Influential The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time  

Ranker Sports
409 votes 44 voters 47 items

List Rules Vote up the most influential female athletes who changed their sport.

When it comes to the most influential female athletes of all time, who do you think tops the list? While being one of the best in their respective sports is certainly a qualifying factor, there's plenty more to consider in determining just which women had the greatest influence on generations of females to come. Of course, all these stars will go down as some of the greatest female athletes, but who changed the game for women the most? Who's the most iconic? That's up to you to decide. 

From track and field to tennis, the most influential female athletes span a range of sports—and some have even competed with top male athletes. Some of the most notable women in sports include Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, soccer star Mia Hamm, and skiing phenom Lindsey Vonn, among many other iconic females. In short, the list of influential ladies below features some of the greatest female athletes of all time, and some of the most influential athletes right now.

Check out all the famous female athletes below and cast your votes for those you think had the greatest influence. You can also add others to the list if you think they deserve to be considered.  

list ordered by

1
10 0
Fanny Blankers-Koen is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added 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

2
9 0
Yelena Isinbayeva is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Track and field athlete 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

3
9 0
Lidia Skoblikova is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Speed Skater Lidiya Pavlovna Skoblikova is a retired Russian speed skater and coach. Representing the USSR Olympic team during the Olympic Winter Games in 1960 and 1964, she won a total of six gold medals, ...more

4
17 4
Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Skiing 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

5
14 2
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Tennis 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

6
15 5
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Tennis 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

7
10 1
Gertrude Ederle is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Swimming Gertrude Caroline Ederle was an American competition swimmer, Olympic champion, and former world record-holder in five events. In 1926, she became the first woman to swim across the English ...more

8
9 1
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Gymnastics 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

9
13 5
Billie Jean King is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Tennis Billie Jean King is an American former World No. 1 professional tennis player. King won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 women's doubles, and 11 mixed doubles titles. King won the ...more

10
7 1
Stefka Kostadinova is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Stefka Kostadinova is a Bulgarian retired athlete and the current women's world record holder in the high jump. She is the president of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee.

11
7 1
Larisa Latynina is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Gymnast 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

12
7 1
Anni Friesinger-Postma is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Speed Skater 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

13
7 1
Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Professional golfer, Architect, Designer 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

14
8 2
Sonja Henie is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Figure Skating 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

15
10 4
Florence Griffith Joyner is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Track & Field 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

16
12 6
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Track & Field 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

17
6 1
Nancy Lieberman is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Basketball Nancy Elizabeth Lieberman, nicknamed "Lady Magic", is a former professional basketball player who played and coached in the WNBA. Lieberman is regarded as one of the greatest figures ...more

18
5 0
Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Tennis 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

19
7 3
Martina Navratilova is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Tennis 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

20
6 2
Marit Bjørgen is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Athlete, Cross-country skier 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

21
6 2
Věra Čáslavská is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Gymnast 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

22
5 1
Birgit Fischer is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added 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

23
5 1
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Track and field athlete 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

24
5 1
Inge de Bruijn is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Swimmer Inge de Bruijn is a Dutch former swimmer. She is a four-time Olympic champion and a former world record holder.

25
5 1
Betty Cuthbert is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added 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

26
4 0
Annemarie Moser-Pröll is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Annemarie Moser-Pröll is a former World Cup alpine ski racer from Austria. Born in Kleinarl, Salzburg, she was the most successful female alpine ski racer during the 1970s, with six overall ...more

27
9 6
Mia Hamm is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Soccer (Football) Mariel Margaret "Mia" Hamm-Garciaparra is a retired American professional soccer player. Hamm played many years as a forward for the United States women's national soccer team and was ...more

28
5 2
Tina Maze is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Athlete, Alpine skier 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

29
3 0
Nastia Liukin is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Actor, Gymnast 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

30
6 4
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
MMA Ronda Jean Rousey is an American mixed martial artist, judoka and actress. She is the first and current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion, as well as the last Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight ...more

31
4 2
Maria Sharapova is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Hormony added Athlete, Model, Tennis player 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

32
7 6
Babe Didrikson Zaharias is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Golf, Track & Field Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias was an American athlete who achieved most success in golf, basketball, and track and field.

33
4 3
Wilma Rudolph is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Track & Field Wilma Glodean Rudolph was an Olympic champion. Rudolph was considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games, in 1956 and in 1960. In the 1960 Summer ...more

34
4 3
Bonnie Blair is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Speed Skating Bonnie Kathleen Blair is a retired American speedskater. She is one of the top skaters of her time, and one of the most decorated athletes in Olympic history. Blair competed for the United ...more

35
4 3
Michelle Akers is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Soccer (Football) Michelle Anne Akers is a former leading American soccer player, who starred in the historic 1991 and 1999 Women's World Cup victory by the United States. She won the Golden Boot as the top ...more

36
3 2
Mary Lou Retton is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Gymnastics Mary Lou Retton is a retired American gymnast. At the 1984 Summer Olympics, she won a gold medal in the individual all-around competition, as well as two silver medals and two bronze medals. Her ...more

37
1 0
Tracy Caulkins is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Swimming Tracy Anne Stockwell, OAM, née Tracy Anne Caulkins, is an American former competition swimmer, three-time Olympic gold medalist, five-time world champion, and former world record-holder ...more

38
7 7
Danica Patrick is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Racing Danica Sue Patrick is an American auto racing driver, model, and advertising spokeswoman. She is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing—her win in the 2008 Indy ...more

39
2 2
Misty May-Treanor is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Beach Volleyball Misty Elizabeth May-Treanor is a retired American professional beach volleyball player. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and as of August 2012 the most successful female beach ...more

40
2 2
Kerri Walsh Jennings is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Beach Volleyball Kerri Lee Walsh Jennings is an American professional beach volleyball player. Walsh Jennings and teammate Misty May-Treanor were the gold medalists in beach volleyball at the 2004, 2008, and ...more

41
1 1
Peggy Fleming is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Figure Skating Peggy Gail Fleming is an American figure skater. She is the 1968 Olympic Champion in Ladies' singles and a three-time World Champion. Fleming has been a television commentator on figure skating ...more

42
5 6
Lisa Leslie is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Basketball Lisa Deshaun Leslie is an American former professional women's basketball player who played in the WNBA. She is a three-time WNBA MVP and a four-time Olympic gold medal winner. The number seven ...more

43
4 5
Althea Gibson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Tennis, Golf Althea Gibson was an American tennis player and professional golfer, and the first black athlete to cross the color line of international tennis. In 1956, she became the first person of color to ...more

44
2 3
Abby Wambach is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Soccer (Football) Mary Abigail "Abby" Wambach is an American soccer player, coach, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year. Wambach has played for the United States ...more

45
0 1
Jackie Mitchell is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Jackie Mitchell Baseball Virne Beatrice "Jackie" Mitchell Gilbert was one of the first female pitchers in professional baseball history. Pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts Class AA minor league baseball ...more

46
3 5
Nancy Lopez is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Golf Nancy Marie Lopez is an American professional golfer. She became a member of the LPGA Tour in 1977 and won 48 LPGA Tour events during her LPGA career, including three major championships.

47
2 4
Jessica Mendoza is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time
Softball Jessica Ofelia Mendoza is an American, former collegiate 4-time First Team All-American softball player and sportscaster of Mexican descent originally from Camarillo, California. She played at ...more