Sports

The Best Female Athletes of All Time  

Ranker Sports
Originally by
42.8k votes 3.9k voters 60.1k views 231 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
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
2
Věra Čáslavská is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 77
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
3
Yelena Isinbayeva is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 37
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
4
Larisa Latynina is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
BaruchLalaev added age 85
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
5
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Nadia Comăneci age 58
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
6
Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 49
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
7
Marit Bjørgen is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 39
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
Sonja Henie is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Dec. 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
9
Lidija Skoblikowa is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Lidija Skoblikowa
10
Martina Navratilova is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 63
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
11
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 38
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
12
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added age 46
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
13
Katarina Witt is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added age 54
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
14
Carolina Klüft is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 36
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
15
Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 35
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
16
Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 65
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
17
Nastia Liukin is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 30
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
18
Birgit Fischer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 57
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
19
Florence Griffith Joyner is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Dec. 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
20
Jenny Thompson is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added age 46
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
21
Inge de Bruijn is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 46
Inge de Bruijn is a Dutch former swimmer. She is a four-time Olympic champion and a former world record holder.
22
Grete Waitz is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Dec. 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
23
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 57
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
24
Krisztina Egerszegi is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added age 45
Krisztina Egerszegi is a Hungarian former world record holding swimmer and one of the greatest Hungarian Olympic champions of the modern era. She is a three-time Olympian and five time Olympic ...more
25
Georgeta Damian is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added age 43
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