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The Best Female Athletes of All Time

Updated October 20, 2020 106.9k votes 8.3k voters 74.6k views238 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
    Janica Kostelić is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    3,508
    612

    BirthplaceZagreb, Croatia

    NationalityCroatia

    Janica Kostelić (Croatian pronunciation: [janitsa kǒstelitɕ]; born 5 January 1982) is a former... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    Monica Seles is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    939
    595

    BirthplaceNovi Sad, Serbia

    NationalityUnited States of America, Germany

    Monica Seles (; Hungarian: Szeles Mónika, pronounced [ˈsɛlɛʃ ˈmoːnikɒ]; Serbian: Моника Селеш,... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    Sandra Perković is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    494
    88

    BirthplaceZagreb, Croatia

    NationalityCroatia

    Sandra Perković (born 21 June 1990) is a Croatian discus thrower. She is a two-time Olympic... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    Betty Cuthbert is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    464
    378

    BirthplaceSydney, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    Elizabeth Alyse Cuthbert, (20 April 1938 – 6 August 2017) was an Australian athlete and a... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Blanka Vlašić is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    380
    292

    BirthplaceSplit, Croatia, Yugoslavia

    NationalityCroatia

    Blanka Vlašić (Croatian pronunciation: [ˈblaːŋka ˈʋlaʃitɕ]; born 8 November 1983) is a... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Katarina Witt is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    826
    629

    BirthplaceStaaken, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Katarina Witt (German pronunciation: [ˈkataʁiːna vɪt]; born 3 December 1965) is a retired... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    Astrid Benöhr is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    441
    344

    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.

  • 8
    Anni Friesinger-Postma is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time

    BirthplaceBad Reichenhall, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Anna ("Anni") Christine Friesinger-Postma (born 11 January 1977) is a German former speed... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    Edna Kiplagat is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    235
    176

    BirthplaceUasin Gishu County, Kenya

    NationalityKenya

    Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat (born 15 September 1979) is a Kenyan long-distance runner. She is... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Claudia Pechstein is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    315
    237

    BirthplaceKaulsdorf

    NationalityGermany

    Claudia Pechstein (born 22 February 1972) is a German speed skater. She has won five Olympic... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Hayley Wickenheiser is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time

    BirthplaceShaunavon, Canada

    NationalityCanada

    PositionForward

    Hayley Wickenheiser (born August 12, 1978) is a Canadian former ice hockey player, and the... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Marina Lobatch is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    295
    203

    BirthplaceMinsk, Belarus

    Marina Vikentyevna Lobatch (Belarusian: Марына Вікенцьеўна Лобач; Russian: Марина Викентьевна... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    Magdalena Neuner is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    446
    368

    Magdalena Neuner

    Age: 32

    BirthplaceGarmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Magdalena "Lena" Neuner (since her 2014 marriage legally Magdalena Holzer, born 9 February... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Katrin Davidsdottir is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    92
    51

    Katrin Davidsdottir

  • 15
    Stephanie Gilmore is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    256
    167

    BirthplaceMurwillumbah, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    Stephanie Louise Gilmore is an Australian professional surfer and seven-time world champion on... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    Kerri Walsh Jennings is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time

    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... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    Maria Mutola is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    206
    152

    BirthplaceMaputo, Mozambique

    NationalityMozambique

    Maria de Lurdes Mutola (born 27 October 1972) is a retired female track and field athlete... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Lauren Jackson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    296
    229

    BirthplaceAlbury, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    PositionCenter

    Lauren Elizabeth Jackson (born May 11, 1981) is an Australian former professional basketball... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Sarah Sjöström is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    73
    26

    BirthplaceSalem Municipality, Sweden

    NationalitySweden

    Sarah Fredrika Sjöström (Swedish: [²ɧøːˌstɾœmː]; born 17 August 1993) is a Swedish competitive... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Katinka Hosszú is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    203
    155

    BirthplacePécs, Hungary

    NationalityHungary

    Katinka Hosszú (Hungarian: [ˈkɒtiŋkɒ ˈhossuː]; born 3 May 1989) is a Hungarian competitive... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Nicola Spirig is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    110
    63

    BirthplaceWinkel, Switzerland

    NationalitySwitzerland

    Nicola Spirig Hug (born 7 February 1982) is a Swiss professional triathlete. She is the 2012... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    Valerie Adams is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    72
    32

    BirthplaceRotorua, New Zealand

    NationalityNew Zealand

    Dame Valerie Kasanita Adams (formerly Vili; born 6 October 1984) is a New Zealand shot... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Caroline Wozniacki is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    213
    139

    BirthplaceOdense, Denmark

    NationalityDenmark

    Caroline Wozniacki (R) (Danish: [kʰaːoliːnə vɒsniˈaki]; Polish: [vɔʑˈɲatskʲi]; born 11 July... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Sandra Izbașa is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
    171
    124

    BirthplaceBucharest, Romania

    NationalityRomania

    Sandra Raluca Izbașa (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈsandra izˈbaʃa]; born 18 June 1990) is a... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time

    BirthplaceFinland

    NationalityFinland

    Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi (née Hämäläinen; born 10 September 1955) is a Finnish former... more on Wikipedia
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