In the U.S. and abroad, the world of female athletics has come a long way over the past 30 years. In just a few decades, we have seen the inception of the WNBA, Women's MMA, a female football league (Legends Football League), as well as many more new opportunities for women to showcase their stellar athleticism. With the new exposure and opportunity for professional female athletes, we have also seen an increase in visual stimulation from the female sports world.
Many of the ladies on this list are incredible world class athletes and deserve to be praised as simply that: athletes. But also, it is natural to appreciate the appearance these woman are able to showcase while demonstrating great feats in athleticism.
There is sadly still a bit of inequality when it comes to the pay for female athletes versus their male counterparts. With that being true, many of the woman on our list also have to participate in modeling, or acting roles to help generate enough money to live the lifestyle they demand. There should be no shame felt by any woman who decides to make profit off of her own physical gifts. As you will soon find out, some of these ladies have made handsome sums of money doing just that. After all, sex does sell.
20 Danica Patrick
In 2005, Danica Patrick was the Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year, and for the next five years, she would reign as the IndyCar series Most Popular Driver. Danica brought attention to the sport of car racing more than anyone in the history of the sport. It was no secret that part of the reason she was brought into the sport was to help generate some buzz to the world of racing. This is no knock on Danica, as she proved she was more than talented enough on the track to keep up with the big boys.
We all know she has the goods under the hood too, that she almost showed during her famous shower scene in the GoDaddy commercial. Danica is now 34 years old, and still looks as good as ever. Her popularity has slipped, however, and she is more famous now for her commercials than for her actual performance on the track.
19 Gabrielle Reece
Gabby is regarded as one of the greatest female volleyball players in the history of the sport. After a Hall of Fame college career at Florida State University, where she majored in communications, Reece dominated the pro-tour for several years. During her time with the Women's Beach Volleyball League, she led the league in kills for four consecutive seasons, winning a championship along the way. Her modeling career began back in college when Elle Magazine named her one of the five most beautiful people in the world. As a young adult, she spent her time focusing on her passion, which was volleyball, but once she realized she could make a lot more money modeling and acting, Reece transitioned her life.
In 2001, she posed nude for Playboy Magazine, and she also moved to New York City. Shortly after the move, she was cast in big Hollywood films, such as Gattaca and Cloud 9, with Burt Reynolds.
18 Katarina Witt
Katarina was one of the top female figure skaters during the 1980s. This gorgeous German is a two-time Olympic Gold medalist as well as a four-time World Champion. Kat won her first golf for East Germany in 1984 and her second in 1988. She also won six consecutive European Championships from 1983-1988. Not only is she a legend in the world of Women's Figure Skating, but she is also one of the most beautiful Olympians of all time. She began to make a name for herself off the rink in 1996 when she appeared in the Tom Cruise classic, Jerry Maguire. In 1998, she not only made her country proud, but she pleased the entire world when she decided to pose naked for Playboy. Some say she waited too long to expose the world to her beauty but at the ripe age of 34, it can certainly be argued that the timing couldn't have been better.
17 Anni Friesinger
Now 39 years old, Friesinger was a five time Olympic Medalist during the late 90s through the early 2000s. Both of her parents were speed skaters as well, so it is no wonder she became an icon within the sport. The speed skating legend last showcased her amazing skills in 2010 when she helped lead her team to the gold medal while fighting through cartilage damage so severe that it ultimately forced her to retire. To be a great speed skater, you must have incredibly strong thighs. Anni certainly had those, as she showed many times in different swimsuit publications.
She is one of the rare elite female Olympians to not pursue a career in modeling or acting, but she seems to be doing just fine anyway. Friesinger and her husband currently reside in Austria with their two young children, but her skills and her good looks will not be soon forgotten.
16 Amanda Beard
With 21 Olympic medals, and winning two American Swimmer of the Year awards, Amanda Beard has the resume of a true champion. Amanda started her Olympic career at an early age, participating in her first games in 1996 at the tender age of 14. Beard was part of the gold medal winning, 4 x 100 medley team in '96 making her the second youngest Olympic medalist in American swimming history. In 2012, she was unable to make the U.S. team, but she has not officially retired yet and she is hoping to make the team in 2016. Whether she makes the cut or not this year, she has had a stellar run over the past 20 years. Beard was able to cultivate this career while still finding time to create a life in modeling and acting for herself. In 2007, she graced the cover of Playboy Magazine, and also did some provocative GoDaddy commercials. Amanda now spends her days raising her three-year-old daughter and fighting for animal rights.
