In a skit on Inside Amy Schumer, the comedienne parodies how female athletes are prized for appearance rather than prowess. In it, two sports announcers commentate a match between fictional tennis players Bridget Everett and Amy Schumerenka (parodic takes on Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, respectively). All along, the announcers refuse to acknowledge Everett’s talent, saying only that she’s temperamental and “heaves and sweats like a Clydesdale,” but praise Schumerenka’s “on-court charisma” despite her athletic ineptitude. At the end of the skit, Schumerenka receives a crowdsourced consolation prize, greater than Everett’s winning prize, because she was “so gorgeous throughout the entire match that it was almost like [she] won.”
This calls to mind the J.K. Rowling and Serena Williams incident, in which JK Rowling tweeted her support for the tennis superstar and someone replied: “she is built like a man,” echoing the sentiment of the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, who quipped that Venus and Serena were “brothers.” It also reminds us of the controversial endorsement disparity between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, the latter attracting $10 million more from companies even though she’s an inferior player. Williams accepted this with dignity, saying: “I’m happy for her because she worked hard, too,” and understanding the sentiment, best summed up by USAToday’s Chris Chase:
“The argument goes that since Serena is so much better on the court than Sharapova, she deserves more money from companies, a belief so deluded and so at odds with everything we know about sports, entertainment and business that it boggles the mind. (Meryl Streep is the best actress, how dare she not get salary of a Jennifer Lawrence!)”
With that all now said, let’s plunge into this list of 10 female athletes who, in spite of athletic skill, are mostly watched for their sexual merit.
10 Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick is the only ever woman to win a race in the IndyCar Series (2008 Indy Japan 300). In fact, she is the most successful woman in the history of American open wheel racing. In 2008, she was the first woman to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole, turning in the fastest qualifying lap in 18 years and qualifying for the Daytona 500. But if you said her name to any racecar fan, he’d probably say: “Oh yeah, she’s hot.” Heavy compiled a list of the twenty sexiest pictures of Danica Patrick, and we can’t say we blame them. In a sport dominated by pasty white boys, Danica Patrick is the sexiest thing to have ever drifted across the finish line.
9 Julie Johnston
Julie Johnston is an American soccer player for the Women’s World Cup soccer team. She is pretty, blond, and 5’7”. She is also a wickedly good soccer player. Grantland says that she has engineered an almost airtight defense, giving for example the game against Chile in the 2015 Women’s World Cup in which the goalkeeper “scarcely saw any action.”
But people don’t tend to think of her as a soccer powerhouse. After the Americans tied with Sweden in the World Cup, a reporter said to her: “Julie, you have a face like an angel and you tackle like an absolute beast.” Although he nodded to her skill, he led with a reference to how pretty a girl she is.
8 Blair O’Neal
Blair O’Neal: “Professional Golfer. Professional Model.” Those are the introductory statements to Blair O’Neal’s personal website. One click brings you to the “Bio” section, which greets you with a flirtatious: “Hi there, I’m Blair O’Neal. Let’s get to know each other, shall we?” And then, in subscript, “Well, you can learn about me, anyway.” [Intonated winky face.] In the background, Blair O’Neal simpers on a loop. In her defense, the first section of the bio is her “Numbers Game,” but then, in much flashier yellow, there’s the section “The Bod,” which details her every last statstic, from her height in inches (which is antisocially like knowing your age only in months), her chest, her hips, and her weight. O’Neal, really only in it for the modeling gigs, knows how to eliminate the hell out of a middleman.
7 Skylar Diggins
2014 was Skylar Diggins’ breakout year in the WNBA. She became all-star for the first time in her career. She ranked second in the entire league in terms of scoring, bringing home 20.1 points per game. She won the WNBA 2014 Most Improved Player award. But none of her accomplishments in 2014 were as widely heralded as her appearance in Sports Illustrated 2014 swimsuit edition. In it, she did a multi-page spread called “Skylar Diggins 2014 Swimsuit: Guana Island”. She never appears holding a basketball or dripping with sweat, but rather posing femininely on tree branches with alluring body jewelry and flowers in her hair. Although she’s very talented, she’s most noticed for her good looks.
