Athletes The Best Female Athletes of All Time  

Ranker Sports
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28.1k votes 2.5k voters 32.6k views 181 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!
list ordered by

1
537 259
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 37 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

2
619 327
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 49 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

3
359 197
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 56 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

4
482 258
Yelena Isinbayeva is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 36 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

5
377 211
Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 48 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

6
459 275
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added age 45 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

7
449 247
Věra Čáslavská is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 76 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

8
261 135
Florence Griffith Joyner is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Died 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

9
366 212
Sonja Henie is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Died 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

10
336 180
Marit Bjørgen is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 38 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

11
363 202
Lidija Skoblikowa is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added Lidija Skoblikowa

12
317 202
Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 64 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

13
369 252
Martina Navratilova is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 62 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

14
252 117
Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 34 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

15
262 138
Grete Waitz is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added Died 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

16
341 207
Carolina Klüft is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 35 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

17
406 254
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 57 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

18
273 149
Michelle Kwan is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 38 Michelle Wingshan Kwan is an American figure skater. She is a two-time Olympic medalist, a five-time World champion and a nine-time U.S. champion. She competed at a high level for over a decade ...more

19
260 138
Allyson Felix is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 33 Allyson Michelle Felix is an American track and field sprint athlete, who competes internationally for the United States. Her specialty is the 200 meters, winning the 2012 Olympic gold, two ...more

20
113 58
Georgeta Damian is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added age 42 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

21
180 112
Larisa Latynina is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
BaruchLalaev added age 84 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

22
241 135
Nastia Liukin is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 29 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

23
149 78
Inge de Bruijn is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 45 Inge de Bruijn is a Dutch former swimmer. She is a four-time Olympic champion and a former world record holder.

24
264 163
Maria Sharapova is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 31 Maria Yuryevna Sharapova is a Russian professional tennis player, who as of October 6, 2014 is ranked world No. 2 by the Women's Tennis Association. A United States resident since 1994, ...more

25
138 51
Jenny Thompson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added age 45 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

26
226 118
Katarina Witt is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added age 53 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

27
473 322
Janica Kostelić is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 36 Janica Kostelić is a former World Cup alpine ski racer and four-time Olympic gold medalist from Croatia. In addition to the Olympics, she won five gold medals at the World Championships. In ...more

28
169 103
Fanny Blankers-Koen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Died at 86 (1918-2004) Francina "Fanny" Elsje Blankers-Koen was a Dutch athlete, best known for winning four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. She accomplished this as a 30-year-old mother ...more

29
303 181
Birgit Fischer is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 56 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

30
163 97
Martina Hingis is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 38 Martina Hingis is a Swiss professional tennis player who spent a total of 209 weeks as world no. 1. She won five Grand Slam singles titles. She also won nine Grand Slam women's doubles titles, ...more

31
126 66
Tirunesh Dibaba is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 33 Tirunesh Dibaba also known as Tirunesh Dibaba Kenene is an Ethiopian long distance track athlete and the outdoor 5000 metres world record holder. She is the current World and Olympic 10,000 ...more

32
213 120
Ingrid Kristiansen is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 62 Ingrid Kristiansen is a Norwegian former athlete. She was one of the best female long distance runners during the 1980s. She is a former world record holder in the 5000 metres, 10,000 metres and ...more

33
174 100
Anni Friesinger-Postma is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 41 Anna Christine Friesinger-Postma is a former German speed skater. Her father Georg Friesinger, of Germany, and mother Janina Korowicka, of Poland, were both skaters; Jana was on the Polish team ...more

34
145 92
Stephanie Gilmore is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 30 Stephanie Louise Gilmore is an Australian professional surfer and six-time world champion on the Women's ASP World Tour. She was born in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia on 29 January ...more

35
111 67
Rosa Mota is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
ColinBoddy added age 60 Rosa Maria Correia dos Santos Mota is a Portuguese former marathon runner, one of her country's foremost athletes, being the first sportswoman from Portugal to win Olympic gold. Mota was the ...more

36
142 79
Jessica Ennis-Hill is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 32 Jessica Ennis-Hill, CBE, née Ennis, is a British track and field athlete, specialising in multi-eventing disciplines and 100 metres hurdles. A member of the City of Sheffield Athletic ...more

37
100 41
Kajsa Bergqvist is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Ari Aries added age 42 Kajsa Margareta Bergqvist is a Swedish former high jumper. She won one bronze medal in the Olympic Games, one gold and two bronze medals in the World Championships in Athletics and one gold and ...more

38
138 97
Victoria Pendleton is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 38 Victoria Louise Gardner, CBE is an English former track cyclist who specialised in the sprint, team sprint and keirin disciplines. Pendleton represented Great Britain and England in ...more

39
287 232
Monica Seles is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 45 Monica Seles is the former Yugoslav world no. 1 professional tennis player and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She was born and raised in Novi Sad, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia. ...more

40
134 78
Tina Maze is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 35 Tina Maze is a Slovenian World Cup alpine ski racer and a double Olympic gold medalist. She is the most successful female ski racer in the Slovenian history with a career that culminated with ...more

41
116 64
Venus Williams is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 38 Venus Ebony Starr Williams is an American professional tennis player who is a former World No. 1 and is ranked World No. 11 in singles as of February 1, 2015. She has been ranked World No. 1 in ...more

42
59 31
Krisztina Egerszegi is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added age 44 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

43
186 119
Betty Cuthbert is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 80 Elizabeth Cuthbert AM, MBE is an Australian athlete, and a fourfold Olympic champion. During her career, she set world records for 60 metres, 100 yards, 200 metres, 220 yards and 440 yards. ...more

44
64 35
Babe Didrikson Zaharias is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
Died at 45 (1911-1956) Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias was an American athlete who achieved most success in golf, basketball, and track and field.

45
93 41
Meseret Defar is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
age 35 Meseret Defar Tola is a female long-distance runner from Ethiopia who competes chiefly in the 3000 metres and 5000 metres events. She has won medals at top-tier international competitions ...more

46
96 56
Marina Lobatch is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 48 Marina Vikentyevna Lobatch was a Soviet Individual rhythmic gymnast. She is the 1988 Olympic champion, 1987 World gold medalist in hoop and 1988 European gold medalist in rope and ribbon.

47
140 101
Angelique Kerber is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 30 Angelique Kerber is a German tennis player of Polish background. Kerber has won four singles titles on the WTA tour, as well as eleven singles and three doubles on the ITF tour in her career. On ...more

48
78 35
Polina Astakhova is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
leriton added Died at 69 (1936-2005) Polina Astakhova was a Soviet/Ukrainian gymnast who won ten medals at the Summer Olympics, where she participated as a member of the USSR team in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

49
169 87
Astrid Benöhr is listed (or ranked) 49 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.

50
79 60
Marianne Vos is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Female Athletes of All Time
enros added age 31 Marianne Vos, is a Dutch cyclo-cross, road bicycle racer and track racer who has drawn comparison to Eddy Merckx as being "the finest cyclist of [her] generation". After winning a ...more