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Female athletes are depicted differently in fiction from male athletes. While their male counterparts are usually either Dumb Jock or jerks, fictional female athletes are usually given sympathetic portrayals and more often are used to explore gender roles.
Usually this just means that girls who like to play sports (particularly traditional male sports) are Tomboys who prefers to play with the boys. Often she can put the Jerk Jock in his place by beating him at his own sport. Of course she can vary anywhere from a girl who's sweet and shy but puts her all into the game to one who has a dark personality and just wants to play football.
You can tell that she's passionate because this girl lives for one sport at which she excels, or perhaps for any opportunity to show her strength, despite what anyone else thinks. In the first case, if it's a traditionally male sport, her desire to prove herself could lead to Sweet Polly Oliver as she attempts to get on an all boy team. If she plays a variety of sports then she's more likely to be the Girl Next Door. If it's a boys' team then it's You Go, Girl!.
She's also a more accessible Love Interest for the hero, since he can get to know her better by playing sports with her. There is a bit of Wish Fulfillment here for the guys who want a girlfriend they can talk sports with. On the other hand, making sports her priority can be intimidating, at least at first.
In works focused on female characters she is sometimes subjected to Even the Girls Want Her since her sports heroics impresses the girls, but without being as intimidating as a boy. This is particularly common in Anime. When taken to the logical extreme this can turn her into a Lesbian Jock.
Unlike male athletes who are usually not depicted as stellar at academics, female athletes are more likely to be an Academic Athlete who has excellent grades as well. Though this isn't always the case.
- The trope is Older Than They Think in manga, actually! It was already present in 1957's Sakura Namiki, since the three main girls (Yukiko Nakayama, Chikage Maki and Ayako Sunahara) are talented table tennis players.
- The Trope Codifier in anime and manga is Hiromi Ouka, the main character of 1972's Aim for The Ace. She's the one pictured above, and the pic comes from the Final Stage OAV's.
- Her idol and teammate Reika "Madame Butterfly" Ryuuzaki also counts as this.
- There's also Attack No. 1, where secondary Trope Codifier Kozue Ayuhara is the heroine, who transfers to Fujimi college and impresses the volleyball coach when she tries out. After making friends and enemies, the story highlights her struggles and triumphs as she matures and tries her hardest to become the best volleyball player in the school, Japan and the world.
- Attack No. 1's two Spiritual Successors, Attacker You! and Ashita e Attack, feature other volleyball girls: You Hazuki and Mimi Hijiri, respectively.
- Azumanga Daioh: Kagura is a strong all-around athlete, second only to Sakaki in talent. Near the end of the series, she even announces her intentions to try out for All Japan Women's swim team.
- Tatsuki Arisawa in Bleach. She knows karate (and is second strongest in her age group in all of Japan) and is a member of the kendo club. She's a childhood friend of the Hero Ichigo Kurosaki, but hasn't shown any romantic interest in him and instead supports a potential relationship between him and her best friend Orihime Inoue, whom she protects from anyone who would harm or abuse her.
- In Yubisaki Milk Tea, Hidari Morii like playing soccer and is skilled as well so when her clasmate Yori Hotta is founding a girl soccer team she is promptly asked to join which she does. Meanwhile Toko Nogi is the captain and The Ace of her high school basketball team. All three girls however have the same problem: other people have a hard time keeping up with their talents and ambitions, in sport as well as love.
- Princess Nine is a good example of a show who has a lot of female athletes, some of whom fit this trope perfectly and some who don't. Ryo, Hikaru, and Koharu fit while the rest of the team doesn't: Yoko is an outright subversion because she isn't really into baseball, or sports in general, but is on the team to get attention for her modeling career.
- Suzuka Tsukimura in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is usually a Shrinking Violet and a girly girl. However, when it comes to team sports (such as dodgeball), her passion and skill surprises everyone. In a supplementary manga, she manages to catch a ball thrown by Fate and hit Fate with it mid-air. For the record, Fate is a mage who specializes in Mach 2+ aerial combat, and Suzuka is a muggle.
- Ran Mouri from Detective Conan, who's pretty serious about her karate, and is good enough at it to have a rather high national score.
- Her Friendly Rival Hina Wada counts as well.
- An Tachibana from The Prince of Tennis, member of the Fudomine girls' team. Subverted by Sakuno Ryuzaki (who started playing to get closer to Ryoma but is still a Shrinking Violet: though in the manga, she does have what it takes and is said to improve fast) and Tomoka Osakada (who's very athletic and has potential to be a sportswoman, but doesn't go for it)
- Maki Akamine from Captain Tsubasa, who is very serious about her career in softball. She has now a very good chance to go pro.
- Kaoru Orihara fom Oniisama E, basketball star. Rei used to be one. Fukiko is a great horseback rider and swimmer, but not half as active as the other two.