6 Erica Hosseini
Schumer also comes after Blake Lively’s “cool girl” late-night talk show persona on Inside. Her parody, Amy Lake Blively, loves comic books, eating, and watching Star Wars. Erica Hosseini’s webpage is much like this. The professional surfer has explicitly embraced her sex appeal. Not only does her bio start off with a description of her physique (and, before you say it, she includes characteristics that could not possibly influence her surfing, “blonde hair, blue eyes”), it then devolves into a word-for-word recreation of Amy Lake Blively. She’s a competitive tomboy who loves to eat, but has a smokin’ hot bod and does her hair. Something’s gotta give. Maybe Hosseini just wants guys to imagine her as the universal "best girlfriend."
5 Maria Kirilenko
Maria Kirilenko is a killer athlete. She’s reached three Grand Slam singles quarterfinals and two Grand Slam doubles quarterfinals. She also won the 2012 WTA Tour Championships and won bronze at the 2012 Olympics. In June 2013, Kirilenko reached her career high, being named #10 in the World. And despite all that, Joe Dorish, the New Jersey Sports Examiner from the Examiner, wrote an article about her called “20 Hot Photos of Maria Kirilenko at the Australian Open”, in which he says that Maria Kirilenko is “arguably the hottest woman in tennis today,” showing up to compete each year in “a different sexy outfit.”
4 The Bella Twins
Brie and Nikki Bella, née Brianna Monique Garcia-Colace and Stephanie Nicole Garcia-Colace, are professional wrestlers signed to the WWE, as well as models and actresses. They made their wrestling debut in 2007, quickly developing a scripted rivalry with Nattie Neidhart and Alicia Fox. Interestingly, they didn't both always have an athletic streak. In college, Brie was the artsier one who didn't want to play soccer like her sister, who was almost professional, having been offered a soccer scholarship that she planned on taking until she broke her leg. Now they both wrestle professionally, model occasionally, and are the stars of the hit TV reality show, Total Divas.
3 Eugenie Bouchard
Eugenie Bouchard is another tall, blonde, attractive tennis player. Born in 1991 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, this tennis prodigy is barely out of the swaddle but is already taking over the tennis circuit. She’s currently ranked #48 in the world, but in the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, she became the first Canadian to reach the finals of a Grand Slam in singles. In 2013, she was named the WTA’s newcomer of the year. The following year, she was bumped up to Most Improved Player. But, if you were to judge a racquet by its case, you’d never think Eugenie Bouchard to be a hawk on the tennis court. She’s so soft and beautiful, her bilingualism only contributing to her curious feminine mystique.
2 Gina Carano
Gina Carano was originally a mixed martial-artist professional. She fought in the ring, competing in Strikeforce and EliteXC. After being featured in ESPN Magazine and Maxim, she was called “the face of women’s MMA.” Now in her thirties, she has retired from fighting, but, in a testament to her looks, she has pursued a successful acting career. It started when she performed as Crush in the tv show American Gladiators. She was then in Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 movie Haywire, nominated for best actress in an action movie at the 18th Annual Critics Choice Awards. She was then in Fast & Furious 6, whose legacy of babes includes Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.
1 Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova is a former professional tennis player. Although she never won a singles title, she reached #8 in the world at the turn of the millennium. She was more of a doubles kind of gal, being occasionally #1 in the world in the category. She won two doubles titles, one in 1999 and one 2000, both in Australia. At 21, her tennis career was cut short by back and spine injuries, including a herniated disk. In 2011, she was a trainer on season 12 of The Biggest Loser, the Darwinian NBC show where they enslave and abuse fat people until they're passably thin. At the peak of her athletic fame, Anna Kournikova was such a hot item that her name string was one of the most searched things on Google. Her long, blonde hair, impressive height, and attractive smile might explain why.