Ferret Legging is a completely normal English pastime in which participants tie their trousers at the ankles and place ferrets down their pants. It’s a game of endurance, and the winner is the one who can keep the squirming critters inside their pants for the longest period.
Also known as Ferret-Down-Trousers or Put ’em Down, the game was first played by Yorkshire coal miners hundreds of years ago. It saw a resurgence in the 1970s and even crossed the pond as events were held in Richmond, Virginia, USA, between 2003-2009.
Camel wrestling, or deve güreşi in Turkish, sees two male Tülü camels fight each other until one becomes exhausted. It first originated among ancient nomadic Turkic tribes over 1,000 years ago and is popular in Turkey’s Aegean region and other parts of the Middle East.
How do people get the two beasts to fight? Well, a female camel in heat is led before them, causing them to battle for her affection. Human males have been seen participating in a similar sport outside pubs and nightclubs at closing time!
The dangerous and controversial new craze of Face Slapping does exactly what it says on the tin. Two competitors take turns slapping each other in the face as hard as they can. Bouts last five rounds, and points are awarded for technique, accuracy, and the impression left on their opponent’s face.
If an opponent moves, steps away, or covers their face, they are disqualified. After the Nevada State Athletic Commission gave the new combat sport the greenlight, UFC President Dana White set up a league and the Power Slap TV show.
Giant Pumpkin Kayaking
Instead of carving scary faces onto pumpkins this Halloween, why not try Giant Pumpkin Kayaking? After growing your pumpkin for eight months, you’ll need a spade and another month to hollow it out. Next, after checking its seaworthiness, you’re good to go!
The best-known race is the Windsor Pumpkin Regatta, held in October on Lake Pesaquid in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada. The half-mile (800 m) race attracts hundreds of entrants in fancy dress. @e guess there’s a lot of pumpkin pie there, too!
Australian Rules Football
Those wild Australians turned the ancient Irish sport of Gaelic Football upside down. There are many reasons Aussie Rules is weird. Each team has 18 players, and the field is oval. Each end has four goalposts — goals between the center posts are worth six points, while goals between the outers two posts are worth one point.
Finally, games are made up of four 20-minute quarters. To outsiders, Aussie Rules resembles seagulls fighting over a hot chip, and it looks like the players don’t even know what’s going on!
Kabaddi is an ancient Indian sport but is also popular in surrounding countries and is the national sport of neighboring Bangladesh. Legend says the sport originated in Tamil Nadu over 4,000 years ago. Basically, it’s Tag for grown-ups.
The game sees a raider run into the opposing team’s side of the court and try to tag as many of the seven defenders as they can… while holding their breath! To prove they’re not breathing in, the raider must chant the word Kabbadi over and over again.
Unless you come from the West Country in England, chasing a wheel of cheese down a very steep hill isn’t a sport. However, for those lucky enough to have grown up in Gloucestershire, it’s perfectly normal and just as glamorous as the Super Bowl.
Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake dates back to the 1800s when locals would chase a nine-pound cheese from the top of the hill. Nowadays, people from all over the world throw themselves down the slope while paramedics and ambulances await at the bottom.
This unusual sport is the best way to make those household chores you hate more enjoyable. Extreme Ironing combines ironing with daredevil activities such as mountain climbing, scuba diving, and even skydiving!
Englishman Phil Shaw invented Extreme Ironing in 1997. After returning home from a hard day’s work at a factory, he couldn’t be bothered to face the mountain of clothes and wanted instead to go rock climbing. So, Phil decided to combine the two activities into a new extreme sport.
Sometimes called pelota, Jai Alai originated in the Basque Country of Spain. Players use a curved wicker basket attached to the arm called a cesta to bounce a ball off a wall by accelerating it to speeds of up to 100mph!
In 1875, Serafin Baroja coined the name Jai Alai — which means “merry festival” in the Basque language. The sport is played worldwide but is most prevalent in Spain, France, and Latin American countries, especially Mexico. The sport has also popped up in the USA and the Philippines.
