female athletes The Best Female Athletes of All Time  

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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
424 215
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Steffi Graf age 48 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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2
238 107
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Serena Williams age 36 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
273 134
Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Annika Sörenstam age 47 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
373 198
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Paula Radcliffe age 44 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

5
361 182
Yelena Isinbayeva is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Yelena Isinbayeva age 35 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

6
373 197
Věra Čáslavská is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Věra Čáslavská age 75 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
272 141
Marit Bjørgen is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Marit Bjørgen age 37 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
287 162
Carolina Klüft is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Carolina Klüft age 34 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

9
313 171
Lidija Skoblikowa is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Lidija Skoblikowa

10
287 163
Sonja Henie is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Sonja Henie Died at 57 (1912-1969) 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

11
201 107
Grete Waitz is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Grete Waitz Died at 58 (1953-2011) 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

12
232 141
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Jackie Joyner-Kersee age 55 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

13
201 102
Nastia Liukin is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Nastia Liukin age 28 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

14
146 72
Anni Friesinger-Postma is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Anni Friesinger-Postma age 40 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

15
207 116
Michelle Kwan is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Michelle Kwan age 37 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

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16
175 93
Katarina Witt is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Katarina Witt age 52 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
143 76
Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Lindsey Vonn age 33 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

18
246 159
Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Chris Evert age 63 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

19
191 107
Maria Sharapova is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Maria Sharapova age 30 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

20
98 42
Tirunesh Dibaba is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Tirunesh Dibaba age 32 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

21
274 162
Birgit Fischer is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Birgit Fischer age 55 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

22
193 112
Allyson Felix is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Allyson Felix age 32 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

23
180 98
Ingrid Kristiansen is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Ingrid Kristiansen age 61 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

24
122 66
Stephanie Gilmore is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Stephanie Gilmore age 29 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

25
71 22
Meseret Defar is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Meseret Defar age 34 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

26
126 72
Victoria Pendleton is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Victoria Pendleton age 37 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

27
81 34
Georgeta Damian is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Georgeta Damian age 41 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

28
94 37
Jenny Thompson is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Jenny Thompson age 44 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

29
114 59
Jessica Ennis-Hill is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Jessica Ennis-Hill age 31 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

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30
163 102
Florence Griffith Joyner is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Florence Griffith Joyner Died at 39 (1959-1998) Florence Delorez Griffith Joyner, also known as Flo-Jo, was an American track and field athlete. She is considered the fastest woman of all time based on the fact that the world records she set ...more

31
112 60
Tina Maze is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Tina Maze age 34 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

32
107 56
Inge de Bruijn is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Inge de Bruijn age 44 Inge de Bruijn is a Dutch former swimmer. She is a four-time Olympic champion and a former world record holder.

33
232 122
Annie Thorisdottir is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Annie Thorisdottir

34
441 300
Janica Kostelić is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Janica Kostelić age 35 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

35
87 43
Rosa Mota is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Rosa Mota age 59 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

36
114 68
Martina Hingis is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Martina Hingis age 37 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

37
145 69
Astrid Benöhr is listed (or ranked) 37 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 * 10 (38km swimming, 1800 km cycling and 422 km running) with 7 d 19 h 8 min 23 sec.

38
167 95
Magdalena Neuner is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Magdalena Neuner age 30 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

39
124 77
Angelique Kerber is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Angelique Kerber age 29 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

40
140 96
Larisa Latynina is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
BaruchLalaev added Larisa Latynina age 83 Larisa Semyonovna Latynina is a former Soviet gymnast. Between 1956 and 1964 she won 14 individual Olympic medals and four team medals. Her total of 18 Olympic medals was a record for 48 years ...more

41
163 103
Betty Cuthbert is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Betty Cuthbert age 79 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

42
90 44
Claudia Pechstein is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Claudia Pechstein age 45 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

43
322 241
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Nadia Comăneci age 56 Nadia Elena Comăneci is a Romanian former gymnast, winner of three Olympic gold medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the first female gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in ...more

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44
130 87
Fanny Blankers-Koen is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Fanny Blankers-Koen Died at 86 (1918-2004) Francina "Fanny" Elsje Blankers-Koen was a Dutch athlete, best known for winning four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. She accomplished this as a 30-year-old mother ...more

45
65 27
Edna Kiplagat is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Edna Kiplagat age 38 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

46
59 22
Polina Astakhova is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Polina Astakhova Died at 69 (1936-2005) 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.

47
94 42
Katja Seizinger is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
julian-matthias added Katja Seizinger age 45 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

48
76 28
Kajsa Bergqvist is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Ari Aries added Kajsa Bergqvist age 41 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

49
69 42
Marianne Vos is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Marianne Vos age 30 Marianne Vos, is a Dutch cyclo-cross, road bicycle racer and track racer who has drawn comparison to Eddy Merckx as being "the finest cyclist of [her] generation". After winning a ...more

50
295 228
Martina Navratilova is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Martina Navratilova age 61 Martina Navratilova is a retired Czech and American tennis player and coach. Billie Jean King, former World No. 1 player, said in 2006 that Navratilova is "the greatest singles, doubles and ...more