It's not a man's world: Five women trailblazers in sport

Paris (AFP) –


Rachael Blackmore, 31, on Saturday became the first woman jockey to win the Grand National, coming home clear on Minella Times.

AFP Sport looks at five other female trailblazers in sport:

Billie Jean King (Tennis)

-- Widely-regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, King was one of the founder members of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), won 12 singles titles at the Slams and reached world number one.

However, not everyone was convinced by the appeal of women's tennis.

Bobby Riggs had won Wimbledon in 1939 and by 1973, even though he was 55, was convinced he could defeat any woman.

As a result, Riggs took on King in the 'Battle of the Sexes' staged at the Houston Astrodome in front of 30,000 spectators and a television audience estimated at 90 million worldwide.

King, 29, won 6–4, 6–3, 6–3.

"I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn't win that match. It would ruin the women's tour and affect all women's self-esteem," said King.

"To beat a 55-year-old guy was no thrill for me. The thrill was exposing a lot of new people to tennis."

Fallon Sherrock (Darts)

-- 'The Queen of the Palace' made history when she won two matches to reach the last 32 of the 2020 world darts championship.

Sherrock, now 26, became the first woman to win at the tournament with a first-round victory over Ted Evetts, before delighting the Alexandra Palace crowd with a shock 3-1 triumph against Austrian 11th seed Mensur Suljovic.

Despite a last-32 loss to Chris Dobey, Sherrock went on to break new ground again with an appearance as a 'Challenger' in the Premier League, securing a draw with Glen Durrant.

She has failed in two bids to secure a PDC Tour card, a feat that was achieved by four-time women's world champion Lisa Ashton.

Danica Patrick (Motor Racing)

-- Motor sport has been poorly represented by women over the years but the American driver Danica Patrick showed they could compete and win at the highest level.

Patrick, 39, began karting as a 10-year-old in Wisconsin, moving through the ranks and seeking out the tutelage of Jackie Stewart during a period in the UK.

Back in the US, she graduated to the IndyCar Series in 2005, joining Andretti Green three years later and on April 20, 2009 became the first woman to win an IndyCar race when she took the chequered flag at the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi.

She has the highest ever finish by a woman in the Indianapolis 500, third in 2009, and the Daytona 500.

Ellen MacArthur (Yachting)

-- Ellen MacArthur stands only just over 5-foot-1 but in 2005 she bestrode the globe.

From landlocked Derbyshire in the UK, she heeded the call of the sea and became a record-breaking long-distance sailor, showing she could outlast and outpace the men in one of the most demanding and dangerous of challenges.

In 2000, at the age of 24, she entered the Vendee Globe, a solo non-stop round-the world race, for the first time.

Just over 94 days later she crossed the line in Kingfisher, second behind Michel Desjoyeaux, but ahead of 13 other finishers, all of them men. She was also, at the time, the youngest sailor to finish the race. Her time is still the fastest by a woman in the race.

From November 2004 to February 2005, she again sailed alone round the world, this time in a trimaran.

She completed the voyage, which started and ended off the Ushant in France, in 71 days, 14 hours and 33 seconds, smashing the record set a year earlier by Frenchman Francis Joyon by one day, eight hours and 39 seconds. The record stood until 2016.

"It is a dangerous place," she said of the Southern Ocean after returning to dry land. "But just some days you have a huge rolling sea and the boat is sailing magnificently and you just think there is no better place on earth to be right now."

Babe Didrikson Zaharias (Golf)

-- Few people in the history of sport could claim to be as natural an athlete as American Mildred 'Babe' Didrikson Zaharias, a double Olympic track and field champion who turned her hand to golf with such success that she won 10 women's major championships and made the cut at three men's tournaments.

The daughter of Norwegian immigrants, Texas-born Didrikson Zaharias was also a talented basketball and baseball player and a major name in sports until her death in 1956 from colon cancer at the age of just 45.

She hit the world stage at the 1932 Olympics, winning medals in half of the just six events women could compete in at those Games. She took gold in the 80m hurdles -- breaking the world record in the process -- and the javelin, and the silver medal in the high jump.

In golf, she won 41 professional titles, and played in three men's PGA tournaments in 1945, including the Phoenix Open and the Tucson Open, where she finished 33rd and 42rd respectively.