athletes The Best Female Athletes of All Time  

19.6k votes 1.6k voters 8.6k views 169 items Embed

List Rules Open to all amateur or professional female athletes in any sport

The greatest female athletes of all time: a list of the most dominant, iconic female athletes to ever play or compete in their respective sports. This list gathers female sports stars from across every professional league, association, and organization as well as amateur female athletes who may have never competed professionally in one overall list. Though it may be challenging to compare performance in a variety of different competitive arenas requiring different skill sets, this list nevertheless attempts to distinguish the top female athletes of all time. The most successful female athletes ever. The female sports stars that rise to the top can be considered to be not only some of the best female athletes of all time, but some of the best athletes, no qualifier, ever. Period.

Aspects to consider in picking a female best athlete of all time would include, obviously, that player's raw talent and born ability. Some individuals seem to be prodigally gifted in their sport of choice, and it's hard to discount the importance of this kind of natural talent. However, it's also important to evaluate hard work, discipline and a commitment to the game. Some women in sports may not have the natural, genetic ability to dunk a basketball or hit a home run, but nonetheless have trained to the point of reaching these goals all the same. (They may not be the greatest female athlete of all time at all women's sports, but they have mastered their activity).

So, who are the top female athletes of all time? From Jackie Joyner-Kersee to Ronda Rousey, and beyond! Be sure to vote up your favorites!
list ordered by

1
390 190
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Steffi Graf Stefanie Maria "Steffi" Graf is a German former world No. 1 tennis player. Graf won 22 Grand Slam singles titles. Her 22 singles titles is second all time behind Margaret Court, and ...more

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195 84
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Serena Williams Serena Jameka Williams is an American professional tennis player who is currently ranked No. 1 in women's singles tennis. The Women's Tennis Association has ranked her World No. 1 in singles on ...more

3
250 119
Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Annika Sörenstam Annika Sörenstam is a Swedish retired professional golfer whose achievements rank her as one of the most successful female golfers in history. Before stepping away from competitive golf at ...more

4
332 169
Yelena Isinbayeva is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Yelena Isinbayeva Yelena Gadzhievna Isinbayeva is a Russian pole vaulter. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a three-time World Champion, the current world record holder in the event, who is widely ...more

5
349 180
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Paula Radcliffe Paula Jane Radcliffe, MBE is an English long-distance runner. She is the current women's world record holder in the marathon with her time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds. She is a ...more

6
349 183
Věra Čáslavská is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Věra Čáslavská Věra Čáslavská is a Czech former gymnast. Attractive, cheerful and possessing impressive stage presence, she was generally popular with the public and won a total of 22 ...more

7
253 128
Marit Bjørgen is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Marit Bjørgen Marit Bjørgen is a Norwegian cross-country skier and six times Olympic champion from Midtre Gauldal, Norway. She is ranked first in the all-time Cross-Country World Cup rankings with ...more

8
219 108
Annie Thorisdottir is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Annie Thorisdottir

9
296 161
Lidija Skoblikowa is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Lidija Skoblikowa

10
191 95
Nastia Liukin is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Nastia Liukin Anastasia Valeryevna "Nastia" Liukin is a retired Russian-American artistic gymnast. She is the 2008 Olympic individual all-around Champion, the 2005 and 2007 World Champion on the ...more

11
274 151
Carolina Klüft is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Carolina Klüft Carolina Evelyn Klüft is a Swedish retired athlete competing in heptathlon, triple jump, long jump, and pentathlon. She won the Olympic heptathlon title in 2004. She is also a three-time ...more

12
135 61
Astrid Benöhr is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
numasan added Astrid Benöhr Toughest woman in the world. Holds several world records in Triple Ultra Triathlon  (3 times the Ironman distance) and won that competition at every event from 1992 - 2006! Also holds the absolute world record in Ironman * ...

