Sports

The Best Female Athletes of All Time 

Ranker Sports
Originally by
Updated November 21, 2019 83.5k votes 7.1k voters 71.9k 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
Martina Navratilova is listed (or ranked) 1 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
2
Janica Kostelić is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 37

Birthplace: Zagreb, Croatia

Nationality: Croatia

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
3
Jenny Thompson is listed (or ranked) 3 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
4
Ingrid Kristiansen is listed (or ranked) 4 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
5
Fanny Blankers-Koen is listed (or ranked) 5 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
6
Carolina Klüft is listed (or ranked) 6 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
7
Lidija Skoblikowa is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Lidija Skoblikowa
8
Larisa Latynina is listed (or ranked) 8 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
9
Věra Čáslavsk&aac... is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
Marit Bjørgen is listed (or ranked) 11 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
12
Nastia Liukin is listed (or ranked) 12 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
13
Sonja Henie is listed (or ranked) 13 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
14
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 14 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
15
Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 15 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
16
Betty Cuthbert is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 81

Birthplace: Sydney, Australia

Nationality: Australia

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 ...more
17
Yelena Isinbayeva is listed (or ranked) 17 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
18
Monica Seles is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Age: 46

Birthplace: Novi Sad, Serbia

Nationality: United 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 ...more
19
Astrid Benöhr is listed (or ranked) 19 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.

20
Magdalena Neuner is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Magdalena Neuner Age: 32

Birthplace: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Nationality: Germany

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 ...more
21
Claudia Pechstein is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Age: 47

Birthplace: Kaulsdorf

Nationality: Germany

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 ...more
22
Katarina Witt is listed (or ranked) 22 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
23
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 23 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
24
Birgit Fischer is listed (or ranked) 24 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
25
Krisztina Egerszegi is listed (or ranked) 25 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