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The first recorded examples of track and field come from the Ancient Olympic Games, but it’s thought that the sport hails from way back before then. In fact, the sport has roots as far back as prehistoric times, as running, jumping and throwing were commonplace even before they were turned into real competitions. The first-ever Olympic Games were held in Olympia all the way back in 776 BCE where there was just one contested event – the stadion footrace.
This race was a 200-yard sprint in a stadion… And if you think that word sounds familiar, it’s because it was the name of the building the event was held in, which then became stadium in Latin. Now that is a word we all certainly use nowadays! Back then, women weren’t allowed to enter the Olympic Games, unless they were entering their horses into equestrian events. The 1900 Paris Games saw the first female events being held, in lawn tennis and golf, before athletics and gymnastics welcomed female competitors in 1928. Over the last 90 years, the female track and field athletes have been showing what they’re made of and impressing the world with their skills.
In 2012, the last every ‘male-only’ sporting event became inclusive when women were given their own boxing competition. It’s been a long time coming, but finally, females can compete in all of the same sports as men in the Olympic Games… Although the only sporting events where men and women can compete against each other is in equestrian sports. Over the last few decades, hundreds of women have fought hard to prove their worth and take home the gold medal. In track and field, they have to run, jump or throw their way to a place on the podium, with some even competing in multi-events such as the pentathlon, heptathlon, and decathlon.
We have seen some serious record-breakers over the last few decades, but what happens when the finish line has been crossed, and the long-jump sand has settled? Do these athletes continue training and following their dreams of becoming the best in the world? Or do they opt out of the track and field lifestyle once and for all? Let’s take a look at some of the best women in track and field over the years, to see where their careers have taken them and if they continue to keep as fit as ever.
Maggie Vessey then
Maggie Vessey hails from Soquel in California, which is where she first discovered her love for running. She started competing for her university, California Polytechnic, where she became the Big West Conference champion in the 800 meters twice! During the trials for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, she finished in fifth place, just losing out on a space. In the 2012 Olympic trials she came eighth. She won gold at the 4×800 meter relay at the World Relay Championships in 2015.
Maggie Vessey today
Unfortunately, Maggie found herself in hot water back in 2012 when she received a public warning about using a banned substance. However, she said that she was taking a prescribed skincare product and didn’t realize that one of the ingredients was a diuretic. In 2013, the athlete decided to start her own fashion line which caused a stir on the track the following year. Maggie Vessey continues to break her own records in the 400 meters and the 800 meters, proving that she isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.
Melanie Adams then
This Australian athlete started pole vaulting when she was just 11-years-old while attending Oak Ridge High School in Melbourne. It didn’t take long for people to sit up and take notice of the young star, especially when she won two national under-21 titles. Melanie Adams competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics, in pole vaulting, and got through to the finals. Alongside her pole vaulting, Adams also enjoys playing volleyball but hasn’t entered any official competitions for that sport.
Melanie Adams today
Even when this athlete broke her foot in 2006, it didn’t stop her from taking on the pole vault! While she may have slowed down competitively since the 2012 Olympics, Adams is still very much in the limelight. Over the years, the athlete has tried her hand at modeling and even reached the finals of Miss Teen Australia when she was younger. Adams has said she hopes to one day compete in Miss Universe and if her Instagram photos are anything to go by then she has a good chance of getting through!
Lolo Jones then
Lori ‘Lolo’ Jones had a tough upbringing, attending eight schools in eight years as her mother held down two jobs to support the whole family. Perhaps this hardship is what pushed Lolo to succeed, both academically and in athletics. As a teenager, she became the Gatorade Midwest Athlete of the Year and even set an impressive record at the Iowa State track meet. Her specialties? Hurdling and bobsledding! She has won two gold medals at World Championships for her hurdling and a gold medal for her bobsledding.
Lolo Jones today
As Lolo Jones has become more and more famous, she has been openly criticized for her sporting ability, as some believe she has only been picked for certain teams due to her fame. However, this athlete isn’t going to let a bit of bad press stand in her way! One of her most difficult times came in the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she fell at the penultimate hurdle and came seventh, after being tipped to win. Her most recent win was the 100-meter hurdle at the NCAC Championships in 2015.
