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20 Iconic Sports Moments Featuring Female Athletes

Nadia Comaneci Scores a Perfect 10

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When tiny Romanian imp Nadia Comaneci took the floor at the 1976 Olympic games, not many people noticed. But as soon as her music started, all eyes were on her—she flawlessly performed the most difficult tricks, earning her the first "perfect 10" score ever awarded. She won the competition—along with everyone's hearts—and went on to earn six more perfect 10s.

Photo: Olympic.org

Flo Jo Becomes the Fastest Woman of All Time

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In the 1980s, it seemed like every time Florence Griffith Joyner ran she broke a world record. But she was as well known for her style as her speed—at the 1988 Olympics, she left her competition in the dust (literally) to win three medals—which she accepted with her epically long, sparkly fingernails.

Photo: Corbis Images

Billie Jean King Beats Bobby Riggs

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They didn't call it the "battle of the sexes" for nothing: When Billie Jean King agreed to play Bobby Riggs in a landmark tennis match in 1973, she knew she was fighting for more than just a win on the court—she was fighting for the rights of female athletes everywhere. And win she did! "To beat a 55-year-old guy was no thrill for me," she said later. "The thrill was exposing a lot of new people to tennis."

Photo: Corbis Images

Hope Solo's Gold Medal Saves

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Soccer goalies get a lot of pain and not a lot of glory, but Hope Solo proved the power of the position when she made save after save in the 2008 Olympics, helping her team take gold. The US team, with Solo at the helm, won gold again in the 2012 Olympics. These days, she holds the world record for career shutouts, with 72.

Photo: Corbis Images

Mo'ne Davis Becoming the First Female Pitcher to Win The Little League World Series

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With a 70-mile-per-hour fastball and sheer grit, Mo'ne Davis led her team to victory in 2014, becoming the first girl to pitch a winning game in Little League World Series history. She also landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated and earned the title of "Sports Kid of the Year."

Photo: Corbis Images

Julie Moss Crawling Across the Finish Line of the Ironman Triathlon

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We're used to seeing our sports heroes perform amazing feats of strength and speed, but when Julie Moss became dehydrated just two miles from the end of the 1982 Ironman Triathlon and had to crawl on her hands and knees to the finish line, we got to see what true dedication to your sport looks like. Even though her collapse meant she came in second (she was passed just feet from the finish), everyone remembers her as a winner for her incredible spirit.

Photo: Ironman

Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh's Epic Beach Volleyball Match

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Considered the greatest beach volleyball team of all time, Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh have earned the gold medal at three consecutive Olympics and three consecutive World Championships. The pair won fans the world over when they dominated the 2008 Olympics, taking the gold without losing a single set.

Photo: Corbis Images

Missy Franklin Winning her Fourth Olympic Gold in Two Days

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Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin was already a world-class swimmer when she arrived at the 2012 Olympic games, but she proved her fortitude along with her skill when she swam her fourth individual event in two days. Not only did she win gold in the 200-meter backstroke, but she broke the world record and became the first American to win the event in nearly 50 years. She followed up her performance with another gold-medal relay swim the next day. No rest for the weary!

Photo: Corbis Images

Brandi Chastain's Winning Goal (and Shirt)

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Who can forget Brandi Chastain's reaction to scoring the winning the goal at the 1999 World Cup? She memorialized the moment (and her black Nike sports bra) by triumphantly ripping off her shirt and holding it above her head.

Photo: Corbis Images

Williams Sisters Co-Ranking Simultaneously as the #1 Player in Women's Doubles and Singles Tennis

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Sisters and tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams have virtually rewritten the way the game is played with their aggressive style and incredible athleticism. Not only have they won every title imaginable (more than once), but they've emerged with their tight friendship intact.

Photo: Corbis Images

Kerri Strug's Winning Vault

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The American gymnasts were strong contenders for an Olympic team medal in the 1996 games, but then the unthinkable happened: Kerri Strug fell during her first vault, severely hurting her ankle—an injury that would have sidelined most athletes. But instead of letting her team down, Strug opted to take her second vault and nailed the landing on just one foot, securing the victory.

Photo: Corbis Images

Every Country Had Female Athletes at the 2012 Olympics

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The 2012 Olympics marked the first time the games had seen every country in the competition send female athletes in addition to men, as the Arab states of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Sultanate of Brunei allowed women to compete for their countries for the first time. And while this wasn't the first time Muslim women had competed—in 2004, Roqaya Al Gassra was the first woman to run in a headscarf—it marked a new era for gender equality in sport.

Photo: Corbis Images

Danica Patrick Winning the 2008 Japan Indy

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When Danica Patrick zoomed across the finish line of the Japan Indy, she became the first (and only) woman to win an IndyCar Series race. The next year, she took third place in the Indianapolis 500, the only woman to ever make the top three, proving not just that ladies can be excellent drivers, but that we can be serious competitors in the male-driven sport.

Janel McCarville's Miracle Assist in the 2013 WNBA Finals

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Male basketball players' stunts become so famous they're named after them (Air Jordan anyone?), so we think Janel McCarville deserves to name her championship-winning "steal and no-look between the legs assist" move from the 2013 WNBA finals. The McMiracle? The Janel Jump? We're still working on it.

Photo: Corbis Images

Katherine Switzer's Big Finish at the Boston Marathon

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When Katherine Switzer didn't qualify for the Boston Marathon, it wasn't for a slow time but rather because of her gender. In 1967, marathon running was strictly a man's sport. Instead of returning to cross-stitching throw pillows, Switzer "bandit-ed" the race and ran it anyhow. Despite leering reporters, jeering onlookers and even a race official who tried to tackle her, she finished with a respectable time. Five years later, "dames" were allowed in the race.

Photo: Corbis Images

Annie Thorisdottir's Back-to-Back Win at the CrossFit games

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If Vikings still lived today, they'd look exactly like Annie Thorisdottir. The tough-as-nails Icelander competed in the CrossFit Games—the toughest competition in the world's toughest sport—and won first place in 2011 and 2012. That makes her the only woman to win back-to-back titles. She maintains her amazing level of fitness with four-hour-a-day workouts, six days a week.

Photo: CrossFit

Gretchen Bleiler Landing the First Crippler 540 in a Competition

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Snowboarding may be a respectable Olympic sport now, but it wasn't too long ago that it was only the domain of teenage boys riding on boards painted with marijuana leaves. Girls were a sideshow at most events, until Gretchen Bleiler became the first to land a "crippler 540" (an inverted spin done on a halfpipe) in competition. She went on to become one of the most decorated athletes in the sport and is credited with helping bring the sport into the mainstream.

Photo: Corbis Images

Dara Torres' Fifth Olympic Games

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Not only has swimmer Dara Torres qualified for and competed in five Olympic games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008), she's also medaled in all five Olympic Games, the only American to do so. Mind. Blown. When she collected her 12th medal, Torres showed us that women in all stages of life can be serious athletes and fierce competitors.

Photo: Corbis Images

Kelly Kulick Bowling Ten Straight Strikes

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She may not have set out to set a precedent, but with every pin Kelly Kulick knocked down, she also knocked down another stereotype about female bowlers. After bowling ten straight strikes in a row, she became the first woman ever to win the Pro Bowler's Association Tournament in 2010.

Photo: Facebook

Diana Nyad Becoming the First Person to Swim from Cuba to Florida

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Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage in 2013—and while that feat is impressive in its own right, what we love is that it was the 63-year-old's fifth attempt at the distance after having to quit previous tries because of hypothermia, weather, sharks and being attacked by a swarm of jellyfish. She's the very definition of persistence.

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