5 Olympic Women Judged by Their Feats, Not Their Faces (Slideshow)

Since the 2012 Olympic games began in London, female athletes seem to be facing quite a bit of scrutiny regarding their physical appearance. Whether we’re talking about British weightlifter Zoe Smith, Australian swimmer Leisel Jones, or the members of the women’s Dutch field hockey team, there seems to be a whole lot of hullabaloo about what these ladies look like rather than what they’re capable of as athletes. To help bring us back to the main focus of the Olympic games–elite athletic prowess–here’s a look at 5 outstanding U.S. women currently competing in London and the amazing feats they are capable of.


Photo Credit: Jon Tunnell via Flickr

Sarah Robles

Weightlifter Sarah Robles out-lifted every U.S. competitor–male and female–during last year’s world championships. At 5’10.5 and weighing in at 275 pounds, her personal best is an astonishing 568 lbs.

That means she can lift (over her head, by the way)…
-A Steinway Model M Grand Piano (570 lbs)
-Two baby elephants (250 lbs each)
-A Kawasaki 800 SX-R Jet Ski (397 lbs)
-3 newborn Beluga whales (180 lbs each)

Not all at one time, of course. Understandably, Robles is the U.S.’s best chance at an Olympic medal in the women’s super heavyweight division, in which competition gets underway on August 5th. Good luck, Sarah!

Top Photo Credit: Doug Murray via Flickr

Photo Credit: Larry D. Moore

Kim Rhode

American Kim Rhode recently won gold at the 2012 Olympics in women’s double trap skeet shooting. For those of us who are not rabid shooting fans, here’s how double trap works. Shooters stand roughly 50-60 feet from where two targets are simultaneously shot out into the air at different angles, traveling 65 miles an hour–kind of like a real-life game of Duck Hunt. Each shooter has one chance to blast the 4-inch wide targets to smithereens. Not only did Rhode make this look easy by hitting 99 out of 100 targets, but she also tied the world record and set a new Olympic record.

According to a recent New York Times article, Rhode shoots off between 500-1000 rounds during daily practices and has shot over 3 million targets since she first began skeet shooting at age 10. She’s also the first American to earn individual medals in 5 consecutive Olympics.  In additional to this year’s gold, she also won gold in 1996, bronze in Sydney, gold in Athens, and silver in Beijing–with no plans of quitting any time soon.

Photo Credit: Parker Michael Knight via Flickr

Betsey Armstrong

Betsey Armstrong is the top goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s water polo team. The whole idea of water polo is mind-boggling to me, because players have to tread water for the entire game.  If I think back to my childhood swim lessons, I remember treading water for a few minutes and then wanting to rip my legs off. Kudos to people like Armstrong who do it for four 8-minute periods, which, counting clock stoppages, end up at around 12 minutes each. It doesn’t stop at just plain old treading either. Players have to leap high, create leverage for shots, and–for goalies, who really need to be champion treaders–block incoming shots, all without touching the bottom or sides of the pool.

Armstrong has risen to water polo’s challenge just fine.  She had 28 saves to help her team qualify for the Olympics during the 2011 Pan American Games. The U.S. women’s water polo team is currently ranked second in their group behind Spain, a spot which I’m sure Armstrong had no little part in earning.

Photo Credit: Eric van Leeuwen

Jillian Camarena-Williams

Camarena-Williams is one of the U.S.’s top competitors in women’s shot put. At 5’10′ and 250 pounds, she generates incredible power–enough to hurl the 8.8 lb shot over 20 meters (65 feet).  That’s like standing on the baseline of a regulation NBA basketball court and launching a medium sized bowling ball to the three-point-line…on the other side of the court.

In addition to finishing first in this year’s Olympic trials, Camarena-Williams also finished 12th in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Women’s shot put gets underway in London on August 6th–good luck, Jillian!

Photo Credit: Eric van Leeuwen

Shalane Flanagan

Shalane Flanagan, recently profiled by ESPN Boston, is the U.S.’s top women’s marathon runner heading into the London Olympic games. She won the bronze medal in the 10,000 meters (6.2 miles) at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, and just recently made the transition from relatively shorter distance events to the beastly 26.2 mile marathon.

Apparently undaunted, Flanagan set a new record at this year’s Olympic trials in Houston, finishing in 2:25:38. That’s an average of about 5 minutes, 40 seconds per mile–for 26.2 miles.  Pretty impressive!  Flanagan runs up to 120 miles a week, or an average of 17 miles a day in preparation for the main event, which takes place August 5th.


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Sasha M.
Past Member 5 years ago

they are all just great.

Allan Yorkowitz
.5 years ago

The title of the article said it all.

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

Every female athlete needs more credit for their achievements and not for the way they look.

Deborah F.
Deborah F5 years ago


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

They are often young and pretty, but the Olympics aren't a beauty contest!

Noreen Niamath
Noreen Niamath5 years ago

They work hard to look great so why not notice it

Melissah Chadwick
Past Member 5 years ago


Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Luisa Barr
Luisa Bar5 years ago

This happens because there are athletes who perform in the "glamour world" too, like Beckham, Sharapova, others date celebrities, for instance Pique (soccer player) dates Shakira, and so on. Definetely journalists are used to make comments about this sort of athlete and forget that the average athlete is a normal person. They forget that each sport develops a different type of body. There wont be many Sharapovas, so please talk about sport and forget looks.

Heather M
Heather Marv5 years ago

It isn't about how they look but how they perform. How sexist. If it were a man it wouldn't be mentioned.