Caber Tossing is a Scottish sport in which male entrants (who else?!) attempt to toss a long wooden pole called a caber as far as they can. The caber comes from larch trees and can be between 16–20 feet tall and weigh 90–150 pounds.
Caber Tossing is thought to have been invented by 16th-century Scottish lumberjacks but is also found in Sweden. It’s just one event in The Highland Games, and other sports competitions there involve bagpipe playing, dancing, and throwing other heavy things like hammers and stones.
The sport of Sepak Takraw is popular in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand and Malaysia. The word sepak means kick in Malay, while takraw refers to the woven rattan ball in Thai. In short, it’s kick volleyball, and it’s fantastic to watch.
Schoolkids, amateurs, and professionals at The Asian Games jump as high as acrobats and display mind-boggling technique and accuracy as they lift the ball over the net and down into their opponents’ halves.
Bog Snorkeling is a Welsh sporting event in which competitors don a snorkel, diving mask, and flippers and aim to complete two lengths of a 60-yard water-filled trench cut through a peat bog in the quickest time. But there’s a catch — you’re not allowed to swim!
Instead, you must propel yourself by flipper power alone. The world record was set by Neil Rutter in 2018, with a time of 78.81 seconds. You can visit the World Bog Snorkelling Championship every August.
Bunny Hurdle Racing
Who wouldn’t love a sport in which bunnies race? Bunny Hurdle Racing is popular in Scandinavian countries, but Rabbit Show Jumping competitions have also been held in Germany and the United States. Known as Kaninhoppning in Swedish, the sport originated in Sweden in the 1970s.
The world record for the rabbit high jump is 42 in, while the world record for the rabbit long jump is 9.88 ft. Both records were achieved by Miss Pinky’s Grand Champion Harajuku “Dobby,” owned by Julia Samson from Sweden.
To understand Tuk-Tuk Polo, you must first know that a Tuk-Tuk is one of those tiny motorized rickshaw taxi cabs you find across many parts of Asia. The second thing to learn is that all Tuk-Tuk drivers are wild.
In 2016, Sri Lanka’s most adventurous rickshaw drivers came up with the sport of Tuk-Tuk Polo. It’s basically polo, but one person drives while their backseat passenger tries to strike the ball with a polo mallet and guide it through goalposts.
If you grew up in Britain or Ireland, you love Conker season. If you grew up anywhere else, you’ll find it a little odd. Every fall (or autumn, as the locals call it), kids scavenge the ground for horse chestnuts. They take them home, drill or skewer holes in them, and attach them to string.
Then, they challenge each other to smash each other’s conkers. The loser is the one whose conker is destroyed. Winners refer to their nuts by the number of wins, i.e., “He’s a 99er.”
Limbo Skating is one of the craziest sports on our list. The sport combines the Trinidadian pastime of dancing under increasingly low poles and the gymnastic discipline of doing the splits. Oh, and rollerskating… because that’s what the world was lacking!
Limbo Skating sees competitors attempting to limbo under a series of poles or other obstacles while moving at high speed on rollerskates. In 2021, seven-year-old Deshna Aditya Nahar set a limbo skating record, speeding under 20 cars in 13.74 seconds.
Chess Boxing requires both brains and brawn. As the name suggests, the sport combines the mental and physical aspects of chess and boxing. First, two combatants take part in a battle of wits over a game of blitz chess.
If the game is a draw, the score is settled with fisticuffs. Three minutes of boxing, one minute of chess. Chess Boxing was created in London in the 1970s by the Robinson brothers, who, when they weren’t beating each other in the ring, enjoyed chess.
Toe Wrestling combatants take their shoes and socks off, interlock their toes and struggle to push their opponent’s foot flat to the floor. Prolific champions include Alan “Nasty” Nash, a multiple-time champion, and Lisa “Twinkletoes” Shenton.
