There's something incredibly awe-inspiring about watching the Olympics. Every summer, ever since I was a little girl, I have found myself captivated by the athletes that, to me, have always epitomised positivity, passion and an unrelenting drive to take meaningful strides towards being the best version of themselves. Self-love and self-discipline in its concentrated forms. Growing up in a society that reprimands its boys for "running like a girl", most impressive of all are the female Olympians that have played a part in shattering the stereotype of girls as perpetually weak. Not only have these Olympians pushed through physical barriers to become world-class athletes - but they've broken social boundaries and enacted social change along the way.
We have every reason to be excited about the future of female athletes in sport. Indeed, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will see a major boost in female participation. Though before we warm up for the games to come, we thought we'd take a stroll through memory lane and have carefully compiled a list of 5 extraordinary women, that we believe to be the most inspirational female athletes of all time. Scroll on, and be inspired and maybe, even, propelled into action.
1. Peggy Fleming
Maintaining and growing in her own individual style, Peggy Fleming was a leader in the skating world - praised for shaping the modern era of figure skating, which 'combined elegance and atheticism'. Fleming was sure to challenge notions of Ice Skating as being all glitter, requiring no grit. A testament, perhaps, to her mental resilience, following the tragic plane crash in 1961 wherein the whole of the U.S figure skating team, as well as Fleming's coach, died, she went on to take home America's only gold medal from the Olympics that year. Talk about girl power.
2. Margaret Abbot
At the early age of 23, Margaret Abbott made her way into the history books in becoming the first American woman to win an Olympic event. The funny thing is, she never knew it. Being one of the first ever Olympic games held, in 1900, it was relatively informal and poorly organized, and Abbott herself didn't know that it was an Olympic event - thinking it was simply a regular tournament. Abbott died in 1955 and never got to celebrate the scale of her achievement, an achievement that secured its place in Olympic records. It was rather her children who found out their mothers' incredible accomplishment when a college professor reached out to her family. What a wonderful role model to have.
3. Simone Biles
The most decorated American artistic gymnast, at the age of just 20, Biles is the three-time world all-round champion (2013-15), the three-time world floor champion (2014, 2015), the two-time world balance beam champion (2014, 2015), four-time United States national all-round champion (2013-16), and is a member of the gold-medal-winning U.S teams at the 2014 and 2010 World Artistic Gymnastic Championships.
Unlike so many stars whose talents have been nurtured and supported by positive, ambitious parents, Simone had dim prospects in her early days. She never knew her father and barely knew her mother who was recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. She explained her situation in an interview of life before being taken under her grandparents' wings: "I never had mom to run to. I do remember always being hungry and afraid. At 3 years old, I was placed in foster care." Simone's astounding success gives hope that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and that love (the support she received from her grand-parents) conquers all set-backs, something she talks about in her book, Courage to Soar.
4. Dara Torres
In spite of already having secured a prosperous and lengthy swimming career, Torres briefly let go of her retirement to emerge strong as ever in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Defying any public thought that, at 41, the oldest Olympic swimmer in history, she may have passed her peak - Torres won three silver medals, bringing her official count to 12. She succeeded in showing even the best of the nimble 20 year-olds, that age, truly, is just a number.
Hoping to excel in a sport? Perhaps you were known as the swimming champion at school and find yourself daydreaming at your day job or in your lectures about perfecting that butterfly. Find out what it takes to become the best Athlete you can be. The only one stopping you from becoming great, is you.