13
174 88
Ingrid Kristiansen is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Ingrid Kristiansen Ingrid Kristiansen is a Norwegian former athlete. She was one of the best female long distance runners during the 1980s. She is a former world record holder in the 5000 metres, 10,000 metres and ...more

14
272 154
Sonja Henie is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Sonja Henie Sonja Henie was a Norwegian figure skater and film star. She was a three-time Olympic Champion in Ladies' Singles, a ten-time World Champion and a six-time European Champion. Henie won more ...more

15
265 150
Birgit Fischer is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Birgit Fischer Birgit Fischer is a German kayaker, who has won eight gold medals over six different Olympic Games, a record she shares with Aladár Gerevich, spanning seven Olympiads: twice representing ...more

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168 85
Katarina Witt is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Katarina Witt Katarina Witt is a retired German figure skater. Witt won two Olympic gold medals for East Germany, first at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and the second in 1988 at the Calgary Olympics. She is a ...more

17
187 98
Grete Waitz is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Grete Waitz Grete Waitz was a Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder. In 1979, she became the first woman in history to run the marathon in under two and a half hours. She won nine New ...more

18
135 64
Anni Friesinger-Postma is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Anni Friesinger-Postma Anna Christine Friesinger-Postma is a former German speed skater. Her father Georg Friesinger, of Germany, and mother Janina Korowicka, of Poland, were both skaters; Jana was on the Polish team ...more

19
88 32
Tirunesh Dibaba is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Tirunesh Dibaba Tirunesh Dibaba also known as Tirunesh Dibaba Kenene is an Ethiopian long distance track athlete and the outdoor 5000 metres world record holder. She is the current World and Olympic 10,000 ...more

20
177 98
Maria Sharapova is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Maria Sharapova Maria Yuryevna Sharapova is a Russian professional tennis player, who as of October 6, 2014 is ranked world No. 2 by the Women's Tennis Association. A United States resident since 1994, ...more

21
59 15
Meseret Defar is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Meseret Defar Meseret Defar Tola is a female long-distance runner from Ethiopia who competes chiefly in the 3000 metres and 5000 metres events. She has won medals at top-tier international competitions ...more

22
161 87
Magdalena Neuner is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Magdalena Neuner Magdalena "Lena" Neuner is a retired German professional biathlete. She is the most successful woman of all time at Biathlon World Championships and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. ...more

23
190 108
Michelle Kwan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Michelle Kwan Michelle Wingshan Kwan is an American figure skater. She is a two-time Olympic medalist, a five-time World champion and a nine-time U.S. champion. She competed at a high level for over a decade ...more

24
81 31
Jenny Thompson is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Jenny Thompson Jennifer Beth Thompson is an American former competition swimmer, and one of the most decorated Olympians in history, winning twelve medals, including eight gold medals, in the 1992, 1996, 2000, ...more

25
69 23
Georgeta Damian is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Georgeta Damian Georgeta Damian is a female rower from Romania and winner of five Olympic gold medals. She is married to Valeriu Andrunache. Damian rowed in the Romanian Women's Eights, that won the rowing ...more

26
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Kajsa Bergqvist is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Ari Aries added Kajsa Bergqvist Kajsa Margareta Bergqvist is a Swedish former high jumper. She won one bronze medal in the Olympic Games, one gold and two bronze medals in the World Championships in Athletics and one gold and ...more

27
89 38
Katja Seizinger is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Katja Seizinger Katja Seizinger is a former alpine ski racer, the most successful alpine racer from Germany. Born in Datteln, North Rhine-Westphalia, Seizinger won three Olympic gold and two bronze medals, and ...more

28
114 56
Stephanie Gilmore is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Stephanie Gilmore Stephanie Louise Gilmore is an Australian professional surfer and six-time world champion on the Women's ASP World Tour. She was born in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia on 29 January ...more

29
90 40
Claudia Pechstein is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Claudia Pechstein Claudia Pechstein is a German speed skater. She has won five Olympic gold medals. With a total of nine Olympic medals, five gold, two silver and two bronze, she is the most successful Olympic ...more

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120 62
Victoria Pendleton is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Victoria Pendleton Victoria Louise Gardner, CBE is an English former track cyclist who specialised in the sprint, team sprint and keirin disciplines. Pendleton represented Great Britain and England in ...more

31
102 49
Jessica Ennis-Hill is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Jessica Ennis-Hill Jessica Ennis-Hill, CBE, née Ennis, is a British track and field athlete, specialising in multi-eventing disciplines and 100 metres hurdles. A member of the City of Sheffield Athletic ...more

32
77 31
Isabell Werth is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Isabell Werth Isebell Werth is a German equestrian and world champion in dressage.

