You may be familiar with American world-class sprinter Allyson Felix, but she remains incredibly underrated. At 34 years old, Felix holds 18 IAAF World Championships medals and nine Olympic medals, and is tied for first place in IAAF career medals in any discipline and the leader in Olympic medals for women’s track and field. She is also at the top of her sport in records: Her 47.72 split in the 4 x 400-meter relay at the 2015 World Championships is the fastest split ever by an American woman and the third fastest split among all women; she also ranks fourth overall in the women’s 150-meter sprint.
Felix broke with tradition when she signed a contract with Adidas in 2003, making her ineligible to compete under NCAA regulations. This contract paid her entire University of Southern California tuition. While she studied, Felix continued training and competing. She went on to win a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and two gold World Championships medals.
In addition to her athletic talents, Felix has been outspoken about athletes’ maternity rights. In an op-ed published in The New York Times less than a year after her daughter was born via an emergency C-section, she discussed the risks that pregnancy carries for athletes. Her criticism of Nike’s maternity policy highlighted the pay insecurity that athletes face when having children and resulted in a congressional inquiry and maternity protections from Nike and three other athletic apparel companies.
Whether or not Felix will be at the 2020 Olympics—and she certainly hopes to be—her career and activism make her name one that every sports fan should know.
Jennifer Jones has been at the top of the curling world for 15 years. The 45-year-old Canadian won gold at the 2014 Olympics in an undefeated run as skip; she is the second person and first woman to have done so. She has also won 12 medals at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian women’s curling championship, earning her a tie for most Scotties championships.
Jones, a senior legal advisor educated at the University of Manitoba, is best-known for “The Shot,” a near-impossible play executed in the 2005 Scotties. “The Shot” won the game against Team Ontario, qualified her team for the 2005 World Women’s Curling Championship, and sent shock waves across the Canadian curling community. Jones was voted the top Canadian female curler of all-time in a 2019 TSN poll.
Jones most recently competed in the 2020 Scotties, clinching a wild-card spot but falling to Ontario in the semifinals. It was her 15th time competing.
Women’s hockey has its fair share of stars, but forward Madison Packer’s name is not as big as it deserves to be. Packer, 28, grew up in Michigan and now plays for the Metropolitan Riveters in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). Although she was not selected for Team USA at the 2014 Olympics, Packer refused to let her hockey career end in university. After she graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2014, she took a chance and signed with the Riveters for the NWHL’s inaugural season, rather than moving to Canada to play in the already-established Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL).
That move has since brought heaps of success for Packer, who was selected to play in the NWHL All-Star Game in 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020, acting as one of two team captains in the most recent iteration. She announced her retirement at the tail end of the 2017 season amid arguments between the league and players over salary cuts, health insurance, and the league’s future, but chose to return the next season, winning the Isobel Cup with her team.
Packer has been one of the most outspoken advocates for the NWHL during its expansion. She is also an advocate for LGBTQ rights and suicide prevention awareness.