Sports

The Best Female Athletes of All Time 

Ranker Sports
Originally by
Updated November 21, 2019 57.8k votes 4.9k voters 68.5k views 229 items

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

list ordered by
1
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Age: 50

Birthplace: Mannheim, Germany

Nationality: West Germany, Germany

Stefanie Maria "Steffi" Graf (German pronunciation: [ˈʃtɛfiː ˈɡʁaːf]; born 14 June 1969) is a German former professional tennis player. She was ranked world No. 1 and won 22 Grand Slam ...more
2
Martina Navratilova is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Age: 63

Birthplace: Prague, Czech Republic

Nationality: United States of America, Czechoslovakia

Martina Navratilova (Czech: Martina Navrátilová pronounced [mar'cɪna navˈraːcɪlovaː]; born Martina Šubertová pronounced [ˈmarcɪna ˈʃubɛrtovaː]; October 18, 1956) is a ...more
3
Věra Čáslavsk&aac... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 77

Birthplace: Prague, Czech Republic

Nationality: Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia

Věra Čáslavská (Czech pronunciation: [ˈvjɛra ˈtʃaːslafskaː]; 3 May 1942 – 30 August 2016) was a Czechoslovak artistic gymnast and Czech sports official. She won a total of 22 ...more
4
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Nadia Comăneci Age: 58

Birthplace: Onești, Romania

Nationality: United States of America, Romania

Nadia Elena Comăneci (UK: , US: , Romanian: [ˈnadi.a koməˈnetʃʲ] (listen); born 12 November 1961) is a Romanian retired gymnast and a five-time Olympic gold medalist, all in individual events. ...more
5
Larisa Latynina is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
BaruchLalaev added Age: 85

Birthplace: Kherson, Ukraine

Larisa Semyonovna Latynina (Ukrainian: Лариса Семенівна Латиніна, Russian: Лари́са Семёновна Латы́нина; née Diriy; born 27 December 1934) is a former Soviet artistic gymnast from southern ...more
6
Sonja Henie is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Dec. at 57 (1912-1969)

Birthplace: Oslo, Norway

Nationality: Norway

Sonja Henie (8 April 1912 – 12 October 1969) was a Norwegian figure skater and film star. She was a three-time Olympic Champion (1928, 1932, 1936) in Ladies' Singles, a ten-time World Champion ...more
7
Marit Bjørgen is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Marit Bjørgen Age: 39

Birthplace: Trondheim, Norway

Nationality: Norway

Marit Bjørgen (born 21 March 1980) is a retired Norwegian cross-country skier. She is ranked first in the all-time Cross-Country World Cup rankings with 114 individual victories. ...more
8
Lidija Skoblikowa is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Lidija Skoblikowa
9
Carolina Klüft is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 36

Birthplace: Sandhult, Sweden

Nationality: Sweden

Carolina Evelyn Klüft (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈklʏfːt]; born 2 February 1983) is a retired Swedish track and field athlete who competed in the heptathlon, triple jump, long jump, and ...more
10
Yelena Isinbayeva is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 37

Birthplace: Volgograd, Russia

Nationality: Russia

Yelena Gadzhievna Isinbayeva (Russian: Елена Гаджиевна Исинбаева, IPA: [jɪˈlʲɛnə gɐˈdʐɨjɪvnə ɪsʲɪnˈbajɪvə]; born 3 June 1982) is a Russian former pole vaulter. She is a two-time Olympic gold ...more
11
Birgit Fischer is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 57

Birthplace: Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany

Birgit Fischer (born 25 February 1962) is a German kayaker, who has won eight gold medals over six different Olympic Games, a record she shares with Aladár Gerevich, spanning seven ...more
12
Inge de Bruijn is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 46

Birthplace: Barendrecht, Kingdom of the Netherlands

Nationality: Netherlands

Inge de Bruijn (Dutch: [ˈɪŋə də ˈbrœyn]; born 24 August 1973) is a Dutch former competitive swimmer. She is a four-time Olympic champion and a former world record-holder.
13
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Age: 46

Birthplace: Davenham, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Paula Jane Radcliffe, MBE (born 17 December 1973) is a British long-distance runner. She is a three-time winner of the London Marathon (2002, 2003, 2005), three-time New York Marathon champion ...more
14
Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Age: 35

Birthplace: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Lindsey Caroline Vonn (née Kildow ; born October 18, 1984) is an American former World Cup alpine ski racer on the US Ski Team. She won four World Cup overall championships—one of only ...more
15
Grete Waitz is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Dec. at 58 (1953-2011)

Birthplace: Oslo, Norway

Nationality: Norway

Grete Waitz (née Andersen, 1 October 1953 – 19 April 2011) was a Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder. In 1979, she became the first woman in history to run the ...more
16
Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Age: 49

Birthplace: Bro, Sweden, Sweden

Nationality: Sweden, United States of America

Annika Sörenstam (pronounced [ˈanːɪka ²sœːrɛnˌstam] (listen); born 9 October 1970) is a retired Swedish American professional golfer. She is regarded as one of the best female golfers ...more
17
Jenny Thompson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Age: 46

Birthplace: Danvers, Massachusetts, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Jennifer Beth Thompson (born February 26, 1973) is an American former competition swimmer and anesthesiologist. She is one of the most decorated Olympians in history: twelve medals, including ...more
18
Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Age: 65

Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Christine Marie Evert (born December 21, 1954), known as Chris Evert Lloyd from 1979 to 1987, is a retired American World No. 1 tennis player. She won 18 Grand Slam singles championships and ...more
19
Georgeta Damian is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Age: 43

Birthplace: Botoșani, Nord-Est, Romania

Nationality: Romania

Georgeta Damian (born 14 April 1976 in Botoșani, Romania) is a female rower from Romania and winner of five Olympic gold medals. She married the rower Valeriu Andruanche in 2006. Damian rowed in ...more
20
Fanny Blankers-Koen is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Dec. at 86 (1918-2004)

Birthplace: Baarn, Kingdom of the Netherlands

Nationality: Netherlands

Francina "Fanny" Elsje Blankers-Koen (26 April 1918 – 25 January 2004) was a Dutch track and field athlete, best known for winning four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics in ...more
21
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Age: 38

Birthplace: Saginaw, Michigan, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Serena Jameka Williams (born September 26, 1981) is an American professional tennis player and former world No. 1. The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) ranked her world No. 1 in singles on eight ...more
22
Ingrid Kristiansen is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 63

Birthplace: Trondheim, Norway

Nationality: Norway

Ingrid Kristiansen (née Christensen on 21 March 1956) is a Norwegian former athlete. She was one of the best female long distance runners during the 1980s. She is a former world record ...more
23
Krisztina Egerszegi is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Age: 45

Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary

Nationality: Hungary

Krisztina Egerszegi (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈkristinɒ ˈɛɡɛrsɛɡi]; born 16 August 1974) is a Hungarian former world record holding swimmer and one of the greatest Hungarian Olympic champions ...more
24
Katarina Witt is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Age: 54

Birthplace: Staaken, Germany

Nationality: Germany

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 ...more
25
Nastia Liukin is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 30

Birthplace: Moscow, Russia

Nationality: United States of America

Anastasia Valeryevna "Nastia" Liukin (; Russian: Анастасия "Настя" Валерьевна Люкина [ˈlʲʉkʲɪn]; born October 30, 1989) is a Russian American former artistic gymnast. She is ...more