The bizarre sport was created by four men after a night of drinking in Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn in Wetton, Staffordshire, England. Who else would invent such a bizarre sport apart from pub-crawling Englishmen? The pub became the venue for the annual Toe Wrestling World Championships.
Because soccer clearly isn’t interesting enough for Indonesians, they decided to make the sport even more dangerous. Fireball Soccer is your regular game of soccer mixed with fire-walking. The sport is mostly played in the Java region but has also extended as far east as Papua.
The soccer ball is made from a coconut from a palm tree, soaked in kerosene, and set alight. But Fireball Soccer isn’t just a sport; participants train their minds, too, and undertake a special salt and spice ritual that makes them impervious to fire.
Elephant polo is just like regular horse polo but played while riding elephants. This sport is played in Nepal, India’s desert state of Rajasthan, and until recently, Thailand. That’s because the Thai Elephant Polo Association banned the game in 2018.
Two people ride each elephant — one driver and one polo ball hitter. World Cup competitions are held, and for some reason — probably leftover from the British Raj rule —England and Scotland regularly have their own teams.
Wildly known as a fictional sport, J.K. Rowling invented Quidditch for her Harry Potter book series. The game is played by witches and wizards riding flying broomsticks. But the sport has jumped from the pages of children’s books into the real world of us Muggles.
It’s popular amongst fans from over 25 countries, and there’s even a Quidditch World Cup. The sport sees Harry Potter cosplayers straddle brooms and run around playing a combination of rugby, handball, water polo, and dodgeball.
Dog Surfing isn’t just one of those “And Finally” feelgood news reports; it’s a real competitive sport that goes as far back as the 1920s. On Californian and Floridian beaches, specially trained pooches ride the waves and are judged on their skill and confidence with the surfboard.
Amateurs have a human riding on the board with them, while the best of the best go solo. Some competitions, like the Dog Surfing World Championships, even include tandem surfing, where two doggos ride the same board.
The extreme sport of Zorbing originated in Russia in 1973 but became popular in New Zealand in the 1990s before spreading all around the world. The original concept saw thrill-seekers strap themselves into a giant inflatable ball and roll down a massive hill or ski slope.
Nowadays, participants can face off against each other in a downhill race. However, Zorbing is dangerous, and in 2021, there were six casualties in New Zealand when the participents’ zorbs were thrust into the air by a freak gust of wind.
The art of Cockroach Racing started in 1982 at the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The winning cockroach was called Soft Cocky. Now, the event is held on Australia Day and is known as “the greatest gathering of thoroughbred cockroaches in the world.”
The unusual sport was so popular that it popped up in the USA. Cockroaches are incredibly fast and can travel 50 body lengths in a second. That’s the same as a human running 200 mph or 100 meters in less than one second!
Bossaball might be the most fun you can have legally. Basically, it’s volleyball played on an inflatable bounce house. Oh, and each side of the volleyball court has a trampoline! Unlike volleyball, each five-person team is only allowed five passes as they bounce up and down before a designated attacker tries to spike the ball down in their opponent’s half.
The brilliantly entertaining new sport has become so popular in recent years that there’s a Bossaball World Cup and a European Championship.
This sport has been documented in Africa for centuries, but the modern iteration came to the USA as a tourist attraction in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1890. Nowadays, you can find ostrich races across the entire world. Competitors mount their trusty ostrich steed and hold on for dear life as they hurtle down a track.
Now, before you book your ticket, bear in mind that ostriches can run at a staggering 43 miles an hour. They can also kick, and their clawed feet can seriously maim you with a single blow!
Goanna Pulling is an obscure sport from Down Under. The event is similar to tug-of-war, but competitors struggle against each other one-on-one using their necks. The sport got its name due to the competitors’ position resembling the stance of Australia’s goanna lizard.
But it’s not just about strong neck muscles; a surprising amount of skill and strategy is needed to win. Or, so we’re told. The annual Australian National Goanna Pulling Championships began in Wooli, New South Wales, in 1984. Winners are awarded Goanna Pulling Championship Belts and cash prizes.
