Sports
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The Best Female Athletes of All Time

Updated January 19, 2021 108.5k votes 8.8k voters 76.4k views239 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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  • Janica Kostelić1
    3,984
    622

    BirthplaceZagreb, Croatia

    NationalityCroatia

    Janica Kostelić (Croatian pronunciation: [janitsa kǒstelitɕ]; born 5 January 1982) is a former... more on Wikipedia
  • Katarina Witt2
    832
    659

    BirthplaceGermany

    NationalityGermany

    Katarina Witt (German pronunciation: [ˈkataʁiːna vɪt]; born 3 December 1965) is a retired... more on Wikipedia
  • Sandra Perković3
    566
    95

    BirthplaceZagreb, Croatia

    NationalityCroatia

    Sandra Perković (born 21 June 1990) is a Croatian discus thrower. She is a two-time Olympic... more on Wikipedia
  • Monica Seles4
    945
    798

    BirthplaceNovi Sad, Serbia

    NationalityUnited States of America, Germany

    Monica Seles (; Hungarian: Szeles Mónika, pronounced [ˈsɛlɛʃ ˈmoːnikɒ]; Serbian: Моника Селеш,... more on Wikipedia
  • Blanka Vlašić5
    403
    327

    BirthplaceSplit, Croatia, Yugoslavia

    NationalityCroatia

    Blanka Vlašić (Croatian pronunciation: [ˈblaːŋka ˈʋlaʃitɕ]; born 8 November 1983) is a... more on Wikipedia
  • Stephanie Gilmore6
    258
    179

    BirthplaceMurwillumbah, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    Stephanie Louise Gilmore is an Australian professional surfer and seven-time world champion on... more on Wikipedia
  • Astrid Benöhr7
    446
    366

    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.

  • Betty Cuthbert8
    471
    395

    BirthplaceSydney, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    Elizabeth Alyse Cuthbert, (20 April 1938 – 6 August 2017) was an Australian athlete and a... more on Wikipedia
  • Magdalena Neuner9
    452
    378

    Magdalena Neuner

    Age: 32

    BirthplaceGarmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Magdalena "Lena" Neuner (since her 2014 marriage legally Magdalena Holzer, born 9 February... more on Wikipedia
  • Anni Friesinger-Postma10

    BirthplaceBad Reichenhall, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Anna ("Anni") Christine Friesinger-Postma (born 11 January 1977) is a German former speed... more on Wikipedia
  • Hayley Wickenheiser11

    BirthplaceShaunavon, Canada

    NationalityCanada

    PositionForward

    Hayley Wickenheiser (born August 12, 1978) is a Canadian former ice hockey player, and the... more on Wikipedia
  • Marina Lobatch12
    298
    232

    BirthplaceMinsk, Belarus

    Marina Vikentyevna Lobatch (Belarusian: Марына Вікенцьеўна Лобач; Russian: Марина Викентьевна... more on Wikipedia
  • Claudia Pechstein13
    320
    254

    BirthplaceKaulsdorf

    NationalityGermany

    Claudia Pechstein (born 22 February 1972) is a German speed skater. She has won five Olympic... more on Wikipedia
  • Sarah Sjöström14
    79
    35

    BirthplaceSalem Municipality, Sweden

    NationalitySweden

    Sarah Fredrika Sjöström (Swedish: [²ɧøːˌstɾœmː]; born 17 August 1993) is a Swedish competitive... more on Wikipedia
  • Katinka Hosszú15
    207
    161

    BirthplacePécs, Hungary

    NationalityHungary

    Katinka Hosszú (Hungarian: [ˈkɒtiŋkɒ ˈhossuː]; born 3 May 1989) is a Hungarian competitive... more on Wikipedia
  • Kristin Otto16
    142
    79

    BirthplaceLeipzig, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Kristin Otto (born 7 February 1966) is a German Olympic swimming champion. She is most famous... more on Wikipedia
  • Lauren Jackson17
    297
    234

    BirthplaceAlbury, Australia

    NationalityAustralia

    PositionCenter

    Lauren Elizabeth Jackson (born May 11, 1981) is an Australian former professional basketball... more on Wikipedia
  • Meseret Defar18
    276
    215

    Meseret Defar

    Age: 36

    BirthplaceAddis Ababa, Ethiopia

    NationalityEthiopia

    Meseret Defar Tola (Amharic: መሰረት ደፋር; born 19 November 1983) is an Ethiopian long-distance... more on Wikipedia
  • Nicola Spirig19
    112
    66

    BirthplaceWinkel, Switzerland

    NationalitySwitzerland

    Nicola Spirig Hug (born 7 February 1982) is a Swiss professional triathlete. She is the 2012... more on Wikipedia
  • Laura Ludwig20
    86
    46

    BirthplaceBerlin, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Laura Ludwig (born 13 January 1986) is a German professional beach volleyball player, playing... more on Wikipedia
  • Caroline Wozniacki21
    216
    146

    BirthplaceOdense, Denmark

    NationalityDenmark

    Caroline Wozniacki (R) (Danish: [kʰaːoliːnə vɒsniˈaki]; Polish: [vɔʑˈɲatskʲi]; born 11 July... more on Wikipedia
  • Martina Sáblíková22

    BirthplaceNové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic

    NationalityCzech Republic

    Martina Sáblíková (Czech pronunciation: [ˈmarcɪna ˈsaːbliːkovaː] (listen)) (born 27 May 1987)... more on Wikipedia
  • Kajsa Bergqvist23
    377
    309

    Kajsa Bergqvist

    Age: 43

    BirthplaceSollentuna Municipality, Sweden

    NationalitySweden

    Kajsa Margareta Bergqvist (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈkajːsa ²bærjkvɪst]; born 12 October 1976... more on Wikipedia
  • Edna Kiplagat24
    241
    186

    BirthplaceUasin Gishu County, Kenya

    NationalityKenya

    Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat (born 15 September 1979) is a Kenyan long-distance runner. She is... more on Wikipedia
  • Maria Mutola25
    209
    157

    BirthplaceMaputo, Mozambique

    NationalityMozambique

    Maria de Lurdes Mutola (born 27 October 1972) is a retired female track and field athlete... more on Wikipedia