It takes a special harmony of mind and body to accomplish the feats extreme athletes do. They’re talented. They’re innovative. They’re fearless. But, too often in the media, they’re male. Let us show you that adrenaline transcends genders, that no matter what your chromosomal makeup, extreme is extreme.
Here are five of the most talented women in extreme sports.
Jolene Van Vugt
Jolene’s mom reportedly wanted her daughter to become a figure skater or ballerina. Though she probably would’ve pioneered some of the most amazing stunts Swan Lake’s choreographers had ever seen, we’re thankful she chose motocross. After she convinced her dad to buy her a dirt bike at age 11, Jolene, a somewhat fickle hobbyist at that time, was given an ultimatum: either she take motocross seriously, or give it up entirely. She chose the former and quickly ascended the ranks of Canada’s Women’s Motocross Association (WMA), winning numerous pro competitions. She also holds multiple Guinness World Records, including one for being the first woman to backflip a full-sized dirt bike (you get a little taste of her skills–albeit on a little pink BMX jobby–in the video we’ve plucked) and one for driving the world’s fastest toilet. She has been a prominent fixture on the Travis Pastrana-hosted extreme sport TV show, Nitro Circus. The only thing that’s not completely great about Jolene is the shortage of decent, accessible videos that track her impressive exploits. Get it together, Internet.
All it takes is one look at Dallas Friday’s trophy case to know she’s a big deal. An ESPY Award for Best Female Action Sports Athlete, four X-Games titles and a slew of other accolades from worldwide competitions have earned her the (to our knowledge) undisputed title of best female wakeboarder in the world. Maybe more amazing than her awards, is the fact that Dallas has been collecting them since she turned 14, only a year after she first touched a wakeboard. The World Cup. The World, National and Pro Tour championships. Win, win. Win, win. The list goes on for a shocking clip. How someone could be so victorious in such a short span, and with so little training, is mind-boggling. Oh, and she didn’t even compete in the 2011 season due to several severe injuries, so… in case her mammoth trophy case didn’t make it abundantly clear… she’s the real deal. (Full disclosure: we’re not sure she definitely has a trophy case. She may just have a giant award chess board somewhere. “My ESPY killed your X-Games gold! Checkmate!”)
Who says vegans aren’t tough? Well, we have on several occasions, but WE’RE SORRY. WE KNOW NOW THAT WE WERE WRONG, OKAY?! You see, Juliana Sproles has proven us ever so stupid. Why? Because the kick-ass vegan has been crowned toughest woman on the planet after winning 2011′s “World’s Toughest Mudder” competition this past December. And here’s another fun fact, she’s 42 years old. Talk about a supreme physical specimen. Running 10 plus miles through an obstacle course designed by the British Special Forces and tailored to crack incapable entrants, the Mudder competition is one of the most brutal in all of extreme sport. Just completing it at that stage of life would be impressive, let alone taking home the crown. Truly incredible. We young journalists of the extreme struggle to get out of bed some mornings. But maybe all that could change…if we take a cue from Juliana and make a little adjustment in our eating habits. Now, who knows where to get a decent tofurkey?
Megumi Fujii is the number 5 best female MMA fighter in the world, with an impressive record of 25-2. She is also highly skilled and decorated in two other sports, Japanese National Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and holds a black belt in Judo. Known for her lightning-fast takedowns, Megumi’s signature move is the Judo-born toe-hold, which she dubs the “Megulock”. (Get it? “Megu”? Like her name?) She may only be 5′ 3″, 113 pounds, but we’re pretty sure she could ruin our entire office any day of the week. Which is why we’d only interview her with one of those plexiglass prison panels separating us, lest we upset her. KIDDING! (We’re not kidding.)
Sarah will be remembered as one of the most talented and innovative athletes in the history and of all sport, extreme or not. A Canadian freestyle skier, Burke was a four-time Winter X-Games gold medalist, world champion halfpipe winner, ESPY Award recipient and so much else. But her biggest contribution came off the skis when she successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee to have the halfpipe event added to the schedule for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Tragically, Burke’s career came to an untimely end in 2012 when, at the age of 29, she sustained a fatal injury on a superpipe at Park City Mountain Eagle Resort in Park City, Utah. Burke had a passion for her sport that few of even the most talented athletes possess. She had the wherewithal and courage to do more than perform within the bounds of what was established. She forged a new path for herself and for all those who will follow in her enterprising footsteps.