Luckily, Poohsticks has nothing to do with poop. It was created by the honey-loving bear Winnie the Pooh and his friends in A.A. Milne’s children’s books. The game is incredibly simple, and you may have even played it yourself when you were a kid.
Competitors throw a stick into a river from a bridge and then run to the other side of the bridge to see whose poohstick emerges first. The game is taken very seriously, and The World Poohsticks Championships is held annually on the River Thames in England.
Love soccer? Love bike riding? Well, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, as we introduce you to Cycle-Ball. It’s soccer on bikes! The sport is contested by two teams of two players who must control the ball using only their bike or their head, while hands can only be used to defend the goal.
Cycle-Ball was invented in 1893, and the annual Cycle-Ball World Championships began in 1929. The most successful Cycle-ball team was the Czech Pospíšil brothers, who won twenty world championships between 1965-1988.
Yes, you read that correctly. The sport of Wife-Carrying originated in Norway and is a popular sport in the Baltic States. Known as eukonkanto in Finnish, naisekandmine in Estonian, and kärringkånk in Swedish, the game is thought to be based on the legend of a robber Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen who carried women off in the night to forcibly marry them.
Nowadays, the event sees husbands carry their wives by piggyback, fireman’s carry, or the more rude-looking Estonian-style carry in an obstacle course race.
The Japanese sport of Bo-Taoshi is played on sports days at schools and is a cross between Capture the Flag and Jenga. It also features even more players than Aussie Rules Football and is traditionally played by cadets at the National Defense Academy of Japan.
Bo-Taoshi pits two teams of 75 players against one another in an epic two-minute Battle Royale to lower the other team’s pole from a right angle to below 45 degrees. What’s wrong with the egg-and-spoon race on sports day?
The ancient sport of Camel Jumping dates back centuries, if not millennia but has undergone a bit of a renaissance in modern times. Professional camel jumpers of the Zaraniq tribe of western Yemen use their speed to run up to a mound of earth and explosively leap over as many camels as they can.
If you thought the camels would take it lying down, nope… they’re standing up! If any part of the competitor touches a camel, they’re disqualified. Disappointed, disqualified contestants are said to have got the hump!
The Man vs. Horse Marathon
The Man versus Horse Marathon started in 1980 when pub landlord Gordon Green overheard two men arguing that a man was equal to any horse over long distances. And thus, Wales’ craziest of many events was born.
It’s an annual 22-mile (35 km) race where runners compete against riders on horseback through a mix of road, trail, and mountainous terrain. The race takes place in the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells every June. The horses usually win, but occasionally, the human actually comes first!
The World Gravy Wrestling Championships has been held in the village of Stacksteads, Lancashire, since 2007. Bouts last two minutes, and wrestlers grapple with each other in a shallow pool filled with meat and vegetable gravy.
The gravy was later replaced with a mixture of cornflour and caramel for coloring, presumably for health, safety, and vegetarian reasons. Winners are decided not only on their wrestling skills but are also judged on who’s wearing the best fancy dress costume. Oh, those wild Brits!
Dressage is one of the weirdest professional sports because it’s basically horse dancing! That said, it’s taken very seriously, and even the late Queen Elizabeth’s daughter Princess Anne used to compete in horse dancing competitions, like the Olympic Games.
Okay, Dressage is a little more complicated than horse dancing. It’s a demonstration of supreme control and a deep connection between horse and rider. Dressage isn’t the only instance of horse dancing. Lipizzaner horses from the world-famous Spanish Riding School are equally exceptional equine dancers.
Unicycle Hockey sees two teams of five playing hockey while trying not to fall off their unicycles. Players use ice hockey sticks to try to hit a tennis ball into a goal. Unlike most other forms of hockey, there’s no dedicated goalkeeper role, but one player usually hangs back as a makeshift goalkeeper.
