Some, like tennis stars Ana Ivanović and Maria Sharapova, enjoy global recognition for their sporting prowess and their looks. However, there are numerous female stars competing in other sports who are equally talented and glamorous.
Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova’s name is ever-present in any conversation about the world’s most beautiful sportswomen.
In addition to her model looks, the 23-year-old former world No 1 boasts three grand slam singles titles and is the world’s highest-paid female athlete. In August 2010, Forbes magazine estimated her annual earnings to be a staggering $24.5 million.
Attaining success in the male-dominated world of Indy Car racing has made Danica Patrick one of America’s most celebrated sportswomen.
But Danica hasn’t limited herself to the adrenaline buzz of wheel-to-wheel racing. The 28-year-old racer has hosted US TV shows, modelled for FHM and Sports Illustrated and made a cameo in the video for Jay-Z’s Show me what you got.
It’s not just slick passing and clinical finishing that makes Dutch football so appealing. 25-year-old Utrecht midfielder Anouk Hoogendijk has represented the Netherlands national women’s football team on 50 occasions since making her debut in 2004. She was also named best Dutch female athlete in 2008.
Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is the first American to win back-to-back overall World Cup Championships.
In 2010, she was hailed as the darling of the US Winter Olympic team as she battled through injury to compete in five different Olympic events. She struck gold in the downhill, the blue riband event of the Games.
Sheffield-born track-and-field star Jessica Ennis is the darling of British athletics and the current World and European Heptathlon champion.
Universally respected by the public and her peers, she finished third in the 2009 and 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards and has been named Sportswoman of the Year by the Sports Journalists Association for the past two years.
20-year-old Dane Caroline Wozniacki is currently ranked as the world’s best female tennis player. Although she has yet to win a grand slam event (she finished runner-up in the 2009 US Open), Wozniacki has 12 WTA titles to her name.
Sporting success runs in her family. Her father was a professional footballer while her mother represented her native Poland at volleyball.
Somewhat overshadowed by her compatriot Lindsey Vonn at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, alpine skier Julia Mancuso boasts a medal haul that means she doesn’t have to take a backseat to anybody.
Already a gold medalist in the giant slalom at the 2006 Winter Games, Mancuso scooped two silver medals in Vancouver.
With eight world championships and an Olympic gold medal to her name, sprint cyclist Victoria Pendleton must be considered one of Britain’s greatest sporting stars.
The 30-year-old is a former Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year and was awarded an MBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours list.
US swimmer Amanda Beard was once the world’s fastest female breaststroker over 200 metres.
The multi medal-winning Olympian also managed to stir up plenty of controversy away from the pool. She has previously posed nude for Playboy magazine and participated in an anti-fur campaign for animal rights advocates PETA wearing nothing but her birthday suit.
Jennie Finch starred as the pitcher for the US softball team in a successful run to Olympic gold at the 2004 Athens Games. She also represented her country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and came away with a silver medal for her efforts.
In 2008, Finch starred in US TV show The Celebrity Apprentice, lasting four weeks before being fired by Donald Trump.
Amy Williams ended Britain’s 30-year wait for an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics when she triumphed in the skeleton event at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Her Olympic success saw her appointed an MBE in the Queen’s 2010 birthday honours list and made an honorary freeman of the city of Bath (her hometown).
There’s no shortage of beauty in the upper echelons of women’s tennis so it takes something special to stand out from the crowd.
A combination of on-court talent (she won the French Open in 2008 and is a former world No 1) and sultry, captivating looks means Ana Ivanović does just that.
29-year-old Hope Solo is the goalkeeper of the United States national women’s football team.
Her crucial woman-of-the-match performance in the 2008 Olympic final enabled the US to secure a memorable 1-0 extra time victory over Brazil.
The prodigiously talented Serena Williams has amassed whopping career earnings of almost $33 million since turning professional in 1995, the most prize money ever amassed by any woman in any sport.
Her interest in fashion and penchant for the occasional outrageous outfit means she garners just as much attention off the court as she does on it.
It should come as no surprise that 28-year-old American golfer Natalie Gulbis is considered a sex symbol of her sport.
Despite enjoying relatively little success on the course (she’s won three titles in her eight-year career), Natalie rakes in the endorsement dollars year after year. In 2004, she released a calendar that featured her in numerous bikini shots. The USGA deemed it inappropriate and banned it from being sold at their events.
The statuesque Swin Cash is one of the most decorated women’s basketball players in America. She played college ball for the all-conquering University of Connecticut and has starred for the Detroit Shock and Seattle Storm in the WNBA since 2002. She was also part of the US women’s Olympic gold medal-winning team in 2004.
Karina Petroni is a professional female surfer and model who has enjoyed plenty of success in both fields.
She has been a competetive surfer since the age of nine and has the honour of being the first person to win the Eastern, US and national championship titles in the same year.
Her success brought her endorsements for watches, clothes, shoes, swimwear, skin products and cars. She has been styled in couture by fashion giant Versace, and has collaborated with New York fashion designer Rachel Roy.
Women’s tennis feels like it is awash with glamourous Russian stars. 24-year-old Maria Kirilenko is just that. In 2009, she featured alongside fellow players Daniela Hantuchová and Tatiana Golovin is the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition in a pictoral entitled Volley of the Dolls.
There’s a chance that NBA benchwarmer Shelden Williams might not even be the best basketball player in his own house. That’s because he’s married to WNBA sensation Candace Parker.
How good is Candace? In her debut season, she was named the league’s most valuable player as well as rookie of the year. The same year, her stellar play helped the US women’s team to a gold medal at the Olympics.
Despite a lack of suitable training options in her homeland, British skier Chemmy Alcott is ranked as the world’s eighth best competitor in skiing’s Supercombined event.
She’s also finished just outside the top 10 twice in the Winter Olympics, placing 11th in the Supercombined event in 2010 and 11th in the Downhill in 2006.
At the 2008 Beijing Games, Natalie Coughlin became the first American female athlete in modern history to win six medals in one Olympics. Away from the pool, the 28-year-old Californian has also starred in US reality show Dancing with the Stars.
The world of figure skating boasts its share fair of glamourous women but there’s not too many skaters who outshine Tanith Belbin.
Although she was born in Canada, Belbin has competed for the US since her debut in 1998. The high point of her career to date came at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin where she and partner Benjamin Agosto claimed the silver medal.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the world of professional pool is the sole preserve of grizzled barflys and craggy hustlers.
Brooklyn-born Jeanette Lee brings a much-needed touch of glamour to the sport. But beware, Lee’s competitive instincts have earned her the nickname ‘The Black Widow’, a reference to her ability to eat an opponent alive when she comes to the table.
Athletics afficianados might baulk at the thought we’ve included a javelin thrower in our list of sporting beauties. But Paraguayan chucker Leryn Franco is certainly worthy of her place.
She’s also the only woman on our list who combines atheltic endeavours with a career as a beauty pagaent contestant. It should come as no surprise she has a third job as a professional model.
Few competitors can match the glittering career of figure skater Michelle Kwan. A five-time world champion and two-time Olympics medalist, Kwan became once of the most celebrated female athletes in the US and her popularity endured long after she shunned international competition in favour of completing her academic studies.
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