6 '90s Female Athletes You Were Totally Obsessed With, Because Women In Sports Make The Best Idols
There are a lot of exciting things happening right now in women's sports, from the creation of a new women's hockey league to America's championship FIFA World Cup team. But it's also a good time look back on the history of women in sports and the names that captivated us when we were young — in other words, let's take a moment to appreciate star female athletes of the 1990s. Because there's no reason our '90s nostalgia has to be confined to Britney Spears and Lip Smackers.
The 1990s were an exciting time for women's sports. This was the decade when the WNBA first launched, the U.S. women's teams won two World Cup titles, Monica Seles won nine Grand Slam championships, and of course, U.S. women brought home an impressive number of gold medals in numerous sports. Female athletes were busy kicking ass all over the place — even if they didn't get the kind of media attention they deserved. (And sadly, not much has changed there.)
However, there are more than enough names to look back on and appreciate. So while there were lots of women doing great things in the 1990s, here are six female athletes you knew and loved in the 1990s.
1. Mia Hamm
Mia Hamm was the female soccer star in the United States in the 1990s. She led the U.S. team to victory in the 1991 and 1999 World Cup finals and a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. Once the 2000s arrived and the National Women's Soccer League began, Hamm became one of the founding members of the Washington Freedom team. She held the record for most international goals scored by any player, male or female, until Abby Wambach broke it in 2013. Little girls everywhere looked up to her, especially those of us who were ferried to and from soccer games in minivans — Hamm's games seemed way more exciting.
Hamm retired as a player in 2004 and today is a co-owner of the future National Women's Soccer League team in Los Angeles. She is also the author of two books, and hosts an annual soccer match to raise money for her charity organization, the Mia Hamm Foundation, which she founded after her brother's death in 1999. The organization both promotes opportunities for women in sports and helps support families of patients in need of bone marrow transplants.
2. Venus and Serena Williams
The Williams sisters didn't start winning Grand Slam titles until the early 2000s, but both sisters were already making a splash as teenagers in the '90s. Both, of course, went on to revolutionize the sport, but even in their early days, they were exciting.
3. Nancy Kerrigan
There's nothing like a scandal to burn someone's name into your mind. In 1994, champion figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee in an attack planned by the ex-husband of her rival Tonya Harding. The injury made her unable to compete in the U.S. Championships, but it was agreed that she had still earned a spot on the US Olympic team. In spite of the injury, Kerrigan managed to recover and train in time for the 1994 Olympics, where she won the silver.
4. Sheryl Swoopes
When the WNBA first began in 1997, Sheryl Swoopes was one of the stars they first used to promote the league — and she did not disappoint. Swoopes continued playing in the league until 2012, and over the course of her professional career, she scored more than 2,000 points. She was also one of the first high profile athletes to publicly come out as gay, which she did in 2005.
5. Monica Seles
Monica Seles first rose to prominence in 1990 when she became the youngest winner of the French Open at the age of 16. She went on to win seven more Grand Slams before the age of 20 and was ranked as the number one female player in 1991 and 1992. She was on her way to becoming one of the greatest players in tennis history until she was attacked on-court by a fan of rival player Steffi Graf. Seles was stabbed between the shoulder blades, and did not return to tennis for two years.
However, she did eventually make a comeback, winning the Australian Open in 1995 and continued to play until 2002, though she never again won a Grand Slam. It's hard not to wonder what might have happened if she had never been attacked, but her determined comeback was enough to inspire a generation of sports fans regardless.
6. Michelle Kwan
There were plenty of accomplished figure skaters in the 1990s, but none rose to quite the same level as Michelle Kwan. A two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion, Kwan is considered one of the greatest figure skaters in the history of the sport. She was also one of the most popular athletes of the '90s, with numerous endorsements and TV guest appearances. Since retiring from skating, Kwan has served as an American diplomacy ambassador and serves on the board of directors for the Special Olympics.