These 12 Black female athletes, among many others, are breaking barriers, raising standards, and setting the stage for athletes around the world.
Gabby Douglas has become a household name, whether or not you have ever stepped foot in a gym. The Virginia native stole the spotlight at the 2012 London Olympic Games when she became the first American gymnast to win gold for both the team and individual competitions. This feat made her the first ever African-American gymnast and the first ever woman of color of any nationality to garner the Individual All-Around Champion title. She has gone on to help Team USA win gold at the 2011 and 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympics.
Cheyenne Woods is a professional golfer from Pheonix, Arizona. Yes, she is related to legendary golfer Tiger Woods, but she has defined her own game in the professional world as she continues to work her way to the top. In the past five years she has played in numerous professional events, and while she’s still awaiting her first victory, she is definitely a name to watch moving forward.
Four-time Olympic medalist, Simone Manuel, garnered 2 gold and 2 silver medals at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. She is the first Black woman to win an individual gold in swimming and her four world championship appearances have tacked on 15 medals to accompany her Olympic accomplishments. Big things are expected from Manuel in future Olympics.
Allyson Felix debuted in her first olympics at 18 years old, earning a silver medal in the 200 meter race. Since then she has become the most decorated woman in US track and field history with nine olympic medals, 6 of which are gold. She has tacked on 18 additional medals from World Championships, and harbors a secret talent of baking. As a member of Barack Obama’s council for fitness, sports, and nutrition, Felix hopes to inspire young girls around the world.
Claressa Shields is a boxing phenom. She is a two-time olympian, the first American to win gold at the Olympics, and the first American, male or female, to win back to back Olympic gold medals in boxing. In January of 2020, the Flint, Michigan native became the fastest fighter to seize titles in three different weight classes. While she may idolize Serena Williams, Shields has become an inspiration herself to many young girls around the world.
At just three years old, Naomi Osaka moved to the United States from Osaka, Japan. In 2013, the sixteen year old began her professional career in tennis. After opening the eyes of many tennis gurus with a serve at 201.1km/h, she worked her way into her first Grand Slam in January 2016. Her dominant performances earned her “Newcomer of the Year” at the 2016 WTA Awards and sent her on a path to winning two back to back Grand Slam titles. In 2020, Forbes revealed that Osaka is now the highest paid female athlete ever.
Liz Cambage is an Australian born basketball player, who currently plays for the Las Vegas Aces. In 2019, she was named to the All-WNBA Second Team–she was ranked 10th in scoring, 7th in rebounding, 11th in field goal percentage, and 6th in blocked shots. Her 6’8” frame is ideal for the basketball world, but on the side, she has a passion for DJing and is a strong mental health advocate.
USWNT defender, Crystal Dunn, is the epitome of a versatile player. Although she stands at just 5’1”, her ability to take on nearly any position at any time, helped the US Women’s National Team clench the 2019 World Cup title. She currently plays professionally for the North Carolina Courage and holds endless accolades including multiple Golden Boots.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is an Olympic saber fencer from Maplewood, NJ. As a three-time NCAA All-American at Duke University, Muhammad proved she was worthy of a spot on the Team USA squad. She is the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Her performance earned her a bronze medal to accompany her five World Championship medals.
Jazmyn Jackson, out of San Jose, CA, wears #4 for the USA Softball team. Over her career, she has garnered multiple World Cup of Softball, Pan American Championship, and International Cup medals. While Softball is her passion, she hopes to one day be in general management for a major league sports team.
After playing youth ice hockey in Cleveland, Ohio, Blake Bolden found her way to Massachusetts where she continued to play at Boston College. In her college career she made three Frozen Four appearances and earned Hockey East Defensive Player of the Year and All-American honors. After graduating, she was the first Black player drafted in the first round of the CWHL and won the Clarkson Cup that same season. She then joined the Boston Pride of the NWHL, becoming the first ever Black player to play in the league and winning the Isobel Cup in 2016. In 2020, she was named a scout for the LA Kings, becoming the second ever female scout in the NHL behind Cami Granato.
As a track star at Rider University, Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian’s college coach encouraged her to try bobsled. In 2007, she became a bobsled pilot and her career took off. Her appearances at World Championships and World Cups are countless from 2008 to 2015, garnering numerous medals along the way. After competing for the US in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games, Fenlator-Victorian decided to represent Jamaica in 2015. With her help, Jamaica sent their first ever all-women’s bobsled team to the 2018 Olympics.