In most cases, being tall is considered an advantage for athletes. When you think of an athletic person, you not only think of someone who is strong, fast, and coordinated but also tall. However, there have been athletes in many different sports that have succeeded despite not being even six feet tall. Here are a few that have made waves today and in the past.
Christmas Abbott, 5’3″
While Christmas Abbott does not compete as a traditional athlete, she has earned quite a reputation as a fitness competitor despite her small size. She has opened her own CrossFit gym and even works as a member of a NASCAR pit crew! On social media, she is known for providing diet and workout tips for those who want to transform their lives.
Wes Welker, 5’9″
Most of the time, wide receivers are well over six feet tall, as the height advantage allows them to go up in the air and catch passes over the heads of defenders. However, Wes Welker bucked this trend over his 12-year NFL career. Not only did he lead the league in receptions at one point, but he even showed his versatility by kicking a field goal when asked to!
Dominika Cibulkova, 5’3″
Most high-level women’s tennis players are tall and rather lanky, particularly because of the extra leverage they get on their serves at taller heights. Despite this, Cibulkova has been ranked as high as fourth in the world while standing at just 5’3″. The versatile Slovakian sensation has made it to at least the quarterfinal round in every Grand Slam tournament.
Manny Pacquiao, 5’7″
The boxer known as “Pac-Man” has won 59 professional boxing matches and six major world titles, and he still isn’t finished. All this despite being just 5’7″! He’s one of the most entertaining boxers ever, having generated $1.2 billion in revenue from his pay-per-view fights. He even played three seasons in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Danica Patrick, 5’2″
Considering that she’s a female in a male-dominated sport, her height is perhaps the least of Danica Patrick’s worries. She has never shied away from competing with men who thought she didn’t belong, however, becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race before switching to NASCAR and breaking the gender barrier there, as well.
Floyd Mayweather, 5’8″
Regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound boxer of all time, Floyd “Money” Mayweather has amassed an incredible 50-0 record during his time as a professional. He capped off his career with a win over MMA champion Conor McGregor in the boxing ring, and now he’s talking about potentially competing in MMA. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, however.
Aly Raisman, 5’2″
Aly Raisman is fortunate enough to compete in a sport where a diminutive height is not much of a setback. The 5’2″ gymnast was the team captain for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and has won both individual and team gold medals. She also finished fourth in the 16th season of Dancing with the Stars.
Lionel Messi, 5’7″
Lionel Messi may not be tall in physical height, but his stature in the game of soccer couldn’t be much larger. As a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and former FIFA World Player of the Year, not many players in the history of the sport have a sustained legacy of success like Messi has had. As for team accomplishments, he has an Olympic gold medal with Argentina and eight La Liga championships with Barcelona.
Michelle Waterson, 5’3″
The “Karate Hottie” has been one of the pioneers in women’s mixed martial arts since before the UFC welcomed women into the organization. The 31-year-old fighter doesn’t mind giving up a little reach at 5’3″, as she has showcased the all-around ability to win fights over such big names as Jessica Penne and Paige VanZant.
Muggsy Bogues, 5’3″
Although Muggsy Bogues was never the best player in NBA history, he was the shortest and nonetheless enjoyed a 14-year career in the league. Not only was he one of the better defensive point guards of his era, but he also had a gift for finding open teammates with well-timed passes, making him a valuable addition to several franchises over the years.
Alexa Bliss, 5’1″
In a profession such as professional wrestling, even on the women’s side, it’s unusual to have a star that’s barely taller than the top ring rope. After all, fans need to believe that their favorite superstars are larger than life. However, she has been a four-time world champion in WWE and the first woman to hold the women’s titles for both the Raw and Smackdown shows.
Ivan Rodriguez, 5’9″
Ivan Rodriguez, once nicknamed “Pudge” for his shape and size, went on to become one of the best defensive catchers of all time while putting up a Hall of Fame career in Major League Baseball. He caught a higher percentage of runners stealing than any other catcher in history and was durable enough to play more games than any other player at the demanding position.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz, 5’3″
Strawweight fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz was born in Poland and started training in martial arts at just 16 years old. She was not content to fight in amateur bouts and turned pro after two amateur fights, but then won her first ten professional fights. She has a win over the likes of current UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas on her resume.
Spud Webb, 5’6″
Before Muggsy Bogues came along, Spud Webb was the poster boy for succeeding in the NBA as a short man. At 5’6″, Spud could not only compete with the taller players, but he was able to dunk very impressively, as well. In fact, he beat then-teammate Dominique Wilkins (considered one of the best dunkers ever) in the 1986 Slam Dunk Contest.
McKayla Maroney, 5’3″
While 2012 Olympian McKayla Maroney was far from the most successful U.S. gymnast of all time, she was certainly one of the most memorable. She famously gave a very unimpressed facial expression on the podium after winning a silver medal in the vault that year, but also helped her team, known as the “Fierce Five,” perform very well.
