On the 17th December 2019, 25-year-old Fallon Sherrock made history. The Buckinghamshire born athlete became the first women to win a match at the PDC World Championships.
However, this isn’t the first time that a female athlete has overcome their male counterpart(s), or made waves in what was predominantly, a man’s game… Here is a look at five of the most momentous examples.
5. Billie Jean King wins the ‘Battle of the Sexes’
Billie Jean King is a legendary figure in the world of tennis, and part of her legacy is how she fought for the rights of female athletes. At a time were female sports were not taken seriously, but King was so good she was attracting large audiences. She fought the pay gap between genders, and threatened to boycott tournaments – and people were listening, she began to make a difference.
Bobby Riggs was a tennis champion in the 1940’s and 50’s, who despite being past his prime, longed for the spotlight. Now in his 50’s, Riggs returned to the male pro scene, but not being as good as he once was, he failed to grab headlines. So instead of competing in regular tournaments, he called out the winner of the Womens Australian Open, Margaret Court for a showcase event.
Riggs went on to beat Court, but during his victory speech, called out King. He said King couldn’t win because “she’s a woman and they don’t have the emotional stability”.
So, the date was set (20th September 1972), and so were the stakes. $100,000, winner takes all.
King started the match slowly, but wore down her older opponent and went on to win the spectacle in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Riggs initially demanded a rematch, but eventually calmed down and admitted he had underestimated King’s ability.
Billie Jean King had won the battle of the sexes.
4. Jackie Tonawanda wins by knock out
Nicknamed the “The Female Muhammad Ali”, on the 8th June 1975, the American female heavyweight, knocked out Larry Rodania at packed out Madison Square Garden. Showcase fights pitting men and women against each other have been few and far between down the years – and in one of the most famous Tonawanda came out on top for the girls.
At the time, female boxers were not allowed to hold licences allowing them to fight professionally. It was Tonawanda who took the New York State Athletic Commission to court for prejudice against female fighters. The judge ruled in favour of Tonawanda saying: “This court will not hold that women should be precluded from a profession exploiting whatever skills they may have in the sport of boxing merely because they are women.”
Rightly recognised as one of female boxing’s most significant pioneers, she was the first female boxer to become a member of Ring 8, the Veterans Boxing Association, and inducted into their Hall of Fame, as well as, Madison Square Garden’s Hall of Fame.
3.’Knuckleball Princess’ Eri Yoshida gets drafted
Back in 2008, Eri Yoshida became the first women to be drafted into Japanese Professional Baseball League at just 16-years-old.
Having taught herself to pitch by watching the MLB aged 14, (and in particular Boston Red Sox legend, Tim Wakefield) the five feet one Yokohama native developed a knuckle-ball technique that caught the attention of the press and professional baseball coaches in Japan and across in the US.
Two years after discovering the sport, Yoshida was drafted by the Kobe 9 Cruise, in the Kansai Independent Baseball League, and dubbed the ‘Knuckleball Princess’ by the national media.
She made her professional debut at the Osaka dome in March of 2009 and made eleven appearances that season.
After two successful seasons in Japan, Eri was offered the chance to live out her dream and play baseball professionally in America, becoming only the third women to do so when she signed a contract with the Chico Outlaws.
Her time in the US had mixed success, and she moved back to Japan in 202, but her legacy was complete.
2. Zhang Shan’s Skeet Shooting Gold
Between 1972 and 1992, Olympic Skeet Shooting was a mixed gender event and in Barcelona ‘92, Shan made history when she won the gold.
Shan was the only women to win an Olympics medal in the sport, during the time of it being a mixed event, and won in spectacular fashion hitting 24 of the 25 targets in the events finals.
She also made history in qualifying round for the Olympics when she hit 96 shots, equalling the world record at the time.
Zhang had already won gold in the 1990 Asian games when she won the mixed skeet event, and was part of China’s gold medal in the team Skeet shooting event at the same games.
1. Dame Ellen MacArthur’s Sailing World Record
Sailing around the world is perhaps the single biggest endurance event there is, and on the 7th Feb 2005, Ellen MacArthur completed the feat.
MacArthur set sail on the 28th Nov 2004, looking to break the record of the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe which was previously held by a French male sailor, Francis Joyon.
The Derbyshire-born ultra-athlete had to sleep in 20-minute intervals and faced extreme weather conditions during her long journey, but beat the record by more then a day when she completed at the beginning of February.
On day 63 she narrowly avoided a collision with a whale which would have ended the journey, and she fought against gale force winds and ice bergs all trying to capsize her boat throughout the endeavour.
Her 27,000-mile journey took 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds in total and remains one of humanities greatest endurance feats.