Home News 10 History-Making Te...

10 History-Making Team USA Women You Should Know About

By Karen Price | March 08, 2022, 3 p.m. (ET)

International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women across the globe in everything from culture and the arts to politics and sports.

The women of Team USA serve as an example of perseverance, achievement and drive, and they also inspire millions in advocating for mental health, disability rights, equality and inclusivity. 

On this day, here’s a look at just a handful of these incredible U.S. women who’ve inspired us both at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo last summer and the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games still underway in Beijing. 

Sue Bird, Basketball 

Sue Bird celebrates Team USA's win over Serbia in the women's basketball semifinals game during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 6, 2021 in Saitama, Japan.

 

Many phenomenal athletes have played Olympic basketball over the years, but none are more decorated than Bird. Last summer in Tokyo she won her fifth Olympic gold medal, tied with teammate Diana Taurasi for the most in history, male or female. They are just the fifth and sixth athletes in history to win at least five straight Olympic gold medals in the same discipline or sport. 

Of the 55 consecutive Olympic games the U.S. women’s basketball team has won, Bird has been a part of 38. Her record playing with USA Basketball across all age levels is an astounding 149–8. Bird is also the most decorated player in FIBA history with 10 medals in Olympic and World Cup competition. She’s about to enter her 19th, and likely last, WNBA season.

Erin Jackson, Speedskating

Erin Jackson celebrates her gold medal during the women's 500-meter medal ceremony during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 14, 2022 in Beijing.

 

Jackson is proof that it’s never too late to chase your dreams. The longtime inline speedskater didn’t take to the ice until 2017, but in a span of three months this past fall and winter, she made history several times over. It started back in November, when she became the first Black woman to win gold in a world cup race. That turned into a three-race winning streak and put the world on notice for what was to come in Beijing. 

Competing at her second Olympics — she finished 24th in the 500-meter in PyeongChang in 2018 — Jackson skated to the gold medal in the event and in the process became the first American to win the event since 1994 and the first Black woman to win a Winter Olympic gold medal in an individual event.

Chloe Kim, Snowboarding

Chloe Kim celebrates during the women's snowboard halfpipe flower ceremony during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 10, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.

 

Kim has had quite the journey in snowboarding. She was considered among the world’s best from the time she was a young teenager, and she proved it with a gold medal in halfpipe at PyeongChang 2018. At 17, she was the youngest gold medalist in the event’s Olympic history. 

After winning numerous world cups, world championships, X Games and other titles — plus becoming the first woman to land a variety of tricks in competition — Kim took a break from the sport and began life as a student at Princeton. She returned last winter and made history at the Beijing Games, as she became the only woman ever to win back-to-back gold medals in halfpipe, doing so on her first of three runs. Not stopping there, she used her last two runs to attempt becoming the first woman to land a 1260 (three and a half turns) in competition.

Katie Ledecky, Swimming

Katie Ledecky poses with her two gold and two silver medals after a giving a press conference to the media during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

Ledecky became the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 after breaking the Olympic trials record in the 800-meter freestyle and giving the world a glimpse of what was to come. She won her first Olympic gold in the event just prior to starting her sophomore year of high school. Four years later in Rio she became the second woman ever to win the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle events at the Olympics, breaking her own world records in the 400 and 800 in the process. 

Now a seven-time Olympic gold medalist and 15-time world championships gold medalist, more than any woman in history, Ledecky has broken 14 world and 37 U.S. records. After winning two gold and two silver medals in Tokyo, including gold in the first-ever women’s 1,500-meter race, she is now the most decorated female swimmer of all time.

Oksana Masters, Para-Cycling, Para Nordic Skiing

Oksana Masters poses during the women's sitting biathlon sprint medal ceremony during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 6, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.

 

Everything Masters does — and she does a lot — she excels at. Take Beijing, for instance. Masters claimed Team USA’s first gold medal of these Games by winning the women’s biathlon sprint sitting race, making it her seventh medal in three trips to the Winter Paralympics. The next day she won silver in the women’s cross-country long-distance sitting event. She’s accomplishing all of this during a time where her heart is breaking for Ukraine, the country of her birth. 

Masters’ accomplishments on snow are impressive enough on their own, but they become more impressive when you consider that just six months ago she was competing at the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo where she won gold in both the cycling time trial and road race. Masters — who recently modeled for Fenty Beauty — now has a total of 12 Paralympic medals, including five gold, in six trips to the Games (three Summer, three Winter).

