Rebecca Adlington

Born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire on February 17, 1989, Rebecca Adlington was introduced to swimming at an early age. In her early career, she won the gold medal in the girls’ 800-metres freestyle at the European Junior Championships in Lisbon, Portugal in July, 2004 and the silver medal in the women’s 800-metres freestyle at the European Championships in Hungary, Budapest in August, 2006, on her senior international debut.

However, it was at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China that Adlington would become a household name. Still only 19, and with little expectation, she nonetheless won gold medals in both the 400-metres freestyle and 800-metres freestyle. Indeed, in the final of the latter event, Adlington swam a time of 8:14.10, taking 2.12 seconds off the previous long course world record, set by American Janet Evans 19 years previously.

Adlington’s victory in the 400-metres freestyle made her the first British female swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal since Anita Lonsbrough won the 200-metres breaststroke at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Furthermore, she also became the first British swimmer, male or female, to win more than one gold medal at the same Games since Henry Taylor won three at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.

Adlington was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year Honours List for 2009. She went on to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, winning bronze medals in the 400-metres freestyle and 800-metres freestyle. At the time of her retirement from competitive swimming the following February, at the age of 23, Adlington was the most decorated and successful British female Olympic swimmer of all time.

Alex Morgan

Alexandra ‘Alex’ Morgan Carrasco (née Morgan) has the distinction of being one of the most prolific goalscorers in the history in the history of the the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT). At the last count, she had made 190 appearances for the Stars and Stripes, scoring 115 goals and delivering 45 assists. Morgan also co-captained the team, alongside Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, between 2018 and 2020.

Predominantly, but not exclusively, left footed, Morgan was only 20 when she made her debut for the USWNT in a 1-0 victory over Mexico in a friendly match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, Colorado on March 31, 2010. As the youngest member of the team, she earned the nickname ‘Baby Horse’, which reflected her youth, pace and direct style of play. Morgan remains a natural centre-forward but, down the years, has grown into versatile, well-rounded forward, who is equally at home on the wing as is in a more central position.

Morgan made her FIFA Women’s World Cup debut in 2011, scoring in a 3-1 victory over France in the semi-final and again in a 2-2 draw, after extra time, with Japan in the final. The USWNT eventually lost 3-1 on penalties on that occasion, but Morgan would play a leading role in winning the World Cup in both 2015 and 2019, receiving the Silver Boot on the latter occasion, after scoring six goals and delivering three assists. In between times, Morgan also won a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, scoring the winning goal in extra time in a 4-3 victory over Canada in the semi-final. Indeed, in 2012 as a whole, Morgan scored 28 goals in 31 matches, thereby becoming the youngest USWNT player to score 20 goals in a single season.

Victoria Pendleton

Most recently, Victoria Pendleton found fame as an amateur jockey, achieving her ambition of riding in the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2016. Indeed, she confounded her critics by partnering Pacha Du Polder, trained by Paul Nicholls, into a fast-finishing fifth, beaten 2¾ lengths. That feat she described as ‘probably the greatest achievement of my life’, which was praise indeed, considering that, in her earlier career as a professional track cyclist, Pendleton was a former Olympic, World and European champion.

At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Pendleton won the gold medal in the women’s sprint, setting a new Olympic record in the preliminary 200-metre time trial and beating Australian Anna Meares 2-0 in the gold medal match. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, she once again faced Meares in the gold medal match in the women’s sprint, but was relegated after winning the first race of the best-of-three series, lost the second and had to settle for a silver medal. However, by that stage, Pendleton had already won her second Olympic gold medal in the women’s keirin.

At the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Track Cycling World Championships, Pendleton won the first of her six gold medals in the women’s sprint in 2005 and repeated the feat in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. She also won gold medals in the team sprint, with Shanaze Reade, in both 2007 and 2008 and another in the women’s keirin in 2008. Not altogether surprisingly, Pendleton was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to cycling in 2009

and ‘promoted’ to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) four years later.

Florence Griffith Joyner

The late Florence Griffith Joyner, popularly known as ‘FloJo’, died at her home in Mission Viejo, California in September, 1998, aged just 38, having suffocated during a severe epileptic seizure. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Griffith Joyner first attracted worldwide attention when winning the silver medal in the women’s 200 metres at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, behind compatriot Valerie Brisco-Hooks. Instantly recognisable by her one-legged jumpsuits, long, bouncy hair and ornate, curved fingernails, she quickly became the darling of the media. However, lacking the financial support to concentrate exclusively on track and field, Griffith Joyner was forced to seek alternative employment.

It was not until 1987 that Griffith Joyner started training seriously again. In October that year she married triple jumper Al Joyner who, alongside her official coach, Bob Kersee, oversaw her preparation for the 1988 US Olympic Trials. Together, Joyner and Kersee incorporated more weight training into her routine, giving her a more muscular physique, and improved her starting technique.

The result was nothing short of miraculous. On July 16, 1988, at the US Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, Griffith Joyner ran the 100 metres in 10.49 seconds. In so doing, she not only improved her personal best by over half a second, but set a new world record, beating the previous mark, set by Evelyn Ashford four years earlier, by 0.27 seconds. That September, at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Griffith Joyner set a new world record, 21.56 seconds, in the semi-final of the women’s 200 metres and lowered her own mark, to 21.34 seconds, when winning the gold medal in the final. At the time of writing, both world records still stand.

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