The first known instance of the game appeared in the silent film Variety in 1925, but now there are official leagues in Germany, Switzerland, and Australia. It’s weird but not as weird as Octopush, which is underwater hockey.
Fierljeppen is a Dutch word meaning Far Leaping. The sport, along with its cousins polsstokverspringen and Bog Leaping, have been used in West Frisia in the Netherlands for hundreds of years to cross swamps. Just imagine pole vaulting, but measured by length, not height.
Players take a run up, then thrust their bodies to the top of a pole to vault across bogs, rivers, and canals. The world record is held by Jaco de Groot with a jump of 72’10” (22.21 m).
What is it with these Brits and their weird games? Shin Kicking, Shin Diggings, or Purring is a traditional English combat sport in which players kick each other in the shins to make their opponent fall to the ground.
The game was played by everyone from Cornish miners to Lancashire’s millers and was popular at the Cotswold Olimpick Games from 1612 until 1850. Some players stuffed their shins with straw, while others wore steel-toe boots and built pain tolerance by hitting their shins with hammers.
Running of the Bulls
This famous annual event takes place on the streets of Pamplona in Spain’s Basque region. Since the early 14th century, brave locals and visitors from around the world have run the gauntlet while being chased around the streets by ferocious bulls with giant horns.
When a firework goes off at eight am, the randy bulls are released, and everyone runs for their lives. Before you book your flight, you may want to know that between 50-100 people are injured during the Pamplona bull run every year.
Like the Running of the Bulls, La Tomatina is more of an event than a sport, but we couldn’t resist including the world’s biggest food fight. Every August, trucks laden with over a hundred tonnes of tomatoes roll into the town of Bunol, Spain.
Before the madness kicks off, an official adjudicator places a leg of jamon (ham) atop a greased pole to bait the hungry mob that lines the quaint Bunol streets. Then, on his whistle, thousands of locals and tourists pelt tomatoes at each other for hours while drinking vino. This sounds like the most fun ever!
The Lingerie Football League was founded in 2009 and sees women play American Football wearing an athletic bra, underwear, lace, ribbons, and garters in addition to helmets and pads. It was rebranded as the Legends Football League in 2013 and later became the Extreme Football League or X League.
It’s owned by NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka. The sport was, of course, dreamt up by men and has come under heavy criticism for the objectification of scantily-clad women.
Okay, like quite a few entries, this one isn’t exactly a sport but makes for a hilarious competition. Gurning is one of many obscure games originating from northern English counties like Lancashire and Yorkshire. Basically, rubber-faced contestants take turns to pull the strangest-looking face they can possibly muster.
Winners are the ones who make the weirdest face and usually have missing teeth, allowing extra face malleability. As if gurning wasn’t already strange enough, contestants often have to wear a horse collar when competing.
This is an extremely dangerous form of stunt diving popularized on Tik Tok. Originating in Norway, Dødsing sees brave souls dive from a great height into deep lakes, rivers, and seas. Divers belly flop with their arms outstretched and hit the water in a cannonball position. Please don’t try this yourself!
Hitting the water badly, rocks, and currents make the sport potentially fatal… hence the name it has been given in English. In 2021, Ken Stornes set a new male world record with a height of 101 ft. (31 m).
Now, if you’re faint of heart or an animal lover, you may want to skip this entry. Buzkashi —which translates to “goat dragging” —is a game from Central Asia which dates back to Scythian times between the 7th and 3rd centuries BC.
It’s the national sport of Afghanistan, where it’s played on Fridays, often drawing thousands of fans. The barbaric-sounding game sees teams of horseriders try to drag the carcass of a goat to score a goal. Thankfully, the goat is already decessed when the game begins.
In this day and age, the most prominent group with difficulty being accepted in the sporting world are LGBT athletes. Bigotries associated with sports take a long time to straighten out and are at an uneven pace. There are some leagues where there are absolutely no players out of the closet, even, while in other sports transgender athletes have made incredible strides. We brought together some of the most notable ones…do you know them all?
