The Revel mission is to empower women everywhere to have an active lifestyle so they can achieve their personal health goals, whatever those may be. As women—and as athletes who happen to be women—we are forever inspired by female athletes who have pushed the boundaries of their chosen sports and blazed a path for the rest of us to follow. Here are 10 such women whose athletic exploits and the strength and grace with which they achieved them have earned them a unique place in sport and culture and made them emblematic of the Revel brand.
1. Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland may have come late to the party, but she gave the world a reason to celebrate. Copeland began dancing at the advanced age of 13 and immediately shattered both expectations and stereotypes. She was dancing en pointe within three months and professionally in just over a year. In 2015, she became the first African American female principal dancer in the 75-year history of the American Ballet Theater. Copeland’s muscular, powerful frame has redefined what a ballerina can look like. She has said that dancing gave her a voice without having to speak. That voice has become a source of empowerment and inspiration for a generation of young people of color.
2. Kathrine Switzer
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer paid her $3 registration fee and signed up for the Boston Marathon as “K.V. Switzer.” On a cold and snowy day, she became the first woman to run the race officially, despite an attempt by a race official to physically remove her; he was thrown to the ground by Switzer’s boyfriend. She went on to win the 1974 New York City marathon and register a personal best of 2:51:37 in Boston in 1975. Throughout the 1970s, Switzer led the charge for the inclusion of the women’s marathon in the Olympic Games, a goal that was achieved in 1984 in Los Angeles. In 2017, on the 50th anniversary of her historic run, she ran the Boston Marathon again, this time along with 13,700 other women.
“When I go to the Boston Marathon now, I have wet shoulders—women fall into my arms crying,” Switzer said in 2013. “They’re weeping for joy because running has changed their lives.”
All because Switzer changed running.
3. Katie Sandwina
Katie Brumbach and her 13 brothers and sisters performed feats of strength in the circus in their native Austria at the turn of the 20th century, alongside their parents Phillipe and Johanna. Phillipe famously offered 100 marks to any man who could best his strongest daughter, Katie, in wrestling. Legend has it no man ever did. In a promotional stunt in New York City, Brumbach defeated Eugen Sandow, the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding,” by lifting 300 pounds over her head after Sandow got it only to his chest. Shortly after that, Brumbach took the name “Sandwina,” a female derivative of Sandow. Sandwina performed with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus into her 60s and was known throughout her career as “Europe’s Queen of Strength and Beauty,” the “World’s Strongest Woman,” and “Lady Hercules.”
4. Cory Everson
As a sixth grader, Cory Everson was beaten up by the boys after she bested them all in the 50-yard dash. At the University of Wisconsin, she was a gymnast and Big 10 heptathlon and pentathlon champion. Later, she became the most recognizable face in bodybuilding behind Arnold Schwarzenegger. She never lost a competition on the amateur or professional stage, and took home the Ms. Olympia title six years in a row, from 1984-1989. Everson flaunted her perfect physique on countless muscle magazine covers, as the original host of the fitness show “BodyShaping,” and on “Gotta Sweat” on ESPN. She showed the world that it was both possible and acceptable for women to lift weights and build serious muscle.
5. Jen Thompson
In May 2019, 45-year-old Jen Thompson won her 11th International Powerlifting Federation Open Classic title, adding to her already legendary status in that sport. A science teacher by day, Thompson, known for her amazing raw bench-press strength, currently holds five IPF world records in the 63- and 72-kilogram weight classes, two in the bench press single-lift category. This trailblazer of women’s strength owns a world-record 144-kilogram (317.5-pound) bench press, a 202.5-kilogram (446-pound) deadlift, and a 147.5-kilogram (325-pound) squat for a world-record total of 486 kilograms (1,071 pounds). Thompson began powerlifting in 1999 with the goal of showing the world that you don’t have to look like a man to lift like one. Now, it’s just a matter of how much she will lift next.
6. Jolie Gentry Macias
Back in 2007, when CrossFit was still a baby and the first CrossFit Games was just a tiny affair at The Ranch in Aromas, California, Jolie Gentry Macias was already a badass. She crushed the three events—a hopper-style WOD with a 1,000-meter row followed by pull-ups and push jerks, a 5K trail run, and a CrossFit total—consisting of a combined squat, push press, and deadlift max—and took home the inaugural title, blazing a trail for women in a sport that has revolutionized the fitness world. Macias, now 41 and a lieutenant in the Newark, California, police department, was introduced to CrossFit by friends she met at SWAT school. She went on to compete in the 2008 and 2009 CrossFit Games and later at the 2012 and 2013 American Open of weightlifting. In 2019, following in Macias’ footsteps, more than 150,000 women participated in the CrossFit Open.
7. Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey kicked off her athletic career by becoming the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo, taking bronze in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. She retired from judo at 21 years old, deciding instead to focus on mixed martial arts. In November 2012, Rousey became the first woman signed by the UFC. Known for an explosive and dominant fighting style characterized by first-round knockouts and a trademark armbar submission hold, Rousey logged a 12-2-0 record and a 2-1/2-year undefeated streak in her four years with the UFC.
She singlehandedly brought women’s mixed martial arts into the American mainstream and later gave girls everywhere a positive body-image role model when she openly discussed why she purposely gained 15 pounds to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. In 2018, Rousey became the first female fighter inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
8. Gal Gadot
America knows Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, but before leading the charge for strong, empowered leading ladies on the big screen, Gadot honed her strength and physicality with two years of service in the Israel Defense Forces. Born in Petah Tikva, Israel, the 34-year-old was a combat trainer, teaching gymnastics and calisthenics to fellow soldiers. In preparation for “Wonder Woman,” Gadot worked out six hours per day—two hours in the gym, two hours of fight choreography and sword play, and two hours of horseback riding. She says she gained 17 pounds of muscle for the role that ultimately gave American comic book fans—and little girls the world over—what they had long been waiting for: a strong, intelligent female superhero at the center of her own movie.
9. Serena Williams
Over an incredible two decades of dominance, Serena Williams has collected 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, and two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles with a serve, forehand, and two-handed backhand that are among the most powerful shots in the history of women’s tennis. She was first ranked No. 1 in the world in July 2002 at the age of 20. Since then, she has held No. 1 for a total of 319 weeks, including 186 consecutive weeks from February 2013 to September 2016. Williams redefined what is both possible and acceptable for female athletes by winning the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant without dropping a single set. In 2019, at age 37, she has regained her Top 10 status. Regarded by many as the greatest female tennis player of all time and widely revered as a cultural icon, Williams has spoken out about positive body image and racial equality and has welcomed the responsibility of being a role model to millions.
10. Indra Devi
Russian-born yoga teacher Indra Devi, known as the “Mother of Western Yoga,” introduced the foundational tenets of yoga to the west. She trained alongside future masters B.K.S. Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois in India in the 1930s, when the yoga world was dominated by men. She opened a yoga school in Shanghai, then returned to India and became the first westerner to teach yoga there. In the 1950s, she had a studio in Hollywood, California, where she taught actors Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo, along with makeup maven Elizabeth Arden, which helped bring yoga to the American mainstream. Two of Devi’s books, “Forever Young, Forever Healthy” and “Renew Your Life Through Yoga,” were translated into 10 languages and sold in 29 countries. Devi, who spoke five languages herself, spent her long life traveling, teaching, and laying the framework for today’s yoga culture. She died in 2002 in Buenos Aires, at the age of 102.