Sports

The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time  

Ranker Sports
6.1k votes 598 voters 5.4k views 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.  , then head over and check out the highest-paid women in sports.

list ordered by
1
Věra Čáslavská is listed (or ranked) 1 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
2
Larisa Latynina is listed (or ranked) 2 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
3
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 3 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
4
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 4 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
5
Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 5 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
6
Martina Navratilova is listed (or ranked) 6 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
7
Sonja Henie is listed (or ranked) 7 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
8
Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 8 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
9
Nastia Liukin is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
Fanny Blankers-Koen is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
Marit Bjørgen is listed (or ranked) 11 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
12
Inge de Bruijn is listed (or ranked) 12 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.
13
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
Anni Friesinger-Postma is listed (or ranked) 14 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
15
Billie Jean King is listed (or ranked) 15 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
16
Yelena Isinbayeva is listed (or ranked) 16 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
17
Stefka Kostadinova is listed (or ranked) 17 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.
18
Lidia Skoblikova is listed (or ranked) 18 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
19
Annemarie Moser-Pröll is listed (or ranked) 19 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
20
Jackie Mitchell is listed (or ranked) 20 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
21
Birgit Fischer is listed (or ranked) 21 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
22
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 22 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
23
Gertrude Ederle is listed (or ranked) 23 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
24
Tina Maze is listed (or ranked) 24 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
25
Peggy Fleming is listed (or ranked) 25 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