15 Michelle Wie
Take yourself back to 2005, when 15-year-old Michelle Wie first qualified for the WPGA tour. Who would have thought that little girl would morph into the bombshell she has become? Wie has set numerous records as a young golfer. In 2003, she became the youngest golfer (male or female) to win a USGA sanctioned tournament. In the same year, she became the youngest female to win a LPGA sanctioned tournament. Today, at only 26 years old, Wie has many years left to build on her already respectable resume. She has not, however, lived up to the lofty standards put on her as a golfer quite yet, winning only one career major thus far, but she far surpassed any expectations when it comes to her sex appeal. Her 6-foot, 150-pound frame gives her an advantage on and off the links. It will be fun to watch what she does with it in the future. She has already proven she can hold her own in front of the camera as has been seen in a few modeling endeavors.
14 Maria Sharapova
In 2005, Sharapova was 18 years old, and the top ranked female player in the world. She was also widely regarded as the sexiest female in sports. After turning pro in '01, Sharapova has amassed many tournament championships. In her 15 years on the women's tennis tour, she has accomplished the career grand slam, including winning the French Open twice. She has also proven to be very marketable as she has done modeling for several publication and companies, including Sports Illustrated, Canon, and Nike, just to name a few. Her tennis skills seem to have fallen off the past couple of years, but her appearance is still impeccable. In March 2016, Sharapova admitted to testing positive for Meldonium, a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency. She has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation, and we shall see how she looks when she is permitted back on the court, but, regardless of the future, Maria Sharapova had her time in the sun.
13 Michelle Jenneke
At 19 years old, this Australian beauty went viral. Videos of Jenneke dancing during her pre-race warm-up before the 100 meter hurdles race at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Barcelona received 19 million views on YouTube in just a week. At only 23 years of age now, Michelle has yet to experience much Olympic success, but she is looking to change that this summer. She has, however, had some success in the Oceana Youth Championships, winning three medals, including two gold in the 2010 games in Sydney. Her YouTube fame has enabled her to dabble into the world of acting and modeling. In 2014, she made a short video with the good people at "TheChive" entitled "Forever Alone Meets Michelle Jenneke.." The video already has over 10 million hits to date. She was also ranked 10th in the Askmen.com list of 99 most desirable women. It is not very difficult to see why.
12 Lindsey Vonn
Probably the most famous skier in Olympic history, Lindsey Vonn ranks number 12 on our list. Lindsey was a dominant athlete during her 15-year career, and if she were able to avoid injuries, she could have had much more Olympic success. Fortunately, Vonn has had much success off the slopes as well. In 2010, she was featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, which, thanks to her, ranks as one of the all-time top selling issues of the magazine. Her beauty brought incredible attention to the sport of downhill skiing, and she was offered sponsorship deals with major companies Red Bull, Oakley, and Under Armour, to name a few. She even spent a couple of years on the arm of Tiger Woods after his life turned upside-down. It appears her career as a skier has come to an end, but Vonn has been lucky enough to create a net worth of over $2.5 million in her 15 years. Lindsey is one of those "what could have been" cases that we see too often in sports, but at least she knows her beauty can never be questioned.
11 Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey has helped grow the sport of mixed martial arts and of all the athletes on this list, she's the only one who has truly been the torchbearer of a sport traditionally dominated by males. It's because of Rousey that a women's title fight between Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes was able to main event a historic card like UFC 200. Rousey was an undefeated champion for several years in mixed martial arts, first in Strikeforce, then in the UFC. She was the first woman signed by the promotion and was immediately made their inaugural Women's Bantamweight Champion.
Rousey has posed for ESPN's Body Issue and has also graced the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition several times. Rousey has had the success in the octagon to go with her looks, which puts her a notch above many others. While she's no longer undefeated, many can't wait for her return to the octagon and for her to reclaim her spot at the top of the mountain in the UFC.
