2011 was an intense year for women in sports. While we’re looking forward to more excitement in 2012 (including the Olympics!), let’s also take a look back on this year’s top five most memorable moments in women’s athletics, good and bad.
5. Pat Summitt announces early stage Alzheimer’s
In August, Pat Summitt, the 59-year-old University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach — who boasts the most impressive winning streak of any college coach in history, male or female — announced that she had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. While the news devastated players and fans, Summitt still managed to inspire her fans.
4. Minnesota Lynx earn first WNBA title
Beating the Atlanta Dream 73-67 in October, the Minnesota Lynx scored the franchise’s first WNBA title. Despite a halftime lead from the Dream in the final game, the Lynx took over in the drama-filled game’s last 20 minutes and sealed Minnesota’s victory by hitting 9 out of 12 from the free-throw line in the match’s final white-knuckling moments.
3. Lexi Thompson becomes youngest golfer to win a professional LPGA tournament
A new golf star was born in September when at 16 years old Lexi Thompson became the youngest pro (by almost two years) to win an LGPA tour event. Proving that we might have a female Tiger Woods in our midst, Thompson then went on to become the youngest winner in Ladies European Tour history when she won the Dubai Ladies Masters on December 17th.
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2. Danica Patrick’s final IndyCar race
The most successful female in American racing, Danica Patrick finally came clean about her not-so-secret plans to leave IndyCar next year and race full time for NASCAR. Despite the tragic death of fellow driver Dan Wheldon in Patrick’s final race in Las Vegas, Patrick went out on a high note as the only woman in history to win in the IndyCar series.
1. Women's World Cup Run
And finally, even though the U.S. lost to Japan, the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup had plenty to cheer about. The sixth world championship for women’s soccer (or football, as the rest of the world calls it) had many exhilarating moments, especially the first half of the final, in which the U.S. looked as if was actually going to take the prize. Overall, the run was head and shoulders above the rest of this year’s sporting events.