Jason Collins got drafted to the NBA in 2001. In the closet for much of his career, he later said he chose number 98 to honor Matthew Shepard, who tragically lost his life in a heinous hate crime in 1998.
During the last of his 12 seasons, when he was with the Brooklyn Nets, he became the first professional male athlete in one of the four major American sports to come out. He was praised widely, from fans to his Nike sponsors and all the way up to then-NBA commissioner David Stern.
Fallon Fox became the first transgender woman in MMA when she revealed this information in 2013. While most commentators would shy away from arguing against the ethics of allowing gay and lesbian athletes to compete, the same cannot be said for trans athletes, particularly trans women competing against cisgender women.
Despite the controversy, which has scared trans people from supporting her publicly, Fox says that the people that have shown up to support her were enough to keep her going.
Currently a free agent, Ryan Russel played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since 2019, he’s been open about being bi after penning an essay about it that was published on ESPN.
“Even though openly LGBTQ people are thriving in every area of public life — politics, entertainment, the top corporations in America — they are so invisible in pro sports that a gossip blogger is doing a favor for a bisexual football player by not disclosing that he happens to date men,” he wrote. “Nobody should need a favor to live honestly.”
There are distance swimming records set by Diana Nyad, who also actively promotes the LGBT community, that still stand today — she’s doubtlessly one of the bravest souls on this list. She swam over 100 miles from the Bahamas to Florida in 1979 on her 30th birthday — through waters known to be frequented by sharks.
In 2013, she swam a comparable distance from Cuba to Florida, becoming the first person, male or female, to swim the distance without a shark cage.
Former New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Ryan O’Callaghan came out as gay in 2017 after a life-long struggle with his identity. He retired in 2011 but was depressed and developed a pain medication dependence.
It took a lot of encouragement from his psychologist to come out to his family and former teammates, but it all turned out all right. “I was convinced from a young age that my family would never love me if they knew who I really was,” he said, but he was accepted with open arms.
Adam Rippon is the first openly gay American to go to the 2018 Winter Olympic games after coming out in a 2015 interview.
Recalling an incident in fourth grade where a classmate called him gay because he skates, Rippon told Today he felt the comment was aimed at insulting him, saying, “I felt embarrassed and I didn’t know why and I didn’t even know what being gay really meant. But I also remember feeling badly for them. I remember being grateful that I got to do something that I really liked every single day.”
No list of LGBT athletes would be complete without Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce. After finishing 10th in the decathlon competition of the 1972 Munich Olympics, she dominated competitions in the years leading up to the 1976 Montréal Olympics.
Once there, she took control of the decathlon tournament early and won gold. In 2015, Jenner came out as transgender. Thanks to her appearance on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she is probably the most widely recognized LGBT athlete in the world.
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is another big name on this list, who is notable for winning 12 major tournaments in tennis, known as Grand Slam titles. She’s often listed as one of the greatest tennis players, if not the greatest, who ever lived.
She was married to Larry King (no relation to the host of Larry King Live), an attorney who founded World Team Tennis, but they divorced after he published intimate details about her. The controversy surrounding her continued when her ex-girlfriend, Marilyn Barnett, sued her for alimony payment but lost, as they weren’t legally married.
The first NBA player to come out of the closet was John Amaechi, who made this significant step after he retired. Amaechi published a book in 2007 called Man in the Middle about his experience as a professional athlete in the closet, which is where the world discovered that he was gay.
“It’s hugely important for the kids so they don’t feel alone in the world,” he said to ESPN about coming out. “We’re adults, and we know we’re not alone but kids don’t know that.”
Ian Thorpe is an Olympic swimming legend, with five Olympic gold medals under “Thorpedo’s” belt. Over the years, there has been speculation that he was gay, despite his denials. Most recently, he addressed these rumors in his 2012 memoir, This Is Me: “I am not gay … I am attracted to women.”