10 Gina Carano
Gina is a dangerous woman. Not only does she have over 20 wins in her MMA/Kickboxing career, but the Texas native is also a Psychology Major. As a teenager, Carano participated in almost every sport imaginable. She was a stand out volleyball player and softball player, as well as team captain on her state champion basketball team. Carano is the total package at 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds. With a career in fighting, it is a wonder how she looks as amazing as she does. In 2008, Gina was voted "hottest woman in America" by Big Biz magazine, and in 2009, she was ranked 16 in Maxim's Hot 100 list. Now 34 years old, it appears her fighting days are behind her, and she has turned herself into a high demand actress. She has already compiled 10 film credits, including the blockbuster smash, Deadpool. Her fans likely welcome any opportunity to keep seeing her.
9 Skylar Diggins
Diggins was drafted into the WNBA in 2013 with the 3rd overall pick. Before making it to the WNBA, however, Skylar was a proven winner. Her most amazing feat as a basketball player may have been her record in high school. As a 4-year starter and 3-year captain of her team, she led the school to a silly 102-7 career record. She wasn't too shabby during her days with the Fighting Irish either. Her college record was 130-20, including three straight Final Four appearances. Over her first three professional seasons with the Tulsa Shock, which this season became the Dallas Wings, Skylar has established herself as an elite WNBA player. She has also established herself as arguably the most attractive player in the league as well. As you would expect out of the Notre Dame graduate, she has found ways to profit from her beauty.
Diggins is sponsored by Nike and models for them during her time away from the WNBA. At only 25 years old, this star is still rising and there is no telling how far Skylar could take her career.
8 Serena Williams
Serena is regarded by many experts as the single greatest female athlete in the history of the world. Her dominance in women's tennis is unprecedented and is still ongoing as witnessed at the recent Wimbledon Open, where she won her 7th title. Her beauty and sex appeal is second to none as well. The world was shown all about her "assets" recently, when a video was leaked of her giving a "twerk" tutorial. Williams is well aware of her mass sex appeal. We all remember the Catwoman outfit she wore during the 2002 Wimbledon Open. She also has posed for Sports Illustrated as well as ESPN's Body Issue.
Aside from modeling, winning tennis tournaments and creating new fashion, Serena also gives much of her free time to charity work as well as television and movies, including over 20 official credits already. She has been at the apex of the sport for over a decade now, and she has done just about all there is to do in the sport. Serena still has a lot going for her and it will be fun for us all to watch how she decides to shake things up next.
7 Hope Solo
Hope Solo has been a main stay in the public eye for years now, and the reasons she stays relevant vary greatly. Those reasons range from her incredible skills as the world-class Goal Keeper for the USA Women's National team, to her infamous run-ins with the law, to her appearance on Dancing With the Stars, but my favorite reason to continually see her, is her outstanding beauty. Simply seeing her makes many people happy. Solo has lived a life of which many only dream. She has been on the forefront of the modern day women's liberation movement. One of the greatest things about Hope is her fearlessness, as well as her courage to show the world her body.
In 2011, she appeared nude in ESPN's Body Issue. When asked about the experience, she said, "I'm an athlete—that's all I am. If a sex symbol is now a top female athlete, I think that's pretty amazing and it shows how far our country has come from the stick-thin models, from what you see in most magazines."
6 Summer Sanders
One of the original athlete sex symbols, intentionally or unintentionally, Summer Sanders ranks in at number six. Sanders is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, from the 1992 games, along with numerous other accomplishments in competitive swimming. Summer got her post athletic career started early, when she began working on TV while still competitively swimming. She transitioned beautifully as she aged by using her wholesome image to land jobs with ESPN, ABC, MTV, Good Morning America, and NBA TV. She also was spotted on the third season of Donald Trump's reality show, The Apprentice. Summer was on the market for a few years in the early 2000s when she and her first husband divorced. Unfortunately for the single men in the world, Summer remarried in 2005 to Olympic skier Eric Schlopy. Together, Summer and Eric have two children. Many of the women on this list can look at Summer Sanders' career as a great track to follow.
