It’s been a brilliant year for women’s sport. From football to tennis to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, we have been treated to some truly unforgettable moments from female athletes.
As 2021 comes to an end, the GiveMeSport Women Power Rankings celebrate the top 30 female athletes who have starred over the past 12 months.
Whether it’s for sporting excellence, setting new milestones, or starting important conversations, these trailblazing sportswomen have made history this year.
30) Sasha Banks – WWE
Sasha Banks may have lost her Women’s SmackDown Championship to Belair at WrestleMania, but making her own piece of history is something she will never forget.
The Boss was also the third most tweeted about female athlete of 2021, ranking behind only Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles.
29) Bianca Belair – WWE
The EST of WWE made history twice this year — the first time being when she emerged as winner of the 2021 Women’s Royal Rumble match.
Bianca Belair became just the second ever African-American wrestler to win a Royal Rumble event, after The Rock.
She then went on to set WrestleMania alight alongside Sasha Banks, as the two became the first Black women to headline the pay-per-view.
Belair capped off the night by defeating Banks to win her first ever WWE title, which she held for more than 100 days.
28) Amanda Serrano – Boxing
In March, Amanda Serrano claimed the IBO featherweight title and retained her WBC and WBO belts with a win over Daniela Romina Bermúdez.
Serrano’s victory marked the 30th knockout win of her career and saw her continue her unbeaten run which began in 2012.
The Puerto Rican went on to defend all three featherweight titles against Yamileth Mercado in August. She is currently ranked the world’s best active female featherweight by both BoxRec and The Ring.
Serrano signed for Jake Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions in September.
27) Candace Parker – Basketball
Candace Parker helped Chicago Sky to victory in the WNBA last season. It was the team’s first ever Championship title.
Off the court, Parker also had a significant year. She announced she is married to Russian professional basketball player Anya Petrakova, and revealed the pair are expecting a baby.
The news caused delight around the sporting world, with Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird, and Allyson Felix among the stars to congratulate the pair.
26) Vivianne Miedema – Football
Vivianne Miedema has enjoyed yet another record-breaking year for both club and country. She finished last season with 18 goals and six assists, behind only Sam Kerr of Chelsea.
The Dutch striker also made history by breaking the all-time WSL goalscoring record, overtaking Nikita Parris’ tally of 49 goals. Miedema is still top of the leaderboard with 66 goals, and recently became the first player to score against every team in the WSL.
The 25-year-old was sensational during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She smashed Christine Sinclair’s six-goal record at a single Games, scoring 10 times in four matches for the Netherlands.
25) Marizanne Kap – Cricket
South African cricketer Marizanne Kapp starred for the Oval Invincibles in the inaugural season of The Hundred.
The 31-year-old missed a handful of games in the competition through injury but made a huge impact in the five games she did play.
Kapp scored 26 not out and took four wickets in the final against Southern Brave to be named Player of the Match and help the Invincibles to a dominant victory.
As of now, Kapp is the number one ranked ODI All-Rounder in the world, ahead of England’s Nat Sciver.
24) Katie Taylor – Boxing
Katie Taylor continues her run as the undisputed women’s lightweight champion.
In 2021, The Bray Bomber defended her titles against Natasha Jonas, Jennifer Han, and Firuza Sharipova to retain her status at the top of the pyramid.
Taylor is still yet to lose a single match in her professional boxing career — she heads into 2022 with an undefeated record of 20-0.
23) Fallon Sherrock – Darts
Fallon Sherrock became the first female darts player to reach the quarter-finals of a major darts tournament at the Grand Slam of Darts.
The ‘Queen of the Palace’ also reached the final of the Nordic Darts Masters, where she lost to former world number one Michael van Gerwen. This made her the first woman in history to reach the final of televised PDC tournament.
22) Julianna Peña – Boxing
Julianna Peña beat Amanda Nunes at UFC 269 in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.
The 32-year-old submitted Nunes via rear-naked choke in the second round to end the Brazilian’s 12 match winning streak and capture the women’s bantamweight title.
A rematch against Nunes is expected to take place at some point in 2022.
21) Lizzie Deignan – Cycling
Lizzie Deignan had a rocky start to 2021, struggling with illness. She was frustrated after finishing 11th in the women’s road race at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but she soon experienced a change in fortune.
