. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall Of Fame earlier this year and made a Dame by the queen in 2014.
She also loves a beer, loves Liverpool FC and could easily slot into a men’s golfing tournament. She can outhit most amateurs with a two-iron, and with a driver in hand once belted the ball a world record 376 yards at a Philadelphia airport. The airport kindly closed one runway to allow Davies her record attempt.
13 Ellyse Perry
One of the most precociously talented sportswomen we’ve ever seen, and perfectly capable of matching it with the men. At just 16, Ellyse Perry made her Australian debut in both soccer and cricket. She has since gone on to play World Cups in both sports and is considered one of the most marketable athletes on Earth. In 2008 she was awarded a Cricket Australia contract, the first of its kind ever given to a woman. In 2010 she played in a men’s grade cricket match in Sydney, the first time a female has done so. She opened the bowling taking two wickets, and scored five not out with the bat. She remains one of the world’s fastest female bowlers and one of Australia’s best soccer players.
12 Valerie Adams
Up until July this year, Valerie Adams was the world’s most dominant sportswoman. A shot putter from New Zealand, Adams held every world, Commonwealth and Olympic title possible for almost a decade. Prior to a double surgery in September of 2014, she racked up 56-straight competition wins, earning her last year’s IAAF Athlete of the Year award.
She’s recently had another surgery and is now hoping to recover in time for next year’s Olympics. Adams stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs in at about 260 pounds. Be it shot put or any other sport, she’d be a formidable opponent for any man on this earth.
11 Serena Williams
Well this one’s pretty obvious. If ever there was a tennis player capable of taking it to the lads, surely it’s Serena. She’s been the best female player in the world for more than a decade, and she’s quite possibly the best we’ve ever seen. Serena has 21 Grand Slam titles, a record for both sexes. She’s also amassed almost $75 million in prizemoney, with only Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal ahead of her on the all-time list. In fact she’s earned more than twice as much as Maria Sharapova who’s next on the women’s earnings roll.
Serena can serve upwards of 128 miles per hour, which outdoes some of the men on tour. Combine that with her powerful ground strokes and impressive agility and she’d give plenty of men something to think about.
10 Luciana Aymar
The clue to Luciana Aymar’s sporting prowess isn’t in her trophy cabinet, although the eight World Player of the Year awards, two World Cups and five Champions Trophies may beg to differ. Her nickname says all you need to know. Aymar is commonly referred to as the Maradona of hockey. It’s a name not bestowed lightly when considering that Maradona is, of course, a man. Her control of a hockey ball is similar to the kind of mesmerizing command Maradona used to have over a soccer ball. Jump on YouTube and check it out if you don’t believe me. She could beat any player one on one, man or woman.
9 Mo’ne Davis
Remember the name Mo’ne Davis. She could well be the first female we see playing Major League Baseball. Only time will tell of course, as Mo’ne is still only 14 years old but the signs are certainly positive. She made history several times in this year’s Little League World Series. First girl to pitch a winning game. First girl to pitch a shutout. First African-American girl to play in the series. Her fastball sizzles down at 70 mph, roughly 10 mph quicker than the average for her age group. At that speed the reaction time for the batter would be like facing a 92mph pitch on a full-sized diamond. She’s still growing and that fastball should naturally get faster over time. Let’s hope she sticks with baseball.
8 Cristiane Justino
A word of advice: never step into the cage with Invicta FC Featherweight champion Cristiane Justino, or Cyborg as she’s more commonly known. For starters she’s a black belt in Muay Thai and also holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She was beaten once in MMA and that was her first fight back in 2005.
Most people that square off against her are beaten by TKO, after a flurry of punches and knees. She’s 5-foot-8 and barely 145 pounds, yet she’s one of the most frightening prospects in the women’s locker room. We’ll probably never know how she’ll fare against the boys because that’d mean finding someone game enough to get into the octagon with her.
