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Friday, November 11, 2011
Eleven most memorable sports moments of 2011

By Whitney Holtzman

On 11/11/11, we decided to reflect on the 11 top women's sports moments of 2011. What a year it's already been, and it's not over yet.

11. Danica announces transition to NASCAR

On Aug. 25, auto racing's first lady, Danica Patrick, announced that starting in 2012, she would be leaving the IndyCar Series to race full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Patrick will run a full Nationwide schedule with JR Motorsports and will also be participating in eight to 10 Sprint Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing.

10. Lexi Thompson becomes youngest to win an LPGA tournament

At 16 years, 7 months, and 8 days old, Thompson became the youngest-ever champion of an LPGA tournament when she won the Navistar LPGA Classic on Sept. 18.

9. Chrissie Wellington wins fourth Hawaii Ironman

On Oct. 8, Wellington won her fourth overall Hawaii Ironman World Championship in a time of 8:55:08. Wellington's victory was made more impressive by the fact that she started the race with a torn pectoral muscle. Her first-place finish was just one of her many successes in 2011. Earlier this year, on April 10, she won the South Africa Ironman, setting a new women's world record of 8:33:56. She also came in eighth place overall in the race (including the men!).

8. Jordyn Wieber captures all-around gymnastics world championship

On Oct. 13, at the age of 16, Wieber won the all-around at the gymnastics world championships in Tokyo. Wieber also helped the U.S. women win gold in the team competition, securing the team a berth in the 2012 London Games.

7. Yani Tseng youngest to five majors

On July 31, at the age of 22, Yani Tseng won the Women's British Open for the second consecutive year. Her victory in the tournament was the fifth major win of her career, making her the youngest player -- male or female -- to win five major championships. Tseng is currently ranked as the No. 1 women's golfer in the world.

6. Minnesota Lynx earn first WNBA title

On Oct. 7, for the first time in franchise history, the Minnesota Lynx captured the WNBA championship by sweeping the Atlanta Dream in three games. The Lynx were given a leg up after selecting UConn superstar Maya Moore as the first overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft.

5. Li Na makes history at French Open

On June 4, sixth-seeded Li Na, of China, defeated defending champion Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-6 to win the French Open and become the first player, male or female, from Asia to win a Grand Slam title.

4. Serena throws tantrum at U.S. Open

Serena Williams lost more than the U.S. Open finals on Sept. 11. She also lost her cool. Williams let out a cry during her match against eventual champion Samantha Stosur. For Williams' code violation, that point was awarded to Stosur. Then Williams began to let out more than just a cry: She unleashed a full-out attack on the referee. The tennis superstar called the chair umpire "unattractive inside," a "hater" and a "loser." (We're pretty sure she pulled her pigtails, too.) Williams was later fined a mere $2,000 for her rant -- a drop in the bucket, considering she earned $1.4 million at the Open.

3. Dado passes Keitany at NYC Marathon

At the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 5, Mary Keitany of Kenya was the prerace favorite. After holding the lead nearly the entire way, Keitany was passed during the final mile in Central Park by the relatively unknown Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia. Dado went on to win the race and capture her first major marathon title. The loss was a heartbreaker for Keitany, who nearly set a world-record pace in the first half of the race and may have set a new course record had her wheels not completely fallen off in the second half.

2. Texas A&M wins NCAA tournament

It was all set: a rematch of the 2010 national championship game between Stanford and UConn. The Huskies seemed destined for a three-peat -- except no one told that to Notre Dame and Texas A&M. In the Final Four semifinals on April 3, the two remaining No. 1 seeds -- Stanford and Connecticut -- were ousted from the tournament by the Aggies and Fighting Irish, respectively. In the title game on April 5, a matchup of two second-seeded teams, Texas A&M beat Skylar Diggins and Fighting Irish, 76-70.

1. U.S. falls short at electrifying Women's World Cup

It was a script even Hollywood couldn't write. During the final seconds of extra time in the quarterfinals against Brazil, veteran forward Abby Wambach flexed her heroics to score the game-tying goal, which sent the match into overtime. Team USA went on to shock the world, winning the game in penalty kicks. That victory advanced the U.S. to the semifinals, where they beat France 3-1. Team USA had secured a berth in the finals.

In a nail-biting championship game, the Americans tightly gripped a 2-1 lead in extra time. But Japan wasn't ready to give in, scoring a 117th-minute goal. In a heartbreaker for the U.S., Japan dominated the penalty kicks 3-1 to capture its first Women's World Cup championship. For the earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged nation, it was a reason to celebrate. Team USA has its eyes on the 2012 London Olympics for a chance at redemption.