The Hottest Female Athletes!
These 14 Female Olympians Are Your New Heroes
The Summer Olympics are set to begin August 5 in Rio de Janeiro, which means soon everyone will be talking about elite athletes from across the globe. Here are some of the women competing in the Games who you should have on your radar now:
Simone Biles, gymnastics, USA
The depth of the U.S. women's gymnastics team is the most staggering in a generation, with Biles leading the pack with more hardware on her shelf than a Home Depot, including 10 world championship gold medals. In a lengthy profile,The New Yorkerrecently called her athleticism "mind-blowing," and Biles has already carved out, at age 19, her place in record books as the first African-American to be all-around world champion and the first woman to win three consecutive world all-around titles.
Jessica Ennis-Hill, heptathlon, Great Britain
There were few athletes at the London 2012 Olympics who received as much local love as heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill. The defending gold medalist in the event, Ennis has also been among the athletes most vocal about Zika-related concerns in Brazil, an outspokenness that has endeared her to millions in Europe and worldwide through her robust social media presence.
The daughter of a social worker from Derbyshire and a Jamaican painter, Ennis-Hill is already credited with bringing attention to one of track and field's most punishing, yet overlooked, events. This will be her first Olympics since becoming a mother in July 2014.
The Japanese Women's Team, volleyball
The already seismic pressure to win is extra high for Japanese athletes, who will host the next summer Games in Tokyo in 2020. But that's good news for the Japanese women's volleyball team, who are currently ranked fifth in the world and have a strong shot at making the podium.
When the team won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Games, it ended a three-decade drought and fueled a new era of excitement about the sport back home, against a particularly heartbreaking backdrop of loss to natural disasters.
Heading into Rio, coach Masayoshi Manabe and captain Saori Kimura are leading a team filled with Olympic and world championship veterans, including Erika Araki, Yukiko Ebata, and Saori Sakoda.
Ana Marcela Cunha, swimming, Brazil
Widely considered one of the best open-water swimmers in the world, Cunha is one of Brazil's best bets for winning a medal in front of her home crowd in the women's marathon events. Cunha became one of the first athletes to qualify for Rio at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, where she won her country's first-ever gold in the 25-kilometer race.
A fixture on the World Championship podium, Cunha last year was named the athlete of the year by Brazil's Olympic Committee, and she is a member of Brazil's navy.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 100 meters, Jamaica
The Jamaican and American sprinters have a long-standing rivalry (and respective trail of doping scandals), but in her astonishing career, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has managed to stay relatively above the fray. The anchor for the Jamaican women's 4x100-meter relay team, Pryce is also vying for her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash. She shares her dominance in the event with her countryman Usain Bolt.
Fraser-Pryce's success has largely come under Bolt's shadow, but is no less astounding: A rise from Jamaica's ghettos to the Olympic stage and the prospect of a three-peat achievement for a sprinter at 29 is nothing short of remarkable.
Olufunke Oshonaike, table tennis, Nigeria
Oshonaike started playing table tennis on the streets of Lagos as a child and by 36 was representing her country at the 2012 London Games. Having secured her place to Rio by finishing in the top four at the 2015 All-Africa Games, she is part of a larger contingent that her country is sending to compete in the sport that Asia has long dominated.
Now 40, Oshonaike trains in Germany and maintains a robust Facebook presence that connects her to fans back home as she travels the international circuit, opening up about everything from the loneliness of being away from home and the travails of her sport to religion. Since entering the Games in 1952, Nigeria has won 23 medals, but none yet in table tennis.
Adeline Gray, wrestling, USA
The U.S. has never won an Olympic gold medal in women's wrestling, and Adeline Gray is a likely bet to ensure that changes. Gray is a three-time world champion who was at the wrong end of the changes to weight classifications for London 2012 and just missed being able to compete. Then, as she was waging her war for a berth to Rio, wrestling was eliminated from the Olympics and raised from the dead only by grassroots support.
A native of Colorado, Gray has competed against boys from a young age to ascend the rankings. She's a trailblazer in the sport, particularly in the United States, where women's wrestling participation numbers remain anemic. And like MMA star Ronda Rousey, who won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Beijing Games, a trip to an Olympic podium could be the start of Gray's career rather than its zenith.
Bridgitte Hartley, canoeing, South Africa
When most people think of South Africa and sports, canoeing is likelynotthe first thing that comes to mind for the soccer-crazy country. And for Johannesburg-born Hartley, Olympic spring canoeing wasn't a direct connection, either—she started as a surfer, competing in top junior events.
While studying at the University of Pretoria, Hartley was introduced to kayaking and eventually transitioned to canoeing and competed in the K2 500 meters at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, making it to the semifinals with teammate Michele Eray and later a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012 in the K1 women's 500 meters.
Deepika Kumari, archery, India
Although India is a nation with a staggering 600 million women, its female population has struggled in sports participation numbers and in the overall Olympic medal standings. However, Deepika Kumari, an archer from Ranchi, currently sits in fifth place in world standings and has held the number-one spot before. Should Kumari leave Rio with a medal, she's likely to be greeted by one-sixth of the world's population like a superstar.
Laurie Hernandez, gymnastics, USA
Hernandez is just 16, but she comes to the U.S. gymnastics team as the 2015 junior national champion—she won virtually every competition. At the Rio games, she's a medal threat on the balance beam, where she'll undoubtedly contribute to the overall team score in that event as well as the uneven bars.
Hernandez is also one of only a handful of Latinas to compete for the U.S. gymnastics team, which she commented on during the recent Olympic trials. "I see it as such an honor to just, you know, in some sort of way to represent Puerto Rico and Hispanics and all the girls out there," she said.
Amy Cragg, marathon, USA
In February, Cragg won the U.S. women's marathon trials in Los Angeles with a time of 2 hours 28 minutes 20 seconds, in sweltering 75-degree heat—the hottest American marathon trials on record.
While more American women than ever have been lacing up and entering endurance events as participants, they've struggled to get to the Olympic podium, a drought that has stood since Deena Kastor won bronze at the 2004 Athens Games. Cragg competed in the London Games in the 10,000 meters, finishing 11th with a time of 31 minutes 10 seconds.
Another juicy reason to tune in for the marathon: Among Cragg's competitors in London will be fellow American and training partner Shalane Flanagan.
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, sailing, New Zealand
Sailing is to Kiwis what soccer is to Brazil, which is to say it's a passion. Known as "Team Jolly," Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie have been sailing together since at least 2006, a season that ended with them winning the 420 World Championships. From there, they've been the team to beat, and they snagged the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Like many Kiwi Olympians, Aleh and Powrie both grew up in sailing households, and Aleh was studying mechanical engineering at the University of Auckland before sailing got in the way of her studies. In Rio, they will be in the women's 470 (women's double-handed dinghy).
Phupu Lamu Khatri, judo, Nepal
Little known outside her country's borders, Khatri has become a celebrity in Nepal, and she's the country's best shot at securing its first Olympic gold or silver medal. Khatri became a national hero when she won a gold medal at the 12th South Asian Games earlier this year, the first Nepalese woman to do so. In an emotional moment, she dedicated her medal to her father, who had died in an avalanche on Mount Everest two years prior.
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