Allyson Felix then
This track and field sprinter isn’t just good at once distance; she’s amazing at three! Allyson Felix has won an Olympic gold and two silvers in the 200 meters, along with a silver medal in the 400 meters at the 2016 Olympic Games, and a gold in the 2012 Olympics for the 4×100 meter relay. If you think it sounds like her medal cabinet seems pretty full, then you might be surprised to learn that in all competitions so far she has won 24 gold medals, eight silvers and four bronzes… Now that’s impressive.
Allyson Felix today
In 2016, Felix fell from a pull-up bar while at the gym, which led to her twisting her ankle and tearing several ligaments. This meant that she had a slow start to the year, as she could barely start. However, by the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, she was raring to go again, winning two golds and one silver medal. The year after, she carried on her winning streak with three more medals at the World Championships. It seems as though this athlete is just going to keep running as fast as she can, for as long as she can.
Louise Hazel then
This British athlete doesn’t just compete in one sport… Louise Hazel specializes in the heptathlon, which consists of seven different sports, all rolled into one big point-scoring event. In 2009, Hazel was voted as the ninth best heptathlete of all time, as well as second best in the UK. The year after, she went onto win a gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, where she scored an impressive 6165 points. She competed in the 2012 Olympic Games but unfortunately came home empty-handed.
Louise Hazel today
In 2013, Louise Hazel announced that she would be retiring from competing in the heptathlon, but would consider taking on other events. Then, in 2014, she announced that she would be making a comeback for the Commonwealth Games to defend her title. Unfortunately, ulcerative colitis messed with her training schedule, and she decided to back out again. Hazel is now often seen on British TV, such as in the game show The Chase and Ninja Warrior UK.
Sara Galimberti then
This Italian athlete is just 26-years-old and already causing a stir on the track – and off of it. She first started making headlines when she was just 18-years-old, for both her running skills and for her looks. Competing in mid-long distances such as the 800 meters and 1500 meters, Sara Galimberti has already plenty of medals to her name and is certainly one to watch as she works her way up the rankings. She was also named Miss Lombardia in 2009, and so has her modeling career to work on too.
Sara Galimberti today
While Sara Galimberti hasn’t won any big competitions yet, she has been tipped as one to watch in the mid and long-distance running competitions. Could we be seeing her at the Olympic games anytime soon? Her Instagram has over 20,000 followers, and it’s here she let the world know she is now considered an ‘Adidas Athlete’ which means a rather impressive sponsorship deal on top of all her running and modeling work. This athlete surely has big things ahead of her!
Anna Chicherova then
This Russian high jumper won her first ever title in 1999, when she was just 16-years-old. Over the years, since winning the World Youth Championships, Anna Chicherova high-jumped her way to the top of the leaderboards and became the world’s best. However, when she became pregnant in 2010, she had to take some time out. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics she won bronze and then gold in the 2012 London Olympics. However, her Beijing medal has since been taken off of her.
Anna Chicherova today
Anna Chicherova faced controversy when she failed an illegal substances test from her 2008 sample; news that was announced by the IOC in 2016. This led to her being stripped of her bronze medal for the Beijing Olympics, something which she strongly contests. Since the news broke, Chicherova has been unsurprisingly quiet in the track and field scene. In fact, she hasn’t competed in any championships or events now since 2015.
Jessica Ennis then
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, to give her her full title, is one of the most famous track and field athletes from Team GB. Specializing in multi-events, such as the heptathlon, Jessica Ennis took gold at home in the 2012 Olympics for the heptathlon, before nabbing herself a silver in the 2016 Olympics. This star athlete has also earned herself several golds in World Championships and the European Championships. Is there nothing this track and field star can’t do?!
Jessica Ennis today
Unfortunately, in October 2016, Jessica Ennis-Hill decided to retire from athletics once and for all. After years of recurring injuries, this athlete knew that it was time to throw in the towel before things got any worse. The year after retiring, the heptathlete became the first British woman (and second woman ever) to win the coveted BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award. Jessica Ennis-Hill now spends a lot of her time filming commercials for brands, writing for the British newspaper The Times, and raising money for charity.
Christina Vukicevic then
This Norwegian athlete has hurdling in her blood! From a young age, Christina Vukicevic was coached by her father who took part in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, competing for Yugoslavia. Her father also trains her brother, Vladimir Vukicevic who holds two Norwegian records for his hurdling times. This stunning athlete won her first international gold medal back in 2003 and carried on smashing junior records, even after taking time off for a knee injury. She won bronze in the 2011 Paris European Indoor Championships; her first non-junior medal.