33
125 67
Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Lindsey Vonn Lindsey Caroline Vonn is an American World Cup alpine ski racer on the United States Ski Team. She has won four World Cup championships—one of two female skiers to do so, along with Annemarie ...more

34
212 133
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Jackie Joyner-Kersee Jacqueline "Jackie" Joyner-Kersee is a retired American athlete, ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the women's heptathlon as well as in the women's long jump. She won ...more

35
174 105
Allyson Felix is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Allyson Felix Allyson Michelle Felix is an American track and field sprint athlete, who competes internationally for the United States. Her specialty is the 200 meters, winning the 2012 Olympic gold, two ...more

36
428 294
Janica Kostelić is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Janica Kostelić Janica Kostelić is a former World Cup alpine ski racer and four-time Olympic gold medalist from Croatia. In addition to the Olympics, she won five gold medals at the World Championships. In ...more

37
79 35
Rosa Mota is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Rosa Mota Rosa Maria Correia dos Santos Mota is a Portuguese former marathon runner, one of her country's foremost athletes, being the first sportswoman from Portugal to win Olympic gold. Mota was the ...more

38
56 18
Polina Astakhova is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Polina Astakhova Polina Astakhova was a Soviet/Ukrainian gymnast who won ten medals at the Summer Olympics, where she participated as a member of the USSR team in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

39
232 151
Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Chris Evert Christine Marie "Chris" Evert, known as Chris Evert-Lloyd from 1979 to 1987, is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player from the United States. She won 18 Grand Slam singles ...more

40
57 21
Amelia Boone is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
narimax68 added Amelia Boone

41
53 18
Maria Mutola is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Maria Mutola Maria de Lurdes Mutola is a retired female track and field athlete from Mozambique who has specialized in the 800 metres. She was born in Maputo, hence the nickname of "The Maputo ...more

42
100 54
Tina Maze is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Tina Maze Tina Maze is a Slovenian World Cup alpine ski racer and a double Olympic gold medalist. She is the most successful female ski racer in the Slovenian history with a career that culminated with ...more

43
62 25
Edna Kiplagat is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Edna Kiplagat Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat is a Kenyan long-distance runner. She is the 2011 and 2013 IAAF World Champion in the marathon. She established herself as an elite marathon runner with wins at the Los ...more

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44
92 48
Inge de Bruijn is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Inge de Bruijn Inge de Bruijn is a Dutch former swimmer. She is a four-time Olympic champion and a former world record holder.

45
120 72
Angelique Kerber is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Angelique Kerber Angelique Kerber is a German tennis player of Polish background. Kerber has won four singles titles on the WTA tour, as well as eleven singles and three doubles on the ITF tour in her career. On ...more

46
58 24
Ariane Friedrich is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Ariane Friedrich Ariane Friedrich, born Tempel is a German high jumper. She won the bronze medal at the 2009 World Championships and represented Germany at the 2008 Summer Olympics. She is the German outdoor ...more

47
107 63
Martina Hingis is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Martina Hingis Martina Hingis is a Swiss professional tennis player who spent a total of 209 weeks as world no. 1. She won five Grand Slam singles titles. She also won nine Grand Slam women's doubles titles, ...more

48
154 100
Betty Cuthbert is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Betty Cuthbert Elizabeth Cuthbert AM, MBE is an Australian athlete, and a fourfold Olympic champion. During her career, she set world records for 60 metres, 100 yards, 200 metres, 220 yards and 440 yards. ...more

49
76 39
Marina Lobatch is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Marina Lobatch Marina Vikentyevna Lobatch was a Soviet Individual rhythmic gymnast. She is the 1988 Olympic champion, 1987 World gold medalist in hoop and 1988 European gold medalist in rope and ribbon.

50
60 27
Lisa Nordén is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Lisa Nordén Lisa Nordén is a professional Swedish triathlete, 2008 Olympian and 2012 Olympic silver medalist. She is also the winner of the 2012 Triathlon World Series. Nordén's other ...more