The month of March celebrates women’s history by observing some of the most influential women in sports.
First on the list is mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey, a women’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Champion, who had gone undefeated until Nov. 15, 2015 when she competed against Holly Holm.
Although her defeat sent ripples through the sporting world, it also presented her with a serious challenge that she hasn’t had since her early days of competitive judo.
Born on Feb. 1, 1987 in Riverside, California, Rousey suffered from complications at birth, having issues with her speech until she was six.
Furthermore, young Rousey struggled in class and was homeschooled for parts of elementary and high school, but she found an outlet for her frustration when her mother persuaded her to learn judo.
At age 16, she became the youngest American to earn the national No. 1 ranking in the women’s half-middleweight division. Now, Rousey has a $6.5 million salary that comes from endorsements such as Carl’s Jr. and her guest appearance in the hit movie, “Fast and Furious 7.”
Another recognizable female athlete is tennis icon, Serena Williams. Williams was born Sept. 26, 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan. She started playing tennis as early as three years old, and by the age of 10, she was not only competing in, but winning tournaments.
Williams won her first World Tennis Association tour singles victory in early 1999, at the Open Gaz de France in Paris. She went on to finish the 1999 season ranked in the top five tennis players in the world, before winning her first Olympic gold medal the following year.
Lisa Leslie is arguably the most recognized player in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
“Leslie made a very strong impact toward young women by being the first woman to make a dunk in women’s basketball,” said Women’s Head Basketball Coach and Student Support Services Activity Coordinator, Jaron Young.
Born July 7, 1972, in Gardena, California, Leslie has been playing basketball since middle school when she played on an all-boys team.
At 14, before Leslie had even started high school, she received more than 100 college recruiting letters, some from top Division 1 programs, including the University of Tennessee and Stanford University.
Aside from being an Olympic champion and three-time WNBA MVP, Leslie lead the charge for the Los Angeles Sparks who, with her help and skills, won the WNBA title for the first time in 2001.
“All athletic women are a positive influence on the young, aspiring women of the future,” said Administrative Assistant for Student Activities and Athletics, Dionne McElroy.
For more on women in sports, visit http://bit.ly/1DCl1BV to see a full timeline, with fun facts about each historical female athlete.