Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn (née Kildow), who retired from competitive skiing, aged 34, after winning a bronze medal in the ladies’ downhill at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Åre, Sweden in February, 2019, is the most decorated American skier in history. Before her retirement, she had written on Facebook, ‘My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of.’ Certainly, her story is one of perseverance, as she came back from multiple injuries, including broken bones and torn ligaments, time and time again in an extraordinary career.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota on October 18, 1984, she was just turned 16 when she made her World Cup debut, in slalom, at the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah on November 18, 2000. Two years later, still only 17, Vonn made the US team for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, finishing sixth in the women’s combined event. She raced at three more Winter Olympic Games, in Turin in 2006, Vancouver in 2010 and Pyeongchang in 2018, only missing out in Sochi in 2014 after reinjuring her reconstructed right knee the previous winter. She won her only Olympic gold medal in the downhill in Vancouver, but also a bronze medal in the super giant slalom that year and another in the downhill in Pyeongchang.

Vonn also has eight FIS Alpine World Ski Championships gold medals to her name, including gold medals in downhill and super-G at Val-d’Isère in 2009. However, her main claim to fame is her World Cup record; she remains one of only two women to win four World Cup overall titles (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012) and, with 82 World Cup victories to her name, is second only to the legendary Swede Ingemark Stenmark in the all-time list.

Vivianne Miedema

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year Anna ‘Vivianne’ Miedema has the distinction of being the leading goalscorer in the history of the Football Association Women’s Super League (FA WSL) and the Netherlands national team, male or female. Miedema, 25, joined her current club, Arsenal Women, from Bayern München Frauen in 2017 and has since scored 117 goals in 144 appearances. Internationally, she has scored 92 goals in 108 appearances.

Born in Hoogeveen, in the northeastern Netherlands, on July 15, 1996, Miedema was still only 14 when she signed her first professional contract with SC Heerenveen Vrouwen. She made her senior debut on September 2, 2011, aged 15 years, 1 month and 19 days, thereby becoming the youngest player ever to play in the Vrouwen Eredivisie.

Most recently, Miedema captained the Netherlands in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, eventually losing 2-0 to defending champions the United States in the final. She also played a leading role in the Arsenal side that won the FA WSL in 2018/19 and, before that, won the UEFA European Women’s Championship with the Netherlands in 2017 and the Frauen-Bundesliga twice with Bayern München Frauen, in 2015 and 2016.

Miedema was out of contract and, hence, able to leave Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer of 2022. However, she eventually signed a new contract with the North London club, citing the arrival of head coach Jonas Eidevall in June, 2021, the increased freedom she has as a playmaker, rather than an out-and-out goalscorer, and the strength of the Women’s Super League as the principal reasons. She did also mention that she will be the highest paid women’s footballer in the country.

Allyson Felix

Announcing her prospective retirement at the end of the 2022 season, legendary sprinter Allyson Felix said, ‘This season isn’t about the time on the clock, it’s simply about joy.’ Born on November 18, 1985, in Los Angeles, California, Felix has the distinction of being the most decorated American track and field athlete in the history of the Olympic Games and the most decorated track and field athlete, of any nationality, in the history of the World Athletics Championships.

Felix competed in five consecutive Olympic Games between 2004 and 2020, winning a total of 11 medals, including seven gold medals. The majority of her gold medals came in relay events, four in the 4×400-metre relay, in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020, and two in the 4×100-metre relay, in 2012 and 2016. Indeed, at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, alongside compatriots Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter, Felix helped to set a new world record of 40.82 seconds for the 4×100-metre relay, beating the previous mark set by East Germany in 1985. Individually, she won gold in the 200 metres in 2012, silver in the 200 metres in 2004 and 2008, silver in the 400 metres in 2016 and bronze in the 400 metres in 2020.

At the World Athletics Championships, Felix was just 19 years old when she claimed her first 200-metre workd title at Helsinki Olympic Stadium in August, 2005, but proved that performance was no fluke by retaining her title in both 2007 and 2009. She also won bronze over 200 metres in 2011. Over 400 metres, she won silver in 2011, gold in 2015 and bronze in 2017. In addition to seven individual medals, Felix also won 11 in relay events for a total of 18.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams, 40, may not have played in a professional tennis match since Wimbledon in June, 2021, when she retired after injuring an ankle in the first set of her opening match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich but, even so, requires little introduction. She is, in fact, the most successful singles player, of either sex, in the Open Era, with 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name. All told, she has won the Australian Open seven times, Wimbledon seven times, the US Open six times and the French Open three times. Williams has also topped the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles rankings for 319 weeks, a total exceeded only by Steffi Graf (377 weeks) and Martina Navratilova (332 weeks).

In April, 2022, Williams revealed plans to return to competitive tennis at Wimbledon in June, 2022. However, she did so just hours after Patrick Mouratoglou, who had been her coach since 2012, announced that he would be working full-time with Romanian Simona Halep. Williams has also stressed that equalling, or breaking, the all-time Grand Slam record set by Margaret Court, from which she is just one single title away, is no longer a priority. Having won a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, to complete what has become known as a ‘Career Golden Slam’ in singles, she has little or nothing to prove, so rumours of her retirement inevitably continue to circulate.

Whatever the future holds, no-one can deny the impact that Williams, and her elder sister, Venus, have had on women’s professional tennis since they first arrived on the scene in the Nineties. Serena Williams was only 14 when she turned professional in 1995. She won her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open in 1999 and, between June, 2002 and January, 2003 completed the so-called ‘Serena Slam’, winning all four Grand Slam singles titles, at the expense of Venus Williams on all four occasions.

1 4 5 6 7 8