As a bigger girl, athletics was a way for me to use my natural size and strength in a positive and productive manner. Being successful gave me confidence and eventually, validation in my body. I thought it was important to highlight some inspirational plus size women who consistently perform at a high level and in doing so, encourage others to embrace sport.

Some, actually quite a few, of these women may not be household names, but our goal is to feature women who inspire, and this diverse group of plus size athletes compete in a range of different sports and certainly prove that an “athlete” can be any size. Moreover, it is their size that makes them excellent sportswomen.

holley mangold

Height: 5’8” // Weight: 350lbs > 260lbs

We’ve done a great feature on Holley Mangold where we go into detail about her achievements and how she’s used weightlifting to earn respect everywhere she goes. She competed in the 2012 Olympics representing the USA. She would go on to lose almost 90lbs after an appearance on the Biggest Loser, though is still considered a plus size competitor at her leaner size.

mary-kate duignan as rosie lottalove

Height: 5’10” // Weight: 315lbs

Advertised as the “supersized hottie” (not entirely sure about that byline, sigh) Rosie Lottalove appeared on TV for TNA wrestling and certainly made a splash. Though Mary-Kate Duignan would go on to lose over 100lbs and rebrand herself under other wrestling aliases, our writer Kaitlin goes into detail about the first time she saw Rosie Lottalove and the positive impact this plus size wrestler had on her.

nia jax

Height: 6” // Weight: 272lbs

Probably the most famous plus size wrestler to strut her stuff in the ring, Nia Jax wrestled in the WWE from 2014-2021 and became a “Raw” Women’s Champion and two-time “Women’s Tag Team” Champion. Sports Illustrated ranked her #12 in the top 30 female wrestlers of 2018, and she is related to none other than Dwayne the Rock Johnson.

caitlin thwaites

Height: 6’2”

Caitlin Thwaites was an Australian netball star, who racked up the points for her national team while using her height and size to her advantage. Though Caitlin does not list her weight, she has posted about how she used to feel ashamed of her body, and it took her becoming pregnant to truly love herself. She is a great follow for inspirational bopo messages such as this.

It has been a weird experience throughout my pregnancy to feel a shift and become so Proud, Confident and Grateful for a part of my body that I have always felt so ashamed of.

Since as long as I can remember, I have been self conscious about my stomach, dealt with body image issues, been concerned about my weight and even hated things about myself. Some of these feelings have been factors (among other factors) that lead to poor mental health, and others have been symptoms of that poor mental health.

Even being an Athlete I don’t think I ever truly appreciated how my body functioned to allow me to be the best I could. Until Pregnancy.

It has been such a profound thing for me to finally acknowledge and be thankful for that part of my body, but I wish I had have loved it sooner.

I hope if this resonates with you, that you can try to love yourself a little more and judge yourself a little less.


catherine latu (nee tuivati)

Height: 6’2”

Another inspirational netball star, Catherine represented the New Zealand Silver Ferns international team.

Catherine has seen her weight yoyo during her career, though has always owned being a woman of size. In an old interview where she is lauded for a 15kg/35lbs weight loss, she comments specifically on some ridiculous and hateful messages she received on Facebook.

“There were other words I could have used in my reply,” she says wryly, recalling her response to the post that stated she was “far 2 [sic] overweight” to play netball.

“I hope people that are ‘different’ read this, and if you are, don’t let idiots like him tell you you’re too fat, or too short, or too slow. Those losers go nowhere, while we fight our way to the top.”


krista henderson (born to reign athletics)

Though we don’t have any info on Krista’s measurements, she is clearly a plus size athlete and her company, Born to Reign Athletics, has a noble cause: they do not focus on weight loss at all, they focus on making you an athlete. There is a common misconception that if you’re fat you can’t be athletic, and women like Krista, who competes in triathlons and places well, are doing wonders in proving dated theories like the wrong. Krista appeared in a powerful Lane Bryant campaign where she explained why she loves being a triathlete while showing her exercise. Truly inspiring!

rachel denis

Weight: 200lbs

Another weightlifter we’ve profiled, Rachel may be on the lighter side compared to someone like Holley, but she owns several Northeast weightlifting records in her weight class and is a fierce competitor. You can read more about how Rachel used weightlifting to liberate herself here.

poppy cleall

Height: 5’11” // Weight: 215lbs

An England rugby icon who won the Six Nations Player of the Series award in 2021. Poppy is known for her powerful playing style but she is more than just brute force, as her accolades prove. Poppy’s sister Bryony is a similar size and also competes for England at at club level too.

So, here’s the roundup of the athletes we featured. I wanted to showcase not just women who were simply “curvy athletes” but actually plus size. Know of anyone who’s deserving of being added to the list? Let us know in the comments!

  • Holley Mangold
  • Mary-Kate Duignan
  • Nia Jax
  • Catherine Thwaites
  • Catherine Latu
  • Krista Henderson
  • Rachel Denis
  • Poppy Cleall