01/30/2014 01:46 pm ET Updated Jan 30, 2014

9 Women From Olympics Past Everyone Should Remember

Olympics fever is hitting us hard. Between the first ever Olympic women's ski jumping event and the incredible figure skating routines we're anticipating, we can hardly wait for Feb. 7 to arrive.

In the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Games, we've already listed some of the amazing female athletes we can't wait to see compete. But we're also drawing inspiration from past Olympians.

Women have been participating in the Olympics since 1900, when 22 ladies competed in tennis, sailing, croquet, horse riding and golf, and today make up just under half of all Olympic participants. And though inequality follows women even into the highest echelons of athletics -- for example, female athletes aren't always given the same sponsorship opportunities as their male counterparts -- that doesn't make these Olympians any less awe-worthy.

This group of athletes grew up in ordinary families in West Virginia, rural Georgia, and a village in the Netherlands and went on to break records in women's sports. They rose above criticisms of their private lives and refused to listen when told they couldn't compete.

Here are nine notable female Olympians of the past:

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