Women athletes deal with obstacles most fans don’t even think of. Childbirth, indoctrinated beauty standards, and family issues are just several things often prevalent in a woman athlete’s life.
In the world of professional athletes, the focus is often on men. This is just simply the case, beyond the top-tier of women athletes.
While it is often true that many men have the upper hand in popularity, there is no denying that female athletes offer amazing moments and highlights year after year.
These highlights, unfortunately, tend to get buried under other sports moments, and simply do not get the respect they deserve. But in these three instances, women athletes overcame obstacles to light the sports world on fire.
A shining moment of women athletes overcoming obstacles: Serena Williams wins the 2007 Australian Open
When you think of Serena Williams what comes to mind? Success? Passion? Excitement? Dedication? All of those are right, but from 2005 to 2006 we were introduced to a different Serena.
The early 2000s were tough years for Williams. She lost her oldest sister and tennis assistant to gang-related violence, and was lost in the dark shadow of depression. Her successes quickly turned into failure after failure, dropping all the way to No. 140 in the world tennis rankings according to ESPN.
She lost the dedication to the sport she had so much passion for. It seemed that the tennis world had lost one of the greatest.
However, a letter from Chris Evert, a former world #1 player, asking her to recommit to tennis, and a few charity trips to Africa seemed to light a fire in Serena.
In 2007 she worked hard to get into shape for the Australian Open, and boy did she shock the world. Ranking 81st worldwide and unseeded in the Open, Serena made it all the way to finals and faced Maria Sharapova, another legend in the tennis world.
And guess what she did? She won and didn’t stop there. She won doubles with her sister Venus at the 2008 Bejing Olympics. And then went onto win her 3rd US Open title a few weeks later.
We see Serena as the GOAT, most of us. But we have to remember the extreme obstacles she had to overcome, like women athletes everywhere, to reach the top of the mountain.
US Women’s national soccer team wins the World Cup in 2019
The US women’s soccer team had previously won 3 World Cups: 1991, 1999, and 2015. Obviously winning a World Cup is a great accomplishment. But this is not the focus of how this Womens’ soccer team shocked the world in 2019.
In 2019, the USWNT faced some light competition which culminated in their World Cup win. However, the biggest competition came from leadership in America. Megan Rapinoe began to take on a bigger name than just a soccer player, she became the centerpiece of a movement.
Rapinoe, an LGBTQ woman, made her voice heard in response to the discrimination she and her other teammates faced in America. She also voiced her displeasure with leadership in the White House, saying that she would not visit the White House with Donald Trump in charge.
This was the first of a sequence of spats between her and President Trump.
Her biggest calling card, which became the focus of the USWNT, was the movement for equal pay between men and women. Most readers know of the astounding wage gap, between men and women, that exists in America, which definitely applies to USWNT.
In a time where political unrest was prominent in America, Rapinoe and her soccer team’s counterpart road the wave of changes happening in America.
Ultimately no real change was made as a result of Rapinoe and her counterparts, but the 2019 US Womens’ Soccer Team helped the equal pay movement take a huge step forward.
Naomi Osaka beats Serena Williams (2018)
Back in 2018, Naomi Osaka, the now 23-year-old superstar, rose to the headlines of the tennis world after beating Serena Williams in a pretty contentious match.
The battle between Williams and the line judge was the big storyline, but for the purpose of this article, the bigger storyline was the 21-year-old beating the all-time great.
Beating out Serena Williams is a feat in and of itself, but in 2018 Serena Williams was trying to win her 24th Grand Slam Title, and her first title since becoming a mother, two storylines that had everyone rooting against the youngster.
At the end of the match, when Osaka was crowned champion, fans booed, it was no slight at Osaka, but instead a nod to how much they were rooting for Serena.
Naomi Osaka was essentially against the world in this one, and came out on top, winning a US Open at the age of 21. Now that is something that will always shock the world.
Women athletes overcome obstacles most men wouldn’t ever know about
Gender is a societal construct. Women and men are placed into boxes by societal standards.
This is commonplace in sports also. Women are expected to behave in a lady-like manner. Men are expected to not cry.
But ultimately, women athletes are also dealing with a plethora of obstacles they need to overcome. Obstacles most of us fans do not even know about until afterwards.
These women consistently inspire us, and we can do them a service by remembering all that they have to overcome.