Ben Hogan, 5’9″
Ben Hogan is an old school athlete, but he belongs here because of his sheer dominance in the PGA golf scene, where he won ten tournaments and two majors in a single year before being in a devastating collision with a Greyhound bus. Even after the resulting injuries, he won an additional 12 tournaments and six major before being forced to retire just a couple of years later.
A.J. Lee, 5’2″
While many people shun pro wrestling due to its scripted nature, a lot of performers in the ring have impressive athleticism. A.J. Lee was one of those competitors, having received her training in 2007 from Ring of Honor competitor Jay Lethal. She competed for years in the WWE, winning the championship three times and having one reign that lasted 406 days!
Apolo Ohno, 5’8″
Apolo’s last name is the same sound that opponents would make when they’d see him on the starting line before a race. Apolo Ohno won a remarkable eight Olympic speed skating medals despite his short stature, including a pair of gold medals. He showed that his athleticism translated to other fields when he won a season of Dancing with the Stars.
Cristine Kerr, 5’3″
Cristine Kerr was always one of the shortest players on the LPGA Tour, but she also was very successful, winning two major championships and 19 championships overall during her career. She has earned the number one rank multiple times and has over $15 million in career earnings! At 40 years old, nothing is stopping her!
Julio Cesar Chavez, 5’7″
At 5’7″, Julio Cesar Chavez won an incredible 108 bouts! Even more impressive was the fact that he won 87 bouts by knockout. During his illustrious career, Chavez won six titles in three separate weight classes and racked up wins against 15 champions. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011.
Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, 5’2″
Most CrossFit competitors are fairly tall, but Camille Leblanc-Bazinet has not let her short height hold her back, winning the 2014 CrossFit games in impressive fashion. She was also a highly successful weightlifter in her home country of Canada before she started doing CrossFit. She boasts the ideal combination of strength and endurance.
Demetrious Johnson, 5’3″
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is no place for the faint of heart, and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the organization today stands at just 5’3″. The appropriately nicknamed “Mighty Mouse” has not lost a fight in 6 1/2 years and has never been knocked out or submitted. He has defended his flyweight championship a UFC record 11 times straight.
Madison Kocian, 5’2″
Texas-based gymnast Madison Kocian impressed the world with her performance during the 2016 Summer Olympics. She was able to earn a team gold medal and silver medal on the uneven bars during the games, and she was also the 2015 world champion in the event. Currently, the 20-year-old is training to make a return in the 2020 Olympics.
Doug Flutie, 5’10”
At 5’10”, Doug Flutie may be the tallest athlete on this list, but he pales in comparison to most quarterbacks, who are generally at least four to five inches taller. Coaches and general managers believed that shorter players couldn’t succeed at quarterback due to an inability to see over the hulking linemen in the middle of the field. Flutie, a Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL Comeback Player of the Year, proved everyone wrong.
Madison Rayne, 5’3″
Madison Rayne has one of the more impressive physiques of any female wrestler, despite not having wrestled for WWE yet. She has been very successful in TNA wrestling, however, winning the company’s women’s championship five different times over the years. She is now reportedly working to make her long-awaited WWE debut.
Mario Andretti, 5’7″
It may surprise people to know that one of the best Formula One racers in history was just 5’7″ tall. American Mario Andretti was the most successful F1 racer to come out of the United States and is also the only driver to win the Indy 500, Daytona 500, and Formula One World Championship. He was elected into the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
Amanda Loy, 4’0″
The other women on this list tower over Amanda Loy, who is just four feet tall! Nonetheless, she has been extremely successful in national physique competitions, having been the shortest woman ever to compete on the stage. She does not only bodybuilding and physique competitions but also bikini competitions.
Barry Sanders, 5’8″
Barry Sanders is perhaps the most purely talented running back in NFL history and has always been credited as being the most elusive runner in the game’s history. He made his compact size work for him by squeezing through holes in the defense and shaking would-be tacklers out of their shoes when necessary. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in every one of his 10 NFL seasons.
Amanda Bobby Cooper, 5’3″
MMA prospect Amanda Bobby Cooper is short but packs quite a punch. The UFC strawweight is one of the top prospects in women’s MMA and has already faced top competition with just five fights under her belt. She competed on The Ultimate Fighter and did not win the show, but has not let it slow her down as she pursues her goal of becoming a champion.
Jose Altuve, 5’6″
Jose Altuve was turned away from a Houston Astros tryout camp in Venezuela at 16 years old for being too short. He talked them into reconsidering and impressed the team so much with his skills that he got a minor league contract. Since then, he has been a five-time All-Star and won both the AL MVP award and a World Series ring in 2017.
Simone Biles, 4’9″
Simone Biles was a member of the U.S. gold medal-winning gymnastics team dubbed the “Final Five” at the 2016 Summer Olympics. During those games in Rio De Janiero, Biles also earned the gold for the individual all-around, vault and floor. Measuring in at less than 5 feet tall, Simone Biles definitely proves that great things come in small packages.