- Subverted with Minako/Venus from Sailor Moon, who loves sports and is really good at volleyball -- but is more focused on her Sailor senshi duties and her Idol Singer dreams, though at the end she rejoiuns the volleyball team. Haruka/Uranus plays is straighter, in the first anime so do both her friend Elsa Gray from the S series (track Teen Genius who actually introduced Haruka to her future partner and girlfriend, Elegant Classical Musician Michiru/Neptune) and Lovable Alpha Bitch Sonoko Iijyuin (captain of the softball team) from the Stars season.
- At least one girl per Pretty Cure series is a sportswoman: Nagisa is into lacrosse, Saki is a softball player, Rin likes soccer, Itsuki is a martial artist, etc.
- Utena Tenjou from Revolutionary Girl Utena is introduced as this, being a very athletic girl who happily helps up sports teams and has a horde of fangirls. Of course, the story will soon turn into something totally different for her...
- To a more "aloof" degree, there's fencing team captain Juri Arisugawa.
- Shirley Fenette from Code Geass, the star of Ashford Academy's swimming team.
- To a smaller degree, Miki Koishikawa and Arimi Suzuki from Marmalade Boy. Miki is in Toryo High's tennis team, while Arimi is in her own school's track team. Miki is even seen playing and winning some matches in the early parts of the story.
- Hikari no Densetsu has the titular Hikari, her Friendly Rival Hazuki, their idol Diliana Guerguiova, the Alpha Bitch Megumi and others.
- All the girls from Taishou Yakyuu Musume, especially Akiko Ogasawara.
- In Ranma ½, Akane Tendo takes her martial arts rather seriously no matter the results in the battlefield. Additionally she's pretty good at ice skating and aerobics (if not as much regarding rhythmic gymnastics) and skilled enough at volleyball to be the ace of the school team. If only she could swim...
- Kaori Shinozuka from Touch, who is among the best girls from Meisei Junior High's gymnastics team. On the other hand Minami Asakura is a subversion: she has talent for baseball, volleyball and gym, but is the Cute Sports Club Manager instead. She later becomes one for real, after joining the gymnastics teams in highschool.
- Genderflipped all around in Yuri!!! On Ice, but played straight by Mila Babicheva and Sara Crispino. And while Yuuko isn't competing an longer, she retains her love of skating.
- Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer starts off with a future on the real waves she surfs. When she comes back from a loss, beating the odds and never saying never, she becomes a champion.
- All Violet from She's the Man wants to do is play soccer. When the girls' team gets cut and she isn't allowed to try out for the boys team she realizes that if she joins the rival team and beats the school that rejected her she can prove that she should get to play.
- A passion for soccer is the common bond for the girls in Bend It Like Beckham, covering not only the leads, but their teammates and rivals.
- Princess Mérida from Brave is passionate about swordplay, horseback riding, and archery, which annoys her Proper Lady mother Queen Elinor.
- Mary Camden from Seventh Heaven plays on the girls' basketball team and is seen as a girl who would give the guys a hard time because of her self-confident nature.
- Samantha "Sam" Kepler from Wishbone participates in every sport her male friends do and would much rather be taking karate lessons than dance lessons.
- When Laura Ingalls from Little House On the Prairie acts like her spunky, baseball-playing self, she attracts a guy who plays, too.
- Jane Vaughan of Degrassi just wants to play football despite the harassment from her team mates. She's good, too.
- Leslie from Bridge to Terabithia is better at running than the boys and is teased for it, but makes a friend in the main character, who got her the chance to run.
- The Dear America book With the Might of Angels has Dawnie who is teased for playing baseball but the joke's on the boys who tease her because she is proud of it.
- Kristin Amanda "Kristy" Thomas from The Baby Sitters Club loves sports, and even coaches a softball team for small children. She called it Kristy's Krushers, which includes many of the club's sitting charges.
- Rival Schools: Natsu Ayuhara is the captain of Gorin High's all\-girl volleyball team and a strong swimmer. The ending of the Play Station version even shows her spear fishing (0:22). Her teammates all look up to her and consider her a role model.
- Emi Ibarazaki from Katawa Shoujo is a star runner on her school's track team. Despite having lost her legs and running with special prosthetics.
- Miki Miura is also a runner in the team -- and she actually lost her right hand.
- Otome from School Days, in both the anime and the original game, is the star of the basketball team.
- Nanami is also a member of the basketball team, and implied to be a Scholarship Student due to it.
- Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic practically exemplifies this, as well as Applejack to a lesser extent.
- Braceface has Sharon's best friend Maria Wong, an extremely atheltic and competitive young lady.
- Patti, Doug's Love Interest, is a really good sportswoman - unless she plays bowling.
- In Totally Spies!, Alex is a talented soccer player.