Who needs Wonder Woman when you’ve got mega-talented athletes like Serena Williams to serve as your daily dose of “you-go-girl” inspiration on and off the field?
From a 14-year-old snowboarder who became the youngest X-Games gold medalist to a modern-day female Babe Ruth who’s smashing softball records, these 13 accomplished athletes are honored by espnW today. Best of all, each super lady is depicted in custom illustrations created in collaboration with Marvel Comics.
The athletes below represent only a fraction of espnW’s annual IMPACT25 list, which includes even more inspiring women. “We wanted to dive deeper this year,” says espnW founder Laura Gentile, who notes that this list is especially unique because it also includes additional influencers like Lauren Greenfield, the filmmaker behind the viral #playlikeagirl commercial. “These are women with super abilities,” says Gentile, “[The Marvel art] is not really fictionalized…each drawing is meant to accentuate what they already do.”
We dare you not to be inspired by these incredible women and their accomplishments. With grit, speed, strength and athleticism, they’re shattering expectations and showing us that playing like a girl means you’re playing like the best in the world.
13 Real-Life Female Superheroes
1. Simone Biles
Superpower: Swinging from bars with the greatest of ease. Eighteen-year-old Biles is the first African-American gymnast to win three consecutive all-around world titles, and she holds the record for the most gold medals won by a female gymnast in the history of the World Championships. NBD!
2. Tamika Catchings
Superpower: Goes hard in the paint. This 10-time WNBA All-Star has won world championships at every level. Between that and three Olympic gold medals, she’s probably got a serious trophy case at home.
3. Lauren Chamberlain
Superpower: Hits grand slams with gusto. Chamberlain broke records this year by hitting 91 home runs in her softball career at the University of Oklahoma. Hot. Damn.
4. Misty Copeland
Superpower: Pirouettes with power. She’s the face of an Under Armour campaign and the first black principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. Plus, her muscled physique is busting conventions about what it means to have a “ballerina bod.”
5. Elena Delle Donne
Superpower: Shoots hoops like nobody’s business. This WNBA star had three 40-point games this year while playing with the Chicago Sky. Oh yeah, and she also battled Lyme Disease last season.
6. Erica Enders
Superpower: Too fast, too furious. Enders won nine NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) races last year, breaking a record for the most wins by a woman in one season.
7. Chloe Kim
Superpower: Throws down mad tricks. This 14-year-old snowboarder became the youngest gold medalist in a winter X-Games event when she made it to the top of the podium in superpipe last year.
8. Lydia Ko
Superpower: Swings strong on the green. Tiger Woods was 21 when he was first ranked number one by the PGA, but Ko nabbed that honor from the LGPA at the tender age of 17! Talk about precocious.
9. Katie Ledecky
Superpower: Dives in full-force. This freestyle swimmer certainly made a splash at the 2015 FINA (Federation International de Natation) World Championships — she came home with three world records and five gold medals.
10. Carli Lloyd
Superpower: Scores next-level hat-tricks. This soccer star became the first person to score three goals in a Women’s World Cup final during U.S.A.’s victory over Japan this summer.
11. Olivia Quigley
Superpower: Sprints ‘till the end. A stage-four breast cancer diagnosis couldn’t slow this autistic sprinter. At the Special Olympics World Games, she prevailed to win two gold medals and a silver medal.
12. Ronda Rousey
Superpower: Fierce MMA fighting. We wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley, but we are psyched she was the UFC’s highest paid fighter (male or female) this past September.
13. Serena Williams
Superpower: Serves up greatness. She’s no one-hit wonder—Williams continues to blow us away by dominating on the tennis court. Unbeatable no matter the surface, she made the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) top ten lists for clay, grass and hard courts.