Sports
10.2k voters

The Best Female Athletes of All Time

Updated January 19, 2021 102.9k votes 10.2k voters 81.0k 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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  • 1
    5,216
    596

    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
    664
    132

    BirthplaceZagreb, Yugoslavia

    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
    834
    676

    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
    433
    377

    Magdalena Neuner

    Age: 33

    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
  • 5
    307
    255

    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
  • 6
    438
    374

    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
    455
    396

    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
  • 8

    BirthplaceShaunavon, Canada

    NationalityCanada

    PositionForward

    Hayley Wickenheiser (born August 12, 1978) is a Canadian former ice hockey player, and the current Assistant Director of Player Development for the Toronto Maple Leafs. She was the first woman to...  more
  • 9
    214
    175

    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
  • 10

    BirthplaceSanta Clara, California, United States of America

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Kerri Lee Walsh Jennings (born August 15, 1978) is an American professional beach volleyball player, three-time Olympic gold medalist, and a one-time Olympic bronze medalist. She is the beach...  more
  • 11
    287
    235

    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
  • 12

    BirthplaceNové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic

    NationalityCzech Republic

    Martina Sáblíková (Czech pronunciation: [ˈmarcɪna ˈsaːbliːkovaː] (listen)) (born 27 May 1987) is a Czech speed skater, specializing in long track speed skating. She is an Olympic gold medal winner...  more
  • 13
    234
    189

    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
    183
    142

    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
  • 15
    146
    85

    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
  • 16
    164
    118

    BirthplaceFinland

    Minna Kauppi (born 25 November 1982 in Asikkala) is a Finnish orienteer living in Lahti. Kauppi is a nine-time World Champion, including five golds from relays. Kauppi anchored her Finnish club...  more
  • 17
    99
    64

    BirthplaceMedellín, Colombia

    NationalityColombia

    Mariana Pajón Londoño ODB is a Colombian cyclist, Olympic Gold Medalist and BMX World Champion. She won her first national title at age of 5 and her first world title at 9. Overall, she is the winner...  more
  • 18
    135
    99

    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
  • 19
    293
    241

    BirthplaceMinsk, Belarus

    Marina Vikentyevna Lobatch (Belarusian: Марына Вікенцьеўна Лобач; Russian: Марина Викентьевна Лобач) (born 26 June 1970 in Smalyavichy, Belarus) is a former Soviet Individual rhythmic gymnast. She is...  more
  • 20
    247
    189

    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
  • 21

    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
  • 22
    417
    360

    BirthplaceSplit, Croatia, Yugoslavia

    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
  • 23
    271
    223

    Meseret Defar

    Age: 37

    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
  • 24

    BirthplaceFinland

    NationalityFinland

    Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi (née Hämäläinen; born 10 September 1955) is a Finnish former cross-country skier....  more
  • 25
    102
    67

    Katrin Davidsdottir

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List Rules: Open to all amateur or professional female athletes in any sport