In October, Deignan became the first winner of the women’s Paris–Roubaix, the iconic cobbled road race which has been running since 1896 for the men. It was a historic moment for women’s cycling, achieved by one of the sport’s most decorated riders.
20) Rayssa Leal – Skateboarding
Rayssa Leal finished with a silver medal in the women’s street skateboarding at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At 13 years and 203 days, she was the youngest Olympic medallist in 85 years.
The Brazilian saw her popularity rise, gaining 5.8 million new followers on Instagram. She now has 6.8 million followers on Instagram, more than tennis star Naomi Osaka and footballer Megan Rapinoe.
19) Sky Brown – Skateboarding
Sky Brown captured the hearts of the world when she emerged onto the skateboarding scene and became Great Britain’s youngest ever Olympic medallist this summer.
At just 13, Brown won bronze in the park event in Tokyo, adding that to the X Games gold medal she also scooped this year.
She was named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year earlier this month.
18) Christine Sinclair – Football
Christine Sinclair, the world’s all-time leading international goal-scorer with 188, captained Canada to an Olympic gold medal at Tokyo 2020. It was Canada’s first ever Olympic gold medal in football, men or women’s.
The 38-year-old finished sixth in the 2021 Ballon d’Or as a result of her achievements.
17) Jonquel Jones – Basketball
Jonquel Jones starred for Connecticut Sun in the WNBA last season, leading the team to a 26-6 record –– the best in the league.
For her performances, the power forward was unanimously named the WNBA MVP and became the first player in history to win MVP, Sixth Women of the Year and the WNBA Most Improved Player Award.
16) Fran Kirby – Football
Partnering teammate Kerr in a link up that is now globally known as “Kerrby”, the Chelsea star also played a huge role in her team’s dominance.
Fran Kirby was presented with the FWA’s 2021 Women’s Footballer of the Year award after her stellar performances for the Blues. She finished with the joint most amount of assists for the season after setting up 11 goals.
The England international was also shortlisted for the 2021 Ballon d’Or Féminin award.
15) Sifan Hassan – Athletics
Sifan Hassan made history at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, winning gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m races. She also clinched a bronze medal in the 1,500m.
The 28-year-old became the first athlete to ever medal in all three of these events at the same Games. Hassan is also the only Dutch athlete in history to win a medal in an Olympic distance event.
Prior to Tokyo 2020, Hassan set a new world record for the women’s 10,000m in June. She held onto the record for only a short period, however, losing it to Letesenbet Gidey just two days later.
14) Jennifer Hermoso – Football
Jennifer Hermoso was an integral part of Barcelona’s success, scoring 31 goals and managing 14 assists in the Primera Iberdrola last season.
She has continued her form this season, scoring 10 goals and racking up two assists so far. The 31-year-old Spaniard finished second behind Putellas for the 2021 Ballon d’Or Féminin as a result of her performances this year.
13) Zoe Aldcroft – Rugby
Zoe Aldcroft started all eight of the Red Roses’ matches in 2021 as England extended their unbeaten streak to 18 and secured a third successive Six Nations title.
Equally competent in the second row and as a flanker, Aldcroft was named the World Rugby Women’s 15’s Player of the Year earlier this month.
12) Jamie Chadwick – Motorsport
Jamie Chadwick extended her dominance in the W Series by winning her second consecutive championship after a thrilling title contest.
The Briton is still the only driver to have ever won the series. Her victory this year saw her receive 15 Super Licence points, which contributes towards a potential career in Formula 1.
11) Sam Kerr – Football
Sam Kerr enjoyed a glittering 2021 for both club and country. The forward helped Chelsea win the FA Cup, Continental Cup, and a second consecutive Women’s Super League title.
After finishing the 2020/21 season as the WSL’s top scorer, she became the first ever player to win the Golden Boot award in three different leagues.
Kerr made history at the Olympics with Australia by setting a new record as the all-time top scorer for the Matildas. She was also shortlisted for the 2021 Ballon d’Or Féminin award, in which she came third.
10) Naomi Osaka – Tennis
It’s been a tough year for Naomi Osaka, who has been open in her struggles with mental health.
