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Female athletes who competed against men

  • Women have been more than capable of holding their own against male counterparts in sports
  • Jackie Mitchell, Kelly Kulick among female stars dominating the male competition
Danica Patrick

History has shown that women are fully capable of beating their male counterparts in sports.

We have been reporting about Danica Patrick's recent breakthrough when she clinched the pole position in the Daytona 500, a first for a woman. She would later be the first woman to lead a lap at Daytona and finished the race in eighth place.

But there have been other occasions when women not only competed with men, but also beat them.


Billie Jean King was 26 years old when she was challenged to a match by retired tennis pro Bobby Riggs. There was much more at stake than just winning a game. Riggs was a self-proclaimed "male chauvinist pig," who said a woman's place is "in bed and kitchen, and in that order."

The match became known as "The Battle of the Sexes." Some 50 million people are believed to have watched on TV when King took on Riggs in Houston in 1973. King ended up trouncing him 3-0 in straight sets.

King's victory was later hailed as a breakthrough for women's equality in sports. 


Pam Reed was the first woman to become the overall winner of the excruciating Badwater ultra-marathon, a grueling 130-mile race through the desert that some consider one of the world's toughest running event. Reed literally left every other competitor in the dust in 2002 and 2003.

Reed then raised the bar as she became the first person -- man or woman -- to run 300 miles without sleep. 


Lynn Hill was frustrated that women's competitive climbing routes were easier than men's. To prove she could climb as well as any guy, she became the first person to conquer the jaw-dropping Nose Route on the El Capitan in Yosemite.


Julie Krone snatched first place in the 1993 Belmont Stakes, becoming the first female jockey to take a Triple Crown title.


Kelly Kulick won a national tournament on the Professional Bowling Association tour. She took the top spot in 2010 Tournament of Champions, beating 62 of the top U.S. male bowlers in the process.


Jackie Tonawanda was not allowed to fight men because rules banned men-versus-women fights in the 1970s. Tonawanda, nicknamed "The Lady Ali," sued a New York athletic commission to win the right to fight one-on-one against guys.

After Tonawanda won her court battle in 1975, she knocked out a male opponent at Madison Square Garden in the second round. The opponent was a kickboxer, who also fought regular boxing matches.


Michaela Hutchison won the Alaska state high school wrestling championship in 2006, beating one male opponent after another along the way.  


Jackie Mitchell was a pitcher on the minor-league Chattanooga Lookouts when the team had an exhibition game against the formidable New York Yankees.  The Yanks' had two of the best players in baseball on their roster at the time, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, whose powerful game earned them the moniker "Murderer's Row".

The 17-year-old Mitchell struck them out one after the other. There were rumors that Ruth later vowed never to bat against a woman again.

Ironically, Mitchell never ended up playing in the major league despite her extraordinary talent. Not long after that game, women were declared unfit to play baseball in certain cases. The official reason: the game was too strenuous for them.

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