Christina Vukicevic today
Unfortunately, an injury in 2012 put a halt on all of Christina Vukicevic’s big plans to dominate the track and field world. It was rumored that, at the time, she was training with Srdjan Djordjevic – a doctor known for slightly controversial practices. In February 2016, she announced that she was expecting a child with her husband Vadim Demidov, a Norwegian footballer, and also said that she was officially retiring from hurdling due to her previous injury.
Grete Sadeiko then
This young athlete is definitely one to watch, as while she is only 24-years-old, she is already causing a stir. It’s clear that the Estonian heptathlete has sporty blood running through her veins as her sister, Grit Sadeiko, also competes in heptathlons… Let’s just hope there’s no sibling rivalry there! Over the years, through various junior competitions, Grete Sadeiko has proven she knows what it takes to get to the top. She’s consistently ranked in the Top 10 in the 2010, 2012 and 2015 competitions she has entered.
Grete Sadeiko today
It seems as though Grete Sadeiko may be taking a little break from the heptathlons as she recently gave birth to a daughter, Gloria, on July 2, 2017. She is engaged to the NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III who used to play for the Washington Redskins but is currently a free agent. It’s likely that these two will bring up an extremely athletic child if her parentage is anything to go by!
Leryn Franco then
This javelin thrower hails from Paraguay and holds the national record for throwing 57.77 meters at the 2012 Ibero-American Championships in Athletics. Her personal best beat the previous national record of 55.66 meters but unfortunately didn’t earn her any medals. She does have a gold from the 1998 South American Youth Championships and a bronze from the same tournament a year later. Leryn Franco was also at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, but failed to bring home any medals.
Leryn Franco today
Nowadays, Franco is best known for her modeling and acting work than her javelin throwing. While she does still compete in the sport, she spends a lot of her time working the camera now instead. In 2011, the Paraguayan beauty was featured in a Swimsuit Issue for Sports Illustrated and has even competed in beauty pageants around the world. In 2013, Leryn Franco was picked to play the part of a young Eliza Lynch in the movie, Eliza Lynch: Queen of Paraguay.
Allison Stokke then
After initially trying her hand at gymnastics in school, Allison Stokke decided that she wanted to try her hand at pole vaulting instead. And it turns out, she had the right idea! She became one of the best young pole vaulters in the country, winning plenty of junior championships and breaking high school records around America. However, her career really took off when she was snapped at a 2007 competition. The photos went viral, leading to Stokke becoming one of the most talked about pole vaulters of all time.
Allison Stokke today
Initially, Allison Stokke was not impressed with all of the coverage she was getting for the photos. However, she has since learned to embrace the fame and the sponsorship deals that keep coming her way. She creates videos for GoPro, uses her Instagram to model various sports brands, and has worked with some huge brands such as Nike and Uniqlo. Allison Stokke is now dating another viral photo sensation and professional golfer, Rickie Fowler.
Hannah England then
With a name like Hannah England, it probably doesn’t surprise you to learn where this athlete hails from… Born and bred in Oxford, in the UK, this athlete specializes in the 800 meters, 1500 meters, and the mile run. Her sheer talent on the track landed her a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships, and she’s also one of only three British women to get times of under 2 minutes for the 800 meters and 9 minutes for the 3000 meters.
Hannah England today
The last competition Hannah England took part in was the 2014 European Athletics Championships where she placed sixth in the 1500 meters. However, 2012 was a pretty good year for the runner as she competed in the Olympic Games in London, and married Luke Gunn, a fellow track and field star. According to her Twitter account, she has been back in training and ready to compete again, so watch this space!
Carly Schmidt then
While Carly Schmidt may still be too new to compete in the bigger competitions yet, she has been tipped as a pole vaulter to watch. Perhaps the next Allison Stokke? Her pole vaulting career really took off when she attended the Indiana Institute of Technology and started competing at a national level. She has consistently proven herself to be one to watch time and time again so we can expect big things from Carly Schmidt.
Carly Schmidt today
Along with training to become one of the best pole vaulters out there, Carly Schmidt has managed to build up quite an impressive social media following. With over 50,000 followers on Instagram, this athlete posts regular photos of her out and about, her toned abs, and even motivational quotes. Her figure has attracted the attention of magazines and online sports blogs, who often ask whether she is ‘too ripped,’ however, the Schmidt appears to take it all in her stride.