The Japanese star withdrew from the French Open as well as Wimbledon this year and last played at the US Open back in September.
Despite this, the 24-year-old still claimed her fourth major title at the Australian Open –– maintaining her 100 percent record in Grand Slam finals.
Osaka is scheduled to make her return to tennis next week at the Melbourne Summer Set as she gears up to defend her Australian Open crown.
9) Laura Kenny – Cycling
The 2020 Olympics saw Laura Kenny write her name in history by becoming the most successful female cyclist and the most successful British female athlete at the Games.
She took home silver in the team pursuit and gold in the first ever women’s Olympic Madison, alongside Katie Archibald. Kenny now boasts six medals in cycling from three Olympics.
8) Katie Ledecky – Swimming
At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Ledecky won two gold medals and two silver medals, making her the most decorated US female athlete for a second consecutive Olympics.
With six individual Olympic gold medals in total, Ledecky has won more golds than any other female swimmer and the second most ever, behind Michael Phelps.
7) Ashleigh Barty – Tennis
Ashleigh Barty finished the 2021 season ranked number one in the world for the third consecutive year.
The Australian claimed her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon and won five WTA titles in total.
Barty now has 13 career titles to her name and is a strong favourite to win the upcoming Australian Open in January.
6) Simone Biles – Gymnastics
Gymnast Simone Biles drew widespread praise when she withdrew from a number of events at the Tokyo Olympics for mental health reasons.
Biles admitted she was feeling the pressure of the occasion and was suffering from a problem known as the ‘twisties’ –– a temporary loss of air balance awareness.
Remarkably, the 24-year-old returned later in the Games to win a bronze medal in the balance beam event.
This medal, combined with a silver in the team event, saw Biles become the joint most decorated gymnast of all time, with 32 Olympic and World Championship medals combined.
5) Dame Sarah Storey – Para-cycling
Dame Sarah Storey became Britain’s most successful Paralympian ever at Tokyo 2020 this summer.
Having started as a Para-swimmer, she moved on to Para-cycling at Beijing 2008, and now has 17 gold medals to her name.
At Tokyo 2020, Storey successfully defended the women’s C4-5 road race title she has held since London 2012, and triumphed in the C5 individual pursuit and time trial.
4) Rachael Blackmore – Horse Racing
This year, Rachael Blackmore provided the world with one of the biggest sporting achievements ever.
On board Minella Times, the Irish jockey became the first woman in the Grand National’s 182-year history to win the title.
On top of her historic victory, Blackmore was named the leading jockey at Cheltenham Festival after tallying six wins — becoming the first woman to achieve this accolade.
3) Elaine Thompson-Herah – Athletics
Elaine Thompson-Herah stormed to victory in the women’s 100m at Tokyo 2020, setting a new Olympic record of 10.61 seconds.
She then earned gold in a fiercely-contested 200m race, becoming the first female athlete to successfully defend her Olympic title across both sprint distances, before capping off Tokyo 2020 with a gold medal in the 4x100m relay.
The 29-year-old did not stop there, however, lowering her 100m personal best in her first post-Olympic race to 10.54 seconds.
As a result, Thompson-Herah was named Female World Athlete of the Year for her incredible 2021.
2) Alexia Putellas – Football
Alexia Putellas has lit up the world of women’s football this year, and was awarded the 2021 Ballon d’Or Féminin for her achievements.
The 27-year-old often captained Barcelona during their treble-winning season, recording 18 goals and 12 assists in the Primera Iberdrola. This season, she leads the league for both goals and assists, scoring 12 times and setting up 10.
After she scored from the spot in the Champions League final against Chelsea, Putellas was named in the tournament’s squad of the season. The Spaniard was also given the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award.
1) Emma Raducanu – Tennis
Tennis sensation Emma Raducanu started the year ranked 343rd but ended it ranked inside the world’s top 20.
The Brit became the first qualifier to ever win a Grand Slam at the US Open –– winning 10 games in a row without dropping a set during the tournament.
This was the first time a female British tennis player had won a major since Virginia Wade in 1977.
For her exploits in New York, Raducanu won the BBC’s 2021 Sports Personality of the Year award.