5 Jennie Finch
Being the greatest softball player in the history of the game is just the tip of the iceberg for Jennie Finch. During her peak in the mid 2000s, Finch was an icon in American culture. She will likely be remembered most for helping put softball on the map and leading team USA to Olympic gold in 2004, but there is a whole other side to Finch, who has received countless awards for her beauty and appearance. In 2002, she was the "runaway winner" of ESPN's Best Dressed in Sports Award. In 2003, ESPN voted her the most attractive female athlete. In 2004, People Magazine named Finch one of its "50 Most Beautiful People," the only female athlete on the list. And in 2005, she was featured in the SI Swimsuit Issue. Finch was also offered large sums of money to disrobe for Playboy and Maxim, but unfortunately for us, she declined the offers. Finch retired from softball in 2010 to dedicate more time to her family. Finch is married to ex-major league baseball player Casey Daigle, and together they have two children.
4 Anna Kournikova
Unlike many of the women on this list, Anna Kournikova did not accomplish all that much in the actual sport she played. Kournikova turned pro in her late teens and became a sensation in the sport due to her exotic Russian looks. She was briefly ranked no.1 in the world in late 1999 in double competition. Eventually, injuries derailed Kournikova's career and she retired from the WTA tour at the young age of 22. She has since spent much of her time modeling and plays tennis at certain charity events and other exhibitions.
Kournikova currently resides in Miami and has maintained a pretty quiet lifestyle in her time away from the sport, but that hasn't stopped her from earning plenty of money through her various modeling jobs over the years. She is still remembered very fondly by those that followed tennis at the turn of the 21st century.
3 Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan is widely regarded as the top Women's soccer player in the world today. She is currently at the height of her powers, at 27 years old, and her reign appears to be quite sustainable. After graduating from Cal Berkeley, Morgan was selected first overall in the WPS draft. She also, and more famously, is known as the superstar forward for Team USA. Her career with the U.S. National Team began in 2008 when she made the USA U-20 team. Along with her superior soccer skills, Morgan also posses incredible beauty, as well as a sense of humility to keep her grounded. In 2012, she posed for Sports Illustrated's Body Paint Issue covered in nothing but, well, body paint. She was proud and excited about the experience to inspire woman across the world. She spoke passionately about the experience, saying, "It's important to accept your body for what God gave you." On top of incredible beauty and a sense of perspective, Morgan also enjoys a wonderful home life. She is married to Servando Carrasco, an ex-professional soccer player and fellow Cal Berkeley alum.
2 Sydney Leroux
At only 26 years old, Sydney Leroux has seen a lot in her life. The Canadian born soccer star, who is now a U.S. citizen and member of the United States Women's National Soccer team, was born to two professional athlete parents. Her father was a professional baseball player with the California Angels in the 1980s and her mother softball for the Canadian National Team. Coming from a family of baseball and softball players, it seems natural that Leroux would chose to play a sport as well. Sydney is a woman with perspective. She understands who she is and the potential impact she could have on women across the world.
In 2013, Leroux posed semi-nude in ESPN's Body Issue. After the experience, she said, "I think a lot of females struggle with the way they look, and I wanted to show that everyone's body is different. I think it's a big deal to be an athlete and feel confident in your body and show it off. I'm not going to say I've never struggled with how I look, but I've reached a point in my life where I'm happy with who I am." Today, Leroux and her husband Dom Dwyer are expecting their first child in September of 2016.
1 Natalie Gulbis
Naming Natalie Gulbis as the sexiest female in sports history is not a stretch. She is the epitome of a semi-talented athlete who turned her looks into a career. Natalie turned professional in 2001, but had little success in her first few years on tour. In 2005, she released a calendar of her hitting golf balls in quite revealing swimwear and the world would soon know who she was. The U.S. Golf Association banned the sale of the calendar at all sanctioned events, (why, I don't know) but it was obviously distributed many other places. After the massive exposure she received from the calendar buzz, endorsement deals began coming at her faster than she could handle. She accepted endorsement deals from Adidas, MasterCard, Canon, and TaylorMade, just to name a few, and she has posed for several magazines, including the Sports Illustrated Body Paint Issue. At the height of her fame, she even had her own television show on the Golf Chanel, appropriately named The Natalie Gulbis Show. She has no qualms about being recognized for her beauty either. She was quoted as saying, "I like the attention I get, even if it is for my appearance."
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