Raven Saunders, Track And Field

Raven Saunders celebrates after winning the silver medal in the women's shot put during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

Saunders is good at capturing people’s attention, whether it’s through her on-field performance in shot put, her comic book-themed masks and colorful hair, or her unapologetic nature when it comes to showing the world who she is and what she stands for. Saunders is an outspoken advocate for mental health, having struggled herself over the years with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. 

She’s also a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, and when she won silver in Tokyo at her second Olympics, she stepped off the podium and raised her arms in an “X” to represent “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.” She said afterward that she wanted to give light to people all over the world who are fighting and don’t have the platform to speak up for themselves.

Tatyana McFadden, Para Track And Field

Tatyana McFadden poses for a photo at a game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 28, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

McFadden’s impact began in high school, when she and her family successfully sued her public school so that student-athletes with disabilities could have the same access as those without disabilities. She’s now a six-time Paralympian and a 20-time medalist after competing in six events in Tokyo. She anchored Team USA to gold in the first-ever 4x100-meter universal relay and added a silver in the 800-meter and a bronze in the 5,000-meter. 

As if that wasn’t enough to put her in the conversation of greatest Para athletes of all time, McFadden made history in 2013 when she became the first person to complete the marathon grand slam by winning Chicago, Boston, London and New York all in the same year — a feat she ended up repeating four years in a row.

Batoyun “Oyuna” Uranchimeg, Wheelchair Curling

Batoyun Uranchimeg competes against Team Canada in wheelchair curling during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 7, 2022 in Beijing. 

 

Much like Jackson, Uranchimeg has been involved in her sport for a relatively short period of time but is now competing on the biggest stage in the world. The 48-year-old began curling six years ago and is now one of two women on the five-person wheelchair curling team in Beijing that’s looking to win Team USA’s first medal in the sport. 

Uranchimeg, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident while visiting the U.S. from her native Mongolia 22 years ago, faced a difficult road to recovery without her son or any other family or friends. She built a life in Minnesota and became a citizen in 2008, the same year her son was finally able to join her. Her introduction to wheelchair curling came when a friend invited her to a “lunch” that just so happened to be at the Four Seasons Curling Club in Blaine, Minnesota. Uranchimeg learned quickly, making her first national team in 2018 and her world championship debut in 2021.

Anastasia Pagonis, Para Swimming

Anastasia Pagonis poses on the podium with her bonze medal at the women's 200-meter individual medley - SM11 medal ceremony during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 30, 2021 in Tokyo. 

 

Even before Pagonis dipped a toe in the pool at her first Paralympic trials last summer, the visually impaired teenager from Long Island already had a massive following on social media. Her TikToks on what life is like as a blind person mix humor with real talk, and her two million followers love every moment of it. 

She earned her way to Tokyo after setting a world record in the 400-meter freestyle S11. The same event was her first in Tokyo — which also happened to be her first major international meet — and she blew away the field while lowering her world record to win Team USA’s first gold medal of the Games. She competed in an additional three events, also winning bronze in the 200-meter individual medley.

Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing

Mikaela Shiffrin reacts after a run during the mixed team parallel competition at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 20, 2022 in Yanqing, China.

 

Shiffrin first graced a world cup podium in 2011 at the age of 16. She won her first race the next year and eventually became the youngest skier in history to reach 50 wins on the world cup circuit. In 2019, she became the winningest slalom skier of all time, surpassing Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 40 world cup victories. That same year she became the first alpine skier to win Crystal Globes in the overall, slalom, giant slalom and super-G in a single season. 

Despite challenges in recent years, including injury and the unexpected passing of her father, Shiffrin set yet another record in January when she won her 47th slalom race and again passed Sweden’s Stenmark for the most wins ever in a single event. Shiffrin has won three Olympic medals over the three Games she’s competed in. 

Karen Price

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Related Athletes

head shot

Sue Bird

head shot

Erin Jackson

Long Track Speedskating
head shot

Chloe Kim

Snowboarding
head shot

Katie Ledecky

Swimming
head shot

Oksana Masters

Nordic Skiing
Cycling
head shot

Raven Saunders

Track and Field
head shot

Tatyana McFadden

USParaTrackandField
Nordic Skiing
US Paralympics
head shot

Batoyun "Oyuna" Uranchimeg

head shot

Anastasia Pagonis

Swimming
head shot

Mikaela Shiffrin

Alpine Skiing