Darya Klishina – then
This Russian athlete puts her long legs to good use as she soars through the air in the long jump. Darya nearly measures to a staggering 5’11” which have seen her take home a number of gold medals from many European competitions. As she is so tall, Darya had plenty of options when it came to the sporting world. So why did she choose long jump? Actually, the athlete began her days as a volleyball player before switching sports.
Darya Klishina – today
Sadly, Darya was one of the athletes caught up in the 2016 scandal surrounding the Russian athletes. Competitors at the Rio Olympics were found to have been using performance-enhancing substances which saw all Russian athletes banned from the games. Thankfully for Darya, she was able to overrule her punishment as she argued that by training in the States she would’ve had no access to anything the others were using. Darya was allowed to compete and placed ninth overall in the long jump.
Amy Acuff – then
When it comes to track and field athletes, one of the most memorable female athletes is Amy Acuff. This athlete competed in a staggering five Olympic games spanning from 1996 all the way to 2012 as part of the track and field team for the U.S. It was during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games that Amy was able to wow the world. The athlete was known for competing in the high jump, and this year she was able to reach over 6 ft 6 inches to take home the bronze.
Amy Acuff – today
At 42 years old, Amy has now decided to swap life on the field to a life of coding as the star is now a technological superstar. Amy began by taking computer programming courses where she learned how to develop apps for a living. Her first creation was released to the public in 2009 and focuses on finding vaccines for children. Recently Amy has released a new app named iAnalyze that works by comparing videos side by side to help coaches and athletes while training.
Yelena Isinbayeva – then
Back to the Russian competitors and here we have one of their leading pole vaulters. Yelena has taken home two Olympic gold medals in her time, including one in 2004 as well as another in 2008. As if that wasn’t enough, Yelena has also taken home the world championship title three times. Back in 2005, this athlete became the first woman ever to clear a 5-meter pole vault meaning she has gone down in history as one of the greatest pole vaulters ever.
Yelena Isinbayeva – today
Yelena opted to retire from her sport back in 2016 – perhaps it had something to do with the Russian athlete doping business going on the same year? Regardless, the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission elected the athlete to serve on the committee. This was a huge deal for Yelena as only 12 members get voted onto the board every eight years. Her chance to be such a big part of the Olympics is a significant honor for any athlete.
Sanya Richards – Ross then
Although Sanya was born in Jamaica, this athlete moved over to the States where she competed as part of their track and field team. Over the course of her career, Sanya has taken home an Olympic gold in the 2004 4×400 relay, as well as a gold in 2012 for the 400m. The athlete was determined to claw it back as in 2008 Olympics Sanya only managed to land third place. Her speed has seen Sanya be named as one of the best 400-meter runners ever.
Sanya Richards – Ross today
Sadly, everything came crashing down for the athlete in 2016. Sanya had been hoping to make it to the 2016 Olympics when a hamstring injury not only put an end to her Olympic dreams but to her entire career. Sanya is no longer able to run meaning she has officially retired from the sport. She now focuses her time on raising her new baby boy, as well as releasing her book, Chasing Grace, and the children’s book, Run With Me.
Ebba Jungmark – then
This Swedish competitor has bounced her way into the high jumping world. Back in 2006, Ebba took home 5th place when she entered the World Junior Championships, and it was only up for the high jumper from there. Ebba’s personal high jump record is just under 6’6” that she set in 2011. Most recently the athlete has taken home a silver medal from the European Indoor Championships as she competed in the games during 2013.
Ebba Jungmark – today
There is a good reason that Ebba hasn’t brought home a medal since 2013: the athlete suffered a severe injury. The issue meant that Ebba was off her feet for eight months before trying to make it back into the world of competitive sports. Sadly, she was never able to make it back to her former glory. In 2015, the former athlete signed up with Adidas as one of their new fitness models. Now Ebba keeps the world up to date on her life via social media.
Georganne Moline – then
It was back in high school that Georganne fell in love with hurdling. The athlete began to compete in Arizona where she quickly became the 100m and 300m hurdle State champion. Moving onto university and Georganne continued to hurdle. In fact, the athlete was so good at what she does she was undefeated throughout 2012. It wasn’t long before she earned her spot on the 2012 Olympic team where she was the star of the 400-meter hurdle race.
