Active Women

The Evolution Of Female Athletes

Written by Sarah Curran

History of Female Athletes

International Women’s Day calls for a post to celebrate women in sport and fitness and their achievements!


Women have been playing sports for many years, however, back in 776 b.c women were not allowed to play a sport competitively, meaning that the first ever Olympics was male only! Things certainly needed to change…

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Back in 1884, Wimbledon held its first women’s singles competition in which Maud Watson was the first winner. It wasn’t until 1928 that women then began to compete at the Olympic track and field events. Nearly 4o years later, history was made! Wilma Rudolph became the first woman to take home not only one, but three gold Olympic medals. Amazing!


In 1978 Ann Meyers became the first woman to earn a contract with an NBA team. Although women were becoming more involved in competitive sports, it wasn’t until 1987 that the first ever woman was published on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, her name was Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In 2013, female success escalated. Tennis player Serena Williams won an amazing 78 out of 82 matches at the age of 31 years old, how inspiring!


Two years later, females dominated the sports industry. In 2015, the first female NBA coach was signed, her name was Jen Welter. In the same year, Rhonda Rousey, the MMA fighter was also named as Sports Illustrated most dominant athlete. Wait, it doesn’t stop there, 12 months later, the Association of National Olympic Committees awarded Team GB’s women’s hockey team as women’s team of the year following their gold medal at Rio in 2016. Well done girls!


Although it would be impossible to list every amazing female athlete or sportsperson in this post, here are a few of my favourite ladies in sport and fitness and what they have achieved on their journey!

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Zoe Smith


Zoe Smith first started competitive weightlifting at the age of 12 when she was asked to participate in the Greenwich team at the London Youth Games. She then went on to win athlete of the year in 2008 before participating in the Commonwealth Games in 2010, bringing home a bronze medal.


In 2012 she went on to break the British clean and jerk record in the 2012 Olympics. She won a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and a European Championship bronze. Who said women can’t lift?

Ashley Kaltwasser


Ashley Kaltwasser is a professional IFBB and has won Ms Bikini Olympia not just once in 2013, but also in 2014 AND 2015. When she first entered in 2013, she was simply hoping to make the top ten but subsequently blew the judges away and earned first place in this prestigious contest.

Nicole Wilkins


Nicole Wilkins is also an IFBB pro figure competitor and currently holds the most titles in history at the Olympia competition, winning her category in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014. In 2007 she became professional in not only one category, but two!


Ellie Simmonds


Ellie Simmonds is a Paralympic swimmer who first won a medal in the Olympics at the young age of 13. She has since gone on to win numerous medals and also crowned the youngest winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2008. She has broken various world records and is one of the most recognised Paralympic athletes in the world.

Katie Taylor


Katie Taylor is from Wicklow in Ireland and made her name in the sport of boxing in 2001, Katie won the first officially sanctioned women’s bout held in Ireland. The Irish Amateur Boxing Association president, Dominic O’Rourke called the event “a momentous day for Irish boxing.”


She also won Irelands first women’s boxing medal at the Olympics in 2012 in which she won gold, beating the Russian fighter Sofya Ochigava. Her skills as a sportsperson are not limited to boxing as she has also played for Ireland on the women’s soccer team.

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There are so many special ladies in sport and fitness that it is impossible to fit them all in such a short post, feel free to list some of your favourites below to give these ladies the recognition they deserve!

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile oranisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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