The top 10 performances in women's sports
espnW contributors reflect on the women's sports moments that top their personal lists and offer a few more notable achievements worthy of consideration.
Brandi Chastain's 'insanity' stands test of timeSeventeen million television viewers, the most to watch a domestic soccer game. One hundred and twenty minutes of scoreless competition. Two powerhouse countries. A penalty kick -- and potential victory -- all resting on one woman's shoulders. What happened next was best described by the kicker herself: momentary insanity. Brandi Chastain's goal won the 1999 Women's World Cup for the United States. That moment became one of sports' most famous photos, as Chastain scored the game-winning penalty kick and ripped off her jersey in celebration to reveal a black sports bra. But then, we all know it meant so much more than that.
The defense-first U.S. women's team had fought fiercely on home turf against offensive powerhouse China. Then-president Bill Clinton was among the 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., who witnessed the match. Each U.S. member had successfully put away her penalty kick in the final shootout, paving the way for an unsung hero, goalkeeper Briana Scurry, to make a save that set the stage for Chastain's perfect kick. With that save, one spectacular kick -- and that moment of unabashed joy and jubilation -- soccer's equivalent of the Dream Team brought newfound prestige and life to soccer in America.
-- Adena Andrews
Mary Lou Retton vaults into history
Los Angeles, 1984. No United States gymnast -- male or female -- had ever won an Olympic gold medal. Enter Mary Lou Retton, a perky, pixie-haired, muscular 16-year-old who trained with Bela Karolyi, the world's most renowned gymnastics coach. The former Soviet Union had boycotted the games, as did all the Eastern Bloc countries, all except gymnastics powerhouse Romania starring Ecaterina Szabo, the favorite to take all-around gold in Los Angeles. With Szabo in the field and Retton still recovering from knee surgery just six weeks prior, the odds were not in Retton's favor. But destiny had other plans.
Retton, who trailed Szabo by .15 of a point heading into the final two events, earned perfect 10s on the floor exercise and vault to take the all-around title. As Retton confidently leaped into Karolyi's arms after sticking the vault that would make her an Olympic champion and international superstar, all in front of a raucous crowd whose chants of U-S-A could seemingly be heard across the county, it was impossible not to be overcome with patriotism.
Retton, now 43, was recently quoted as saying she was too old to still be considered "America's Sweetheart." Sorry Mary Lou, but just like your all-around gold, that's a title that will never be stripped.
-- Melissa Jacobs
The Streak is something special
Until Dec. 30, 2010, the last time the UConn women's basketball team had lost a game was April 4, 2008. Two years and 90 consecutive wins later, the Huskies' NCAA-record winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal. Let's celebrate the incredible accomplishment of the UConn women, led by coach Geno Auriemma and a series of outstanding student-athletes, from Renee Montgomery to Tina Charles to Maya Moore. To win 90 games in a row is a mind-boggling streak at any level. We won't see another streak like it in men's or women's basketball.
There will be other streaks in other sports, but this one was special. For 90 straight games over the course of two years, the UConn women dominated opponents. They completed two straight 39-0 seasons with consecutive national championships. The Huskies consistently delivered solid team play every day, game in and game out, regardless of the competition. The Streak should be celebrated and appreciated for what it is: one of the greatest athletic achievements in the last 30 years, if not all time.
-- Amanda Rykoff
Worthy of consideration
A few more incredible performances by ladies I believe deserve a mention:
Grete Waitz: The legendary marathoner posted nine New York City Marathon victories -- the most by any competitor, man or woman. She broke the world record for the marathon three times on the streets of the Big Apple.
Julie Krone: The jockey posted a win in the 1993 Belmont Stakes aboard Colonial Affair. It remains the only Triple Crown win by a female jockey.
Dara Torres: Torres' 2008 Summer Olympics outing saw the 41-year-old win silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle, the 4x100-meter medley relay and the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. To have competed in the Olympics in 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008 is a remarkable show of dedication and consistency.
Cheryl Miller: The hoops legend's 105-point game in high school was one of the 132 wins in Miller's four years at Riverside Polytechnic High School. The team lost just four times in Miller's 1978-82 high school career.
Northwestern lacrosse team: The women posted a 41-game win streak and NCAA-record 58-game home win streak, which was snapped in April 2010. From 2005 to 2009, the team won the NCAA women's lacrosse championship five consecutive times, recording two undefeated seasons, going undefeated at home and posting a record of 106-3.
-- Sarah Spain