Opinion: No barriers when you're attractive and talented

Women's rugby had Melodie Robinson, tennis had Anna Kournikova (and still has Maria Sharapova), motor racing has Danica Patrick, and mixed martial arts now has a new champion for women keen to enter the cage, with Ronda Rousey defending her UFC title recently.

What do all these women have in common? They're all ''hetero-sexy'' and ''easy on the eye'', were or are highly capable athletes, and are trailblazers in sports dominated by masculine values and images.

Robinson broke the stereotypes associated with women's rugby by proving that an ex-model and beauty queen could also get down and dirty on the rugby field. She has also proved she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to breaking down barriers as the only female rugby commentator with Sky television.

Kournikova was more eye candy than handy with a tennis racket, but she helped pave the way for more talented tennis players such as Sharapova to use their beauty, brains and brawn to win titles and make a living through sponsors and endorsements associated with their athletic yet sexy image.

It helps that the attractive Danica Patrick has made history as the only woman to win a race in the IndyCar Series, holds the highest finish (third place) by a woman at the Indianapolis 500, and recently became the first woman to start on the pole in a Sprint Cup race, and finished a respectable eighth.

Whether it was a fluke or not, her racing capabilities against male drivers continue to push the boundaries with regards to gender expectations.

Liberal feminists, sponsors and corporations gleefully rub their hands together as television ratings increase with a good-looking woman behind a fast car. Some of the male drivers are used to women being used as ''fluff'' during trophy presentations, so they may be taken aback by the media questions directed at them about Patrick rather than their performance.

Rousey has also made a name for herself in MMA. Here is an athlete with just the right mix of a great story, great looks, and great ability. Having recently defended her UFC women's world bantamweight title against Liz Carmouche, she has become a fighting phenomenon.

The ''Armbar Assassin'' knows how to hype up the attention and make the most of this exposure. She trash-talks, is the daughter of a decorated judo champion who used to wake her up with arm bars, was bullied at school because of a speech impediment, won a bronze medal in judo, is similar in appearance to Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, is a committed trainer and athlete and is unapologetic. She may have ruffled the feathers of female fighters by talking her way into a title fight but they are all loving the spotlight she has shed on their efforts to be taken seriously.

Whether Rousey is doing this for Rousey or for women's rights is irrelevant. Like Melodie Robinson, Anna Kournikov, Danica Patrick and other female trailblazers before her, she has proved she can foot it in the male-dominated world of professional sport.

She has temporarily broken down the barriers in the MMA world for women, and while that opening is there, other female fighters can benefit from the increased exposure and media attention.

Whether they have the charisma and capability to make the most of that exposure as Rousey has is another matter. Women and girls around the world may wish to emulate her achievements in judo and MMA, but they all need a reality check because for women to make the big time in professional sport it takes just the right mix of attractiveness and athleticism.

Unfortunately, individuals blessed with this mix of genes are few and far between. In reality, many women can play rugby, play tennis, race cars and fight, but not all of us will make a living from it or become household names like Robinson, Kournikova, Sharapova, Patrick and Rousey.

At least for a short period all of us average-looking females and amateur athletes can dream that equality is close and that barriers are nothing but a figment of our imagination.

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