Georganne Moline – today
Although she was able to make it to the 2012 London Olympics, it looked as though that would be the athlete’s first and last shot at becoming an Olympic legend. An injury meant that Georganne was never able to fulfill her 2016 Olympic dreams. However, in a twist of fate, it looks as though this athlete isn’t done. In April 2017, Georganne made her comeback to the sport after winning a gold medal at the Drake Relays. It looks as though the win was all the athlete needed as motivation to keep going.
Jennifer Oeser – then
Jennifer doesn’t just rock at one sport; this athlete is the queen of seven! Jennifer is a German heptathlete meaning she competes in the 100m, 220m and 800m hurdles, high and long jump, shot put, and the javelin. Over the years Jennifer has worked her way up through the ranks where she made her Olympic debut at the 2008 games. The athlete finished 11th but was able to outdo herself in 2012 where she finished 9th place.
Jennifer Oeser – today
Jennifer Oeser is now officially retired from her sport. Even though she no longer competes, this athlete still hits the sporting headlines. Recently it emerged that at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, Tatyana Chernova has been using performance-enhancing supplements when she took home the gold medal. This meant that Jennifer was finally able to receive the silver medal she deserved all those years ago, while British athlete Jessica Ennis took home her rightful gold.
Emma Green – then
This Swedish athlete flew onto the scene as a high jumper for her country. Over the years Emma has taken home a bronze from the World Championships, as well as getting her chance to appear at the Olympic Games not once, but twice! Her first appearance was during the 2008 Beijing Games before she reappeared at the 2012 London Olympics. Back in 2010, the athlete was able to set her personal record when she successfully cleared 6 foot 7 inches.
Emma Green – today
It was competing as a high jumper that saw Emma meet her future husband, Yannick Tregaro. The pair had a thing or two in common as Yannick had been coaching the athlete when they tied the knot. Sadly, the couple were divorced by 2014 just three years later. Emma now spends her time offering lectures about the importance of mental health. The former athlete gave everyone a surprise when she announced via Instagram that she is currently expecting her first child with Emil Salon, a former basketball player.
Sandi Morris – then
This athlete started out her outdoor pole vaulting career back in high school and has gone on to set and maintain the record for outdoor pole vaulting at 16 feet 4.85 inches. After soaring to the height of her career, it wasn’t long before she snapped up a place on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. When she flew to Rio, there were no disappointments as the athlete was able to bag herself a silver medal at just 24 years old.
Sandi Morris – today
Sandi currently finds herself in an awkward position. While the athlete is trying to do everything she can to live the life of an average woman in her 20s, Sandi is also trying to maintain being at the top of her career. The athlete recently graduated from college where she had been studying broadcast journalism. However, Sandi still finds time to fit in regular training sessions. When she isn’t busy with her sport, Sandi is gardening, singing, or playing the violin and guitar – though not at the same time.
Queen Harrison – then
At a young age, Queen was used to a life of pressure as her father would regularly wake her and her siblings before going to school, so they had time to do situps, pushups, jumping jacks, and go on runs. It was this tough love approach that eventually saw Queen fall into the world of hurdling. She was a natural. In 2008, Queen was the youngest member of the U.S. track and field team as she was just 19 years old at the time. This was just the first step in her career to great hood.
Queen Harrison – today
Unfortunately, Queen wasn’t destined to make a comeback at the 2016 Olympics as she failed to qualify for the team. However, in a twist of fate, the athlete still made her way to Rio as her boyfriend, Will Claye, was competing on the team instead. Will was able to bag his second ever Olympic gold after trouncing the competition at the triple jump, but his bounds didn’t end there. Will quickly leaped over the stands into the audience to propose to Queen. Thankfully the athlete said “yes”!
Michelle Jenneke then
This Australian hurdler trained hard to get where she is today… In fact, she started when she was just 10-years-old. At the 2010 Australian Junior Championships, the up and coming star broke the country’s record in the women’s sprint medley relay and came first in the 100-meter hurdles. That same year she won a silver at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, too. Michelle Jenneke was picked for her country’s team in the 2014 Commonwealth Games where she was the youngest competitor in the final. She placed fifth.
Michelle Jenneke today
Nothing seems to be stopping Michelle Jenneke! In August 2017, the hurdler completed in the World Championships for the second time and managed to finish seventh in the semi-finals. It was this event that turned Jenneke into a global superstar, as well… In a montage by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the world got to see this hurdler warm up in a rather unusual fashion. Her warm-up jig soon went viral and kick-started her career as a model, also.