2023 Greatest Female Athletes
Annemiek van Vleuten
World Championships WE - Road Race (2022)
Image source: Granada, CC BY-SA 4.0
Currently riding for the Movistar Team, Annemiek van Vleuten has consistently proven herself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of professional cycling. In 2022 she won the UCI Road World Championship and placed first in several other world-renowned events, including the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Challenge by La Vuelta and Setmana Ciclista Valenciana.
The story of how she became a pro cyclist is quite an inspiring one, having gotten its start when she was advised by her doctor to take up cycling following a knee injury. Shortly after, she claimed her first victory UCI Women's World Cup.
Having taken home the gold in the Tokyo Olympics “time trial” category and with several world titles under her belt, Annemiek recently announced that 2023 would be her last year as a pro cyclist - but she’s not going out quietly. This year might be her best yet, with a packed schedule of impressive events coming up, including the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, among many others.
European Indoor Athletics Champion - pentathlon (2023)
Image source: filip bossuyt from Kortrijk, Belgium, CC BY 2.0
Nafissatou “Nafi” Thiam has made her mark as a two-time Olympic gold medalist, winning the heptathlon event at both the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She’s the only Belgian athlete of any gender to successfully defend an Olympic title and the second woman to win consecutive Olympic titles in her event.
In March 2023, at the European Indoor Championships, Thiam broke the world record for the pentathlon with a total score of 5055 points. Now she’s the record holder for heptathlon, pentathlon, javelin, and long jump in Belgium, and she also holds the world record for the high jump segment within the heptathlon competition.
All that, and she’s only 28!
Canadian swimming trials - 400m individual medley (2023)
Image source: Scott Grant/Swimming Canada
At the tender age of 14, Canadian competitive swimmer; Summer McIntosh first gained recognition as the youngest member of the Canadian team at the 2020 Summer Olympics, where she secured an impressive 4th-place finish in the 400-meter freestyle event.
The very next year, she became the youngest world champion swimmer in a decade to bag a victory in the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley. She’s also the first Canadian to win two gold medals at a single World Championship.
In March and April of this year, McIntosh continued to showcase her relentless spirit and dedication, setting her first and second world records (within just five days of each other) in the 400-meter freestyle and 400-individual medley events at the Canadian national trials.
X Games - snowboard halfpipe (2023)
Image source: Jamie Schwaberow/X Games
Another legend to make her mark in the world of sports at the young age of 14 is Gaon Choi, who became the youngest snowboarder to win a gold medal in the halfpipe event (breaking the previous record held by Chloe Kim). Her incredible accomplishment took place at the 2023 Winter X Games in Aspen, where she emerged as a major highlight amidst a weekend full of record-setting performances.
Hailing from South Korea, Gaon Choi started her snowboarding career with a bang, taking first place in her debut contest and even landing a frontside 1080 in the process. Citing Chloe Kim (considered to be one of the greatest female snowboarders of all time) as her inspiration to start snowboarding, Gaon Choi received a heartwarming response from Chloe herself, who shared an Instagram story saying, "I feel like a proud mom. The future of snowboarding’s in good hands."
Ironman World Championship (2019)
Image source: Jürgen Matern, CC BY-SA 4.0
Born in 1983 in Bayreuth, Germany, Anne Haug is a professional triathlete who has inspired us all with her passion and numerous triumphs. Some of her early wins include the title of National Duathlon Champion (2008 and 2009) and Vice Triathlon Champion (2009). But her international debut was when she competed in the 2012 Olympic Games, finishing in 11th place.
Later in 2019, she claimed her first Ironman World Championship title with an impressive time of 8:40:10, making her the third-fastest female in World Championship history. Her winning streak continued in the 2021 Europe Triathlon Challenge Long Distance Championships (Challenge Roth), where she finished with a remarkable time of 7:53:48.
In August 2022, Haug played a pivotal role in Team Europe's victory at the Collins Cup. Although she secured a bronze medal in the Kona Ironman World Championship that October, Haug's unwavering determination led her to finish the year as the top-ranked athlete in the PTO rankings.
This year, she’s already dominated the competition at Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote and Challenge Mogán-Gran Canaria, finishing 12 minutes ahead of the runner-up in both events. We can’t wait to see what’s next in her incredible journey.
Winter Olympics in Beijing (2022)
Image source: Martin Rulsch, CC BY-SA 4.0
Eileen Feng Gu, an American-born freestyle skier competing for China, made history at the 2022 Winter Olympics by becoming the youngest Olympic champion in freestyle skiing at just 18 years old. She took home gold medals in big air and halfpipe and a silver medal in slopestyle, making her the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a single Winter Olympics.
Among her numerous accomplishments, Gu is the first naturalised Chinese free-skier and the first female Chinese free-ski Olympic gold medalist. Time named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2022, and Forbes listed her as the third-highest-paid female athlete that same.
But with Gu, it’s not all athletics. She’s also a part-time model and an excellent student planning to attend Stanford University. Her favourite way to relax? Making dumplings with her grandmother.
World Cup meet - short course (2022)
Image source: Agência Brasil Fotografias, CC BY 2.0
Born in March 1997, Kathleen Ledecky is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest female swimmers of all time, having won seven Olympic gold medals, 19 world championship gold medals, and broken 16 world records throughout her illustrious career.
Ledecky made her international debut at the 2012 London Olympics, unexpectedly winning the gold medal in the women's 800-meter freestyle at just 15 years old. She continued her success at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she claimed four gold medals, one silver medal, and two world records. Later on, at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she won the 200-, 400- and 1500-meter freestyle races - making her the first American female swimmer to win an individual event in three straight Olympiads.
Her impressive list of accolades also includes five Female World Swimmer of the Year awards, two Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year titles, and the ESPY Best Female Athlete in 2022.
Despite her 9-year winning streak ending this year after competing with Summer McIntosh in the 200m freestyle at a Pro Series meet in Fort Lauderdale, Ledecky began the year with a victory, recording 1:55.47 at a meet in Knoxville, Tennessee. We hope to see her shine at the Paris Olympics next year!
World Cup - giant slalom (2023)
Image source: Rolandhino1, CC BY-SA 4.0
American World Cup alpine skier, Mikaela Shiffrin, has the most World Cup wins in history (men or women), solidifying her place as one of the greatest alpine skiers of all time. A two-time Olympic gold medalist, five-time Overall World Cup champion, and four-time slalom world champion, she has also claimed the World Cup discipline title in slalom seven times. At just 18 years of age, Shiffrin became the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history.
In 2023, Shiffrin earned her seventh Alpine world championships gold medal, bringing her total to 14 medals from 16 career world championship races. This achievement makes her the most successful skier in the modern era, earning her a spot on Time magazine's 2023 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
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