6 Of The Most Incredible Olympic Moments For Women In Sport - Women's Health

6 Of The Most Incredible Olympic Moments For Women In Sport

As the world’s best athletes gear up for Tokyo 2020, we look back at the most inspiring moments for women on the international Olympic stage.

To peruse the history of the Olympic Games is to find no shortage of women who have changed the face of sport as we know it. Even on home soil, the likes of Cathy Freeman and Dawn Fraser made us believe that anything is possible. But while there might be a plethora of female Olympians to inspire the next generation, the path for equality at the Olympics was hard-fought. It wasn’t until the Paris Games in 1900 that women competed in the Olympics for the first time, with just 22 females out of the 997 athletes competing across five sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrianism and golf. We’ve since come along way and for the Aussie Olympic team set to test their mettle against the best in Tokyo, 254 of the 472-member athlete team are women – the greatest number of female athletes to ever compete for Australia.

As the next crop of Olympic hopefuls gear up for the long-anticipated Tokyo 2020 Games, we look back at some of the most incredible and iconic moments for women at the Olympic Games over the years, from the surprising victories to acts of camaraderie that highlight what sport is all about. Across a range of sporting disciplines and events, these women represent all there is to love about the Olympic Games: unwavering dedication, passion, and a willingness to push themselves beyond what they thought possible. Time and time again, the biggest event on the sporting calendar delivers in terms of iconic moments and inspiring athletes, instilling a belief in the next generation that anything is possible as long as you want it enough and work hard to achieve it.

Cathy Freeman

They may have been the Sydney Games, but the 2000 Olympics will forever be associated with Cathy Freeman. Along with lighting the cauldron in the Olympic stadium after the torch had been handled by six Australian women – who had between them won 15 gold medals – Freeman went on to defy all expectations and win the 400m final, becoming the athlete of the Games.


Simone Biles

While all eyes will be on her at Tokyo, Biles entered the history books at the 2016 Rio Olympics when the 20-year-old vaulted through every Olympic record in women’s gymnastics in at least the last 50 years. At her first Olympics, Biles swept up four gold medals and one bronze. She said, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”


Jane Saville

A lot of the time, sport really is a theatre of heartbreak and such was the case with Jane Saville’s Sydney 2000 Olympic Games campaign. Despite leading the field in the 20km road walk, she was tragically disqualified less than 300 metres from the finish line. Four years later though, in Athens, Saville faced her demons and walked her way to a bronze medal, becoming the first Aussie female race walker to win a medal.


Simone Manuel

At the 2016 Rio Games, swimmer Simone Manuel pushed herself to break barriers that continue to inspire today. Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold in swimming and set an Olympic and American record.


Fu Yuanhui

Sometimes it’s not the performance itself that proves inspiring, but how the athlete presents herself to the world. For Yuanhui, the transparency and openness she showed at the 2016 Rio Games was incredible. In a press conference following her team’s 4x100m medley relay race, she discussed the reality of getting your period as an athlete. “It’s because I just got my period yesterday, so I’m still a bit weak and really tired.”


Betty Cuthbert

Known simply as the Golden Girl of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, Cuthbert won three gold medals at just 18-years-old. She won the 100m, 200m and anchored the team that won the 4x100m relay, becoming the first Australian, male or female, to ever win three gold medals at a single Games. She even came back from retirement eight years later to tackle the 400m at the Tokyo Olympics where she collected her fourth gold medal.


By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

Recommended to you

More From