A September 2015 poll called her the Best Female Athlete Ever. Ronda Jean Rousey is a mixed martial artist, judoka, and actress. The Bronze Medal winner in the 2008 Summer Olympics, she was the first American woman to win a medal in the sport of judo.

Her other achievements include:

  • One-time UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion
  • Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion
  • Winner of twelve consecutive MMA fights

The youngest of three girls, Rousey struggled with speech and language development as a child due to a condition called apraxia which affects speech and sound. Her family relocated from California to North Dakota so Ronda could receive more intense speech therapy at Minot State University. Struggling with the death by suicide of her father, Rousey endured many childhood difficulties.  Earning a GED after dropping out of high school, Rousey chose not to pursue a traditional line of work. She started studying Judo with her mother at 11 and competed as the youngest judoka in the 2004 Olympic Games. That same year, she also won a gold medal at the World Junior Judo Championships.

Rousey’s awards and achievements are too numerous to list fully. Among other things, she won a gold medal at the Birmingham World Cup in 2006 and won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships that same year making her the first athlete with two Junior World medals. She also won the silver medal at the 2007 World Judo Championships. These accomplishments were hard won. Rousey says, “Probably from 2002 to 2005 I cried every single night of training.” Never one to quit, she followed her Junior World and Olympic wins to become a Strikeforce Challenger, Women’s Bantamweight Champion, and WrestleMania, and WWE’s SummerSlam wins, among others.

Rousey retired from judo at the age of 21 after winning her Olympic medal. Discouraged by the lack of fighting opportunities following the Olympics, Rousey began to pursue other avenues. As an actress, she co-starred in The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and even appeared as herself in the Entourage.

One of the most popular female athletes in the world, Ronda Rousey emerged from a childhood neurological ailment and other disadvantages to become a multimillionaire at 28 years of age. Constantly reinventing herself, she is quoted as saying, “Everyone wants to win. But to truly succeed – whether it is at a sport or at your job or in life – you have to be willing to do the hard work, overcome the challenges, and make the sacrifices it takes to be the best at what you do.”

What’s standing in your way? What’s keeping you from your dreams and aspirations? Whatever hardships you’ve had to endure, this inspirational woman shows women everywhere that grit and determination can take you far. Whether in business, sports or life, let Rousey’s rise from the disability to not speaking intelligibly before age six to earning a GED after dropping out of high school to dominating the world of sports to recreating herself to fit whatever circumstances she’s faced inspire you to greatness. Her inherent message is never, ever give up.

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