Sports
1.3k voters

The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time

Updated September 25, 2019 13.1k votes 1.3k voters 9.2k views49 items

List RulesVote 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.

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    Annika Sörenstam

    Professional golfer, Architect

    BirthplaceBro, Sweden, Sweden

    NationalitySweden, United States of America

    Annika Sörenstam (pronounced [ˈanːɪka ²sœːrɛnˌstam] (listen); born 9 October 1970) is a retired Swedish American professional golfer. She is regarded as one of the best female golfers in history....  more
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    417
    104

    Marit Bjørgen

    Athlete, Cross-country skier

    BirthplaceTrondheim, Norway

    NationalityNorway

    Marit Bjørgen (born 21 March 1980) is a retired Norwegian cross-country skier. She is ranked first in the all-time Cross-Country World Cup rankings with 114 individual victories. Bjørgen is also the...  more
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    270
    46

    Yelena Isinbayeva

    Track and field athlete

    BirthplaceVolgograd, Russia

    NationalityRussia

    Yelena Gadzhievna Isinbayeva (Russian: Елена Гаджиевна Исинбаева, IPA: [jɪˈlʲɛnə gɐˈdʐɨjɪvnə ɪsʲɪnˈbajɪvə]; born 3 June 1982) is a Russian former pole vaulter. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist...  more

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    Lidia Skoblikova

    Speed Skater

    BirthplaceZlatoust, Russia

    NationalityRussia,Soviet Union

    Lidiya Pavlovna Skoblikova (Russian: Лидия Павловна Скобликова; born 8 March 1939) is a retired Russian speed skater and coach. She represented the USSR Olympic team during the Olympic Winter Games...  more
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    Francina "Fanny" Elsje Blankers-Koen (26 April 1918 – 25 January 2004) was a Dutch track and field athlete, best known for winning four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. She competed...  more
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    BirthplaceBarendrecht, Netherlands

    NationalityNetherlands

    Inge de Bruijn (Dutch: [ˈɪŋə də ˈbrœyn]; born 24 August 1973) is a Dutch former competitive swimmer. She is a four-time Olympic champion and a former world record-holder....  more

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    #1 of 89 The Best Olympic Athletes from Netherlands#3 of 249 The Best Olympic Athletes in Swimming

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    BirthplaceBad Reichenhall, Germany

    NationalityGermany

    Anna ("Anni") Christine Friesinger-Postma (born 11 January 1977) is a German former speed skater. Her father Georg Friesinger, of Germany, and mother Janina ("Jana") Korowicka, of Poland, were both...  more
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    Birgit Fischer (born 25 February 1962) 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...  more
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    538
    179

    Sonja Henie

    Figure Skating

    BirthplaceOslo, Norway

    NationalityNorway

    Sonja Henie (8 April 1912 – 12 October 1969) was a Norwegian figure skater and film star. She was a three-time Olympic Champion (1928, 1932, 1936) in Ladies' Singles, a ten-time World Champion...  more

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    BirthplacePrague, Czech Republic

    NationalityCzech Republic, Czechoslovakia

    Věra Čáslavská (Czech pronunciation: [ˈvjɛra ˈtʃaːslafskaː]; 3 May 1942 – 30 August 2016) was a Czechoslovak artistic gymnast and Czech sports official. She won a total of 22 international titles...  more
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    BirthplaceKherson, Ukraine

    Larisa Semyonovna Latynina (Ukrainian: Лариса Семенівна Латиніна, Russian: Лари́са Семёновна Латы́нина; née Diriy; born 27 December 1934) is a former Soviet artistic gymnast from southern Ukrainian...  more
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    BirthplaceMannheim, Germany

    NationalityWest Germany, Germany

    Stefanie Maria "Steffi" Graf (German pronunciation: [ˈʃtɛfiː ˈɡʁaːf]; born 14 June 1969) is a German former professional tennis player. She was ranked world No. 1 and won 22 Grand Slam singles...  more

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    #4 of 72 The Greatest Women's Tennis Players of All Time#55 of 143 Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

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    BirthplaceFort Lauderdale, Florida, United States of America

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Christine Marie Evert (born December 21, 1954), known as Chris Evert Lloyd from 1979 to 1987, is a retired American World No. 1 tennis player. She won 18 Grand Slam singles championships and three...  more

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    Nadia Comăneci

    Gymnastics

    BirthplaceOnești, Romania

    NationalityUnited States of America, Romania

    Nadia Elena Comăneci (UK: , US: , Romanian: [ˈnadi.a koməˈnetʃʲ] (listen); born 12 November 1961) is a Romanian retired gymnast and a five-time Olympic gold medalist, all in individual events....  more

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    BirthplaceSaint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Lindsey Caroline Vonn (née Kildow ; born October 18, 1984) is an American former World Cup alpine ski racer on the US Ski Team. She won four World Cup overall championships—one of only two female...  more

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    Stefka Georgieva Kostadinova (Bulgarian: Стефка Георгиева Костадинова; born March 25, 1965) is a Bulgarian retired athlete who competed in the high jump. Her world record of 2.09 metres has stood...  more
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    Annemarie Moser-Pröll (born 27 March 1953) 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...  more
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    Paula Radcliffe

    Track and field athlete

    BirthplaceDavenham, United Kingdom

    NationalityUnited Kingdom

    Paula Jane Radcliffe, MBE (born 17 December 1973) is a British long-distance runner. She is a three-time winner of the London Marathon (2002, 2003, 2005), three-time New York Marathon champion (2004,...  more
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    BirthplacePrague, Czech Republic

    NationalityUnited States of America,Czechoslovakia

    Martina Navratilova (Czech: Martina Navrátilová pronounced [mar'cɪna navˈraːcɪlovaː]; born Martina Šubertová pronounced [ˈmarcɪna ˈʃubɛrtovaː]; October 18, 1956) is a Czechoslovak-born American...  more

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    Nastia Liukin

    Actor, Gymnast

    BirthplaceMoscow, Russia

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Anastasia Valeryevna "Nastia" Liukin (; Russian: Анастасия "Настя" Валерьевна Люкина [ˈlʲʉkʲɪn]; born October 30, 1989) is a Russian American former artistic gymnast. She is the 2008 Olympic...  more

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    Tina Maze

    Athlete, Alpine skier

    BirthplaceSlovenj Gradec, Slovenia

    NationalitySlovenia

    Tina Maze (Slovene: [ˈtiːna ˈmaːzɛ]; born 2 May 1983) is a retired Slovenian World Cup alpine ski racer. Maze is the most successful Slovenian ski racer in history with a career that culminated with...  more
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