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Danica Patrick removes her earplugs by her car (Credit: AP)

Danica Patrick removes her earplugs by her car on pit road after qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway. (Feb. 17, 2013)

Women pioneers in sports history

In honor of International Women's Day, here's a look back at women who have helped pave the way for other female athletes.

MANON RHEAUME, Hockey

On Sept. 23, 1992, Rheaume became the first
(Credit: AP, 1992)

On Sept. 23, 1992, Rheaume became the first woman to play in any of the four major North American sports when she played a period in net for the Tampa Bay Lightning during an exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues. She made seven saves on nine shot attempts before being removed from the game.

WILMA RUDOLPH, Track

Growing up, Rudolph suffered from polio, scarlet fever
(Credit: AP, 1960)

Growing up, Rudolph suffered from polio, scarlet fever and pneumonia. Many doctors believed she would never walk again, but at 16, she debuted at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. Rudolph won bronze with the 4x100-meter relay team, but she made her biggest impact in Rome in 1960 with gold medals and world records in the 100, 200 and 4x100-meter relay.

JANET GUTHRIE, Motor racing

Before Danica Patrick, there was Janet Guthrie. In
(Credit: AP, 1978)

Before Danica Patrick, there was Janet Guthrie. In 1977, Guthrie became the first woman to earn a starting spot in both the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500. Her ninth-place finish in the 1978 Indy 500 was the best by a woman until 2005.

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ALTHEA GIBSON, Tennis, golf

Known as the
(Credit: AP)

Known as the "female Jackie Robinson," Gibson broke color barriers in professional tennis and golf. In 1950, she was the first black player allowed to compete at the U.S. Nationals. In 1957 and 1958, she became the first black tennis player to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, respectively. Gibson later became the first African-American woman to join the LPGA.

BILLIE JEAN KING, Tennis

King won a record 20 Wimbledon titles in
(Credit: AP, 1983)

King won a record 20 Wimbledon titles in her 18-year career (five singles, 15 doubles). Arguably her biggest win for women came in her 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" match against Bobby Riggs, who claimed the women's game was inferior. King fought for equal prize money for women and in 1971 became the first woman to win more than $100,000.

BABE DIDRIKSON ZAHARIAS, Golf and Olympics

Didrikson was a multi-talented athlete who won medals
(Credit: AP, 1950)

Didrikson was a multi-talented athlete who won medals in the hurdles, javelin and high jump at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles before becoming the first woman to qualify for and play in a men's PGA Tour event in 1938.

ANN MEYERS DRYSDALE, Basketball

Meyers Drysdale became the first woman to sign
(Credit: AP, 1979)

Meyers Drysdale became the first woman to sign an NBA contract when she signed as a free agent with the Indiana Pacers in 1979. Though she was soon cut from the team, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell referred to her as "one of the best players ever," regardless of gender.

DANICA PATRICK, Motor racing

The first woman to ever win an IndyCar
(Credit: Getty)

The first woman to ever win an IndyCar race, Patrick also became the first woman to win the pole position for a Nascar Sprint Cup race. She did that at the Daytona 500 and finished eighth in that race on Feb. 24, 2013, the best finish by a female in Nascar history.

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LISA LESLIE, Basketball

Leslie was the face of the WNBA from
(Credit: AP, 2004)

Leslie was the face of the WNBA from 1997 to 2009, and she continues to make an impact in the league as a co-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks. In 2001, Leslie became the first WNBA player to win the MVP award for the regular season, All-Star Game and playoffs in the same year. Leslie was also the first woman to dunk during a professional game.

JACKIE MITCHELL, Baseball

While Mitchell wasn't the first woman to play
(Credit: AP, 1931)

While Mitchell wasn't the first woman to play minor league baseball, she had a big influence on the game. At age 17, Mitchell signed with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts in 1931. In the first appearance of her career, she faced the Yankees in an exhibition game and struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig back-to-back.

SHANNON EASTIN, Football

During the 2012 NFL lockout, Eastin made history
(Credit: AP)

During the 2012 NFL lockout, Eastin made history as the first female to officiate a regular-season NFL game, working as a line judge in the season opener between the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions.

JULIE KRONE, Horse racing

Krone became the first female jockey to win
(Credit: AP, 1999)

Krone became the first female jockey to win a riding title at a major track when she topped the standings at Monmouth, Meadowlands and Atlantic City in 1987. Riding Colonial Affair in the 1993 Belmont Stakes, Krone later become the first woman to win a Triple Crown race. In 1999, Krone became the first female jockey to win 3,500 races.

RONDA ROUSEY, Mixed martial arts

This former Olympic medal-winning judoka (America's first female
(Credit: Getty)

This former Olympic medal-winning judoka (America's first female winner) forced the UFC to take notice and create a women's division. She was the first female to sign a deal with the world's largest MMA promotion, headlined UFC 157 on Feb. 23, 2013, and defeated Liz Carmouche in the first fight.

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GERTRUDE EDERLE, Swimming

Ederle became the first woman to swim across
(Credit: AP, 1926)

Ederle became the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926 after only five men had completed the task. It took only 14 and a half hours for the 19-year-old to make the 35-mile swim in the freezing cold water, topping the men's record by almost two hours. She also won a gold medal and two bronze medals at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

LYN ST. JAMES, Motor racing

St. James holds virtually every speed record in
(Credit: AP, 1989)

St. James holds virtually every speed record in NASCAR for women. In 1992, St. James became the first woman to be named the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. She set the women's world record on a closed course when she topped off at 225.722 miles per hour during the 1995 Indianapolis 500 qualification weekend.

JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE, Track and field

One of the most decorated female Olympians in
(Credit: AP, 1988)

One of the most decorated female Olympians in track and field history, Joyner-Kersee was the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the heptathlon. Joyner-Kersee won three gold, a silver and two bronze medals during her career.

PAT SUMMITT, Basketball

Tennessee's Pat Summitt was the winningest NCAA Division
(Credit: AP)

Tennessee's Pat Summitt was the winningest NCAA Division I coach -- male or female -- with 1,098 victories in 38 seasons. The Volunteers coach essentially built the program at Tennessee, and she held a 100-percent graduation rate for all players who completed their eligibility at Tennessee.

NANCY LIEBERMAN, Basketball

Lieberman became the first woman to play in
(Credit: AP, 1997)

Lieberman became the first woman to play in a men's professional basketball game as a member of the United States Basketball League in 1986. After an illustrious WNBA career, Lieberman returned to the men's game in 2010 and became the first woman to coach a men's professional team with the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League.

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BECKY HAMMON, Basketball

Hammon, who played 16 seasons in the WNBA,
(Credit: AP / John Locher)

Hammon, who played 16 seasons in the WNBA, became the first woman head coach in the NBA's Summer League on July 11, 2015. Hammon guided the Spurs' Las Vegas summer team to the title. Last season, she made history as the league's first full-time assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs.

KATHRYN SMITH, Football

Smith became the first female full-time assistant coach
(Credit: Twitter.com / @buffalobills)

Smith became the first female full-time assistant coach in NFL history on Jan. 20, 2016 when the Bills named her special teams quality control coach. Smith spent the 2015 season working as an administrative assistant for Bills assistant coaches on Rex Ryan's staff. She spent the previous 12 seasons working for the Jets in various capacities, including a player personnel assistant from 2007-13. In 2014, Smith served as the Jets assistant to the head coach in Ryan's final season in New York.

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