Sports
9.8k voters

The Best Female Athletes of All Time

Updated January 19, 2021 102.9k votes 9.8k voters 80.0k views234 items

List RulesOpen 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, then head over and check out the highest-paid women in sports.

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    BirthplaceZagreb, Yugoslavia

    Janica Kostelić (Croatian pronunciation: [janitsa kǒstelitɕ]; born 5 January 1982) is a former World Cup alpine ski racer and four-time Olympic gold medalist from Croatia. In addition to the...  more
  • 2
    596
    119

    BirthplaceZagreb, Croatia

    NationalityCroatia

    Sandra Perković (born 21 June 1990) is a Croatian discus thrower. She is a two-time Olympic (2012, 2016) and World (2013, 2017) champion and a five-time European champion (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016,...  more
  • 3
    818
    639

    BirthplaceStaaken, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Katarina Witt (German pronunciation: [ˈkataʁiːna vɪt]; born 3 December 1965) is a retired German figure skater. Witt won two Olympic gold medals for East Germany, first at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics...  more
  • 4
    411
    350

    BirthplaceSplit, Croatia, Croatia

    NationalityCroatia

    Blanka Vlašić (Croatian pronunciation: [ˈblaːŋka ˈʋlaʃitɕ]; born 8 November 1983) is a Croatian athlete who specialises in the high jump. She is a two-time world champion and double Olympic...  more
  • 5
    451
    389

    BirthplaceSydney, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    Elizabeth Alyse Cuthbert, (20 April 1938 – 6 August 2017) was an Australian athlete and a fourfold Olympic champion. She was nicknamed Australia's "Golden Girl". During her career, she set world...  more
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    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 * 10 (38km swimming, 1800 km cycling and 422 km running) with 7 d 19 h 8 min 23 sec.

  • 7
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    BirthplaceNovi Sad, Serbia

    NationalityUnited States of America, Germany

    Monica Seles (; Hungarian: Szeles Mónika, pronounced [ˈsɛlɛʃ ˈmoːnikɒ]; Serbian: Моника Селеш, Monika Seleš; born December 2, 1973) is a retired professional tennis player, who represented Yugoslavia...  more
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    Meseret Defar

    Age: 36

    BirthplaceAddis Ababa, Ethiopia

    NationalityEthiopia

    Meseret Defar Tola (Amharic: መሰረት ደፋር; born 19 November 1983) is an Ethiopian long-distance runner who competes chiefly in the 3000 metres and 5000 metres events. She has won medals at top-tier...  more
  • 9
    130
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    BirthplaceGarmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Laura Dahlmeier is a German biathlete. Dahlmeier started in her first world cup races in the 2012/13-season. In 2014 she participated in the Winter Olympics in Sochi. She was officially nominated by...  more
  • 10
    210
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    BirthplacePécs, Hungary

    NationalityHungary

    Katinka Hosszú (Hungarian: [ˈkɒtiŋkɒ ˈhossuː]; born 3 May 1989) is a Hungarian competitive swimmer specialized in individual medley events. She is a three-time Olympic champion and a nine-time...  more
  • 11

    BirthplaceBad Reichenhall, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Anna ("Anni") Christine Friesinger-Postma (born 11 January 1977) is a German former speed skater. Her father Georg Friesinger, of Germany, and mother Janina ("Jana") Korowicka, of Poland, were both...  more
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    BirthplaceAlbury, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    PositionCenter

    Lauren Elizabeth Jackson (born May 11, 1981) is an Australian former professional basketball player. The daughter of two national basketball team players, Jackson was awarded a scholarship to the...  more
  • 13
    233
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    BirthplaceUasin Gishu County, Kenya

    NationalityKenya

    Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat (born 15 September 1979) 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...  more
  • 14
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    Marianne Vos

    Age: 33

    Birthplace's-Hertogenbosch, Kingdom of the Netherlands

    NationalityNetherlands

    Marianne Vos (pronunciation ; born 13 May 1987) is a Dutch cyclo-cross, road bicycle racer, mountain bike racer and track racer, who currently rides for UCI Women's Team CCC Liv. Vos has drawn...  more
  • 15
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    Dafne Schippers

    Age: 27

    BirthplaceUtrecht, Kingdom of the Netherlands

    NationalityNetherlands

    Dafne Schippers is a Dutch athlete competing in heptathlon and the sprints....  more
  • 16
    423
    367

    Magdalena Neuner

    Age: 32

    BirthplaceGarmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Magdalena "Lena" Neuner (since her 2014 marriage legally Magdalena Holzer, born 9 February 1987) is a retired German professional biathlete. She is the most successful woman of all time at Biathlon...  more
  • 17
    202
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    BirthplaceMaputo, Mozambique

    NationalityMozambique

    Maria de Lurdes Mutola (born 27 October 1972) is a retired female track and field athlete from Mozambique who specialised in the 800 metres running event. She is only the fourth athlete to compete...  more
  • 18
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    BirthplaceMurwillumbah, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    Stephanie Louise Gilmore is an Australian professional surfer and seven-time world champion on the Women's ASP World Tour (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018). She was born in Murwillumbah, New...  more
  • 19

    BirthplaceFinland

    NationalityFinland

    Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi (née Hämäläinen; born 10 September 1955) is a Finnish former cross-country skier....  more
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    BirthplaceBucharest, Romania

    NationalityRomania

    Sandra Raluca Izbașa (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈsandra izˈbaʃa]; born 18 June 1990) is a retired artistic gymnast from Romania. She is a double Olympic champion, having won the floor event at the...  more
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    BirthplaceLeipzig, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Kristin Otto (born 7 February 1966) is a German Olympic swimming champion. She is most famous for being the first woman to win six gold medals at a single Olympic Games, doing so at the 1988 Seoul...  more
  • 22

    BirthplaceKingston, Jamaica

    NationalityJamaica

    Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, OD (née Fraser on 27 December 1986) is a Jamaican track and field sprinter. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Fraser-Pryce ascended to prominence in 2008 when at 21 years old, the...  more
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    BirthplaceKaulsdorf

    NationalityGermany

    Claudia Pechstein (born 22 February 1972) 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 was the most...  more
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    BirthplaceHoorn, Kingdom of the Netherlands

    NationalityNetherlands

    Nadine Broersen is a Dutch track and field athlete. Broersen competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the women's heptathlon event, where she finished 13th with a personal best score of 6319 points....  more
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    Kajsa Bergqvist

    Age: 43

    BirthplaceSollentuna Municipality, Sweden

    NationalitySweden

    Kajsa Margareta Bergqvist (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈkajːsa ²bærjkvɪst]; born 12 October 1976 in Sollentuna, Stockholm) is a Swedish former high jumper. She won one bronze medal in the Olympic Games,...  more