But just two years later, he came out, admitting he’s “comfortable saying I’m a gay man. And I don’t want people to feel the same way I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable, and you can be gay.”
Megan Rapinoe won the FIFA Women’s World Cup with the US national team twice, in 2015 and in 2019 as the team captain. After the phenomenal performance in the latter tournament, everyone was looking at her to comment on the team. Using this attention for the greater good, Rapinoe took the opportunity to support both women’s rights and LGBT rights.
“I think female athletes, in general, are at the forefront of every protest in general because we’re gay, we’re women, we’re women of color, we’re sort of everything all at one time,” she told NBC.
Thomas Hitzlsperger, the famous midfielder who sniped goals from distance, played for Aston Villa in England before moving back to his homeland, Germany, and played for Stuttgart. He earned 52 caps playing for the German national team and retired in 2013. Shortly after, he came out.
“I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays,” he said. He added that being gay “and masculinity are not contradictions.”
Greg Louganis started off in gymnastics when he was just a year-and-a-half old. When he was nine, he picked up diving, and he made history by being the first diver to obtain perfect marks by all seven judges in an international competition.
After winning gold medals in the 1982 Los Angeles Olympics, Louganis won gold again in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Shortly after the latter performance, he announced that he had received an HIV positive diagnosis six months earlier. Due to the stigma associated with this illness at the time, he lost all his endorsements.
Sheryl Swoopes, one of the WNBA’s stars from the start, was one of the first women drafted by the league. With comparisons to Michael Jordan, she also won three Olympic gold medals with the national women’s team. But then she shocked the world when she announced she was a lesbian in 2005.
“I was at a point in my life where I am just tired of having to pretend to be somebody I am not,” she said. “I was basically living a lie. For the last seven, eight years, I was waiting to exhale.”
Robbie Rogers is an American soccer player who retired and came out at the same time in 2013. “I’m a soccer player, I’m Christian, and I’m gay,” he wrote online.
“Those are things that people might say wouldn’t go well together. But my family raised me to be an individual and to stand up for what I believe in.” Later, he came out of retirement and signed with the LA Galaxy, becoming the first gay male player to win an MLS cup.
Wade Davis never made big splashes on any of the NFL teams he was part of, but he did win World Bowl IX with the Berlin Thunder in the now-defunct NFL Europe. Later, he came out publicly and joined a gay flag football league in New York.
Addressing coming out, he later said, “I started to realize that, you know what, there’s an opportunity here for me to really make and affect change, not only within myself but in the world.”
Orlando Cruz is the first professional active boxer to come out as gay, which happened back in 2012. “I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career,” he said.
“I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.” Cruz clearly has a lot to be proud of, as he is currently ranked fourth in the lightweight division.
Female tennis players make this list more than once, which includes some of the best players who ever lived. Czech-born Navratilova fled to the U.S. and became a tennis phenomenon whose accomplishments are unmatched to this day, but she risked losing it all in an age where being bisexual wasn’t widely accepted.
After she was outed by a New York Daily News Reporter, she lost a lot of support from fans in a homophobic era. Since then, though, she has turned it all around and become a cultural ambassador in tennis.
Michael Sam is the first player to be openly gay when he was drafted in the NFL. Unfortunately, though, the team that drafted him dropped him after the pre-season and he joined the Montréal Alouettes. Sam is the first openly gay player to start in the CFL, and many praised the long-due development in the sport.
However, people just as equally condemned the fact that, as of yet, no openly gay player has ever started in an NFL game.
Seimone Augustus plays for the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA, but she also has the distinction of bringing back gold for the U.S. team in the 2012 Olympics. As opposed to others who felt a backlash from coming out, Augustus has the opposite memory.
“I was on such a high note, as far as being happy with who I am, it didn’t really matter what anybody else thought,” she told ESPN. “It really was a non-issue. Every text, every call, every email, any time of communication I received has been positive.”