7 Abby Wambach
There’s really no need to make a case for Abby Wambach being here. She retired earlier this year after leading Team USA to another World Cup win as arguably the greatest ever international soccer player. I’m talking men and women. She banged in 184 goals in 252 matches for the United States. Only one man has scored more than 100 goals for his country and that was Iran’s Ali Daei who retired with 109. She’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a World Cup winner and former FIFA World Player of the Year. She’d find the back of the net be it men or women trying to defend.
6 Lauren Jackson
Lauren Jackson was the best women’s basketballer in the world during her heyday. She’s played all over the planet collecting a myriad of championships and individual honors along the way, including three WNBA MVPs. She’s also played for nearly 20 years for the Australian national team. Oh, and her player efficiency rating in 2007 in the WNBA was the best ever.
How would she go against the men? Well she’s 6-foot-5 of pure basketball ability. She has it all too, the inside game, the shooting, the rebounding and the defense. Jackson always wanted to compete against men earlier in her career but realized the sport was too political for that to ever happen on a serious level. Believe me: she’d have been successful.
5 Pauline Ferrand-Prevot
Many people in cycling believe Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is the greatest we’ve ever seen on the bike. That includes men and women. In September the Frenchwoman won the cross-country mountain biking world championship. Big deal? Well consider this. That trophy now sits alongside her road cycling and cyclo-cross world titles.
According to Olympic gold medal cyclist Chris Boardman: “It’s the cycling equivalent of Lewis Hamilton taking the Formula 1 title then heading off to win the Le Mans 24 hour race and Paris-Dakar rally." We’d love to see Ferrand Prevot go up against any man on a bike. If there was some kind of cycling triathlon combining all three disciplines, she’d be almost impossible to beat.
4 Danica Patrick
A walk-up start on this list given she’s one of the only females in the world who competes professionally against men. Danica Patrick once said “I was brought up to be the fastest driver not the fastest girl,” and that’s exactly how she’s approached her motor racing career. In 2005 she became the fourth woman to race in the Indianapolis 500, and her fourth-placed finish was the highest ever by a female. She went on to finish third in that race four years later. In 2008 she made history as the first woman to win an IndyCar race.
Perhaps her greatest achievement came in 2013 when she claimed pole position at Daytona 500, the richest race on the NASCAR calendar. That year she was also asked by Bernie Ecclestone to switch to Formula 1, an offer she politely declined. Patrick currently sits 24th in this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
3 Ronda Rousey
It might only be a matter of time before Ronda Rousey takes on a man given she’s running out of willing females. Her MMA record reads as follows: 12 fights for 12 wins, nine of which have ended in less than a minute. She was the first female to sign with UFC in 2012 and revealed earlier this year that she was the highest paid fighter in the organization. She’s the most talked about fighter in the world right now and is heavily favored to build on her record later this month in Australia when she defends her UFC Bantamweight Championship against Holly Holm. Watch this space.
2 Michelle Payne
Michelle Payne recently made history in Australia becoming the first female jockey to win the 155-year-old Melbourne Cup, the world’s richest handicap. Even more remarkable was that Payne’s mount, Prince Of Penzance, jumped at 100-1. Female jockeys have long competed against the men with varying levels of success. But this was different. Payne was only the fourth female to ride in the race, and she had to fend off a wave of international champions to secure victory on one of the lowest rated horses in the race.
In Australia’s biggest horse race, the one that stops the nation, Payne secured the biggest win ever by a female jockey. She summed things up perfectly following the race, telling everyone who believes women aren’t good enough to “Get stuffed”.
1 Brittney Griner
We may well see Brittney Griner up against the men one day. So dominant is the 6-foot-8 Phoenix Mercury center that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has considered drafting her. I’d like to see any man try and dunk on her. She’s been named Defensive Player of the Year in the last two WNBA seasons. In one playoff game in September she managed 11 blocks in a single game, or roughly one every two minutes. She can dunk too.
Put simply, last year she was the most dominant player on one of the most dominant WNBA teams we’ve ever seen. Her size 18 men’s shoes suggest she should be playing with the opposite sex, as do her brilliant basketball talents.
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