Kwame Harris came out as gay when he was young to the support of those close to him. However, due to the homophobic culture in the NFL he stayed in the closet until his six-year NFL career was over. A domestic dispute with his boyfriend outed him, as the media reported on the details.
Harris took the opportunity to come out publicly. “I want people, whether gay athletes, athletes still in the closet, or youths who are not sure,” he later told CNN regarding their orientation, “to know those are common feelings.”
Brittney Griner has been making a difference in the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury since getting drafted in 2013. Her imposing 6’9″ height makes her a force to be reckoned with on the court, but off-court she’s an inspiration to other lesbians about being open about their orientation.
In an ESPN interview shortly after she got drafted, she offered some advice: “Don’t worry about what other people are going to say because they’re always going to say something. If you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”
Renée Richards was one of the forebearers for the struggle of transgender athletes after transitioning from male to female in the 1970s. A tennis player, she refused to take the Barr body test after applying to enter the US Open, which would check her blood to ascertain whether she was male or female.
She won a gender discrimination suit against the U.S. Tennis Association, retired in 1981, and became a coach. Richards, the way she sees it, was once a pioneer but that title has gone on to others, as she avoids being a vocal activist.
Tom Daley is a diver from England who has made quite a splash since first coming under national attention for his superb ability when he was just seven years old. He won bronze at the 2012 Olympic games in addition to gold medals at FINA (International Swimming Federation) and European competitions.
Consistently at the top of British divers, he has been open about his attraction to both men and women. He is currently married to Dustin Lance Black, an award-winning producer, director, and screenwriter who won an Oscar for his work on Milk.
Patricio Manuel was a champion boxer when he was a woman, but when he came out as trans and began his medical transition he lost his coach. “It hurt a lot … gyms are our safe space,” Manuel later said.
“To have someone basically say you can be here, but no one can know you’re here, I don’t live my life like that. I will never compromise who I am to make someone feel comfortable.” He continued boxing and became the first transgender boxer when he won his first match against Hugo Aguilar.
Billy Bean played for the Detroit Tigers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Diego Padres, all Major League Baseball teams, but left in 1995 because he couldn’t take playing in the league while in the closet anymore. Since coming out in 1999, he has become the MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion.
Bean travels from team to team to speak to players about inclusion and acceptance on teams. “I feel rewarded in those moments that we’re creating an environment where it’s not sinister,” he said.
Gus Kenworthy snagged the silver medal skiing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which made him a star in the skiing world. The following year, he made the announcement that he was gay by Twitter, tweeting a cover of ESPN magazine he appeared on the cover for with the caption, “I am gay.”
Soon after, he wrote on Facebook about how good it felt to write that. “For most of my life, I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself,” he wrote.
Everyone on the Los Angeles Dodgers knew Glenn Burke was gay after he joined them in 1977. This was back in the ’70s, though, so this information was kept from the public. After retiring from baseball, he moved to San Francisco and came out publicly.
“They can’t ever say now that a gay man can’t play in the majors, because I’m a gay man and I made it,” he proudly stated. Tragically, he became a victim of the AIDS epidemic in 1995.
Amelie Mauresmo made waves in the tennis world when she came out as a lesbian at the age of 19 in 1999 during the Australian Open, right after defeating Lindsay Davenport, who was ranked number one at the time.
From the beginning, the media couldn’t help reporting on her “masculine,” “big build,” and other characteristics they felt weren’t in line with “traditional” femininity. Regardless of what they felt, Mauresmo shut down critics and opponents in 2006 when she won the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
David Denson, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers, is the first baseball player in the major leagues to come out while he was still playing. He revealed this during a 2015 interview. “I think I opened the door,” Denson said about this step.
“I showed just because I’m gay doesn’t make me any different or less of a person. If there are others who want to come out, hopefully, they have my story to fall back on and see it’s OK.” He retired in 2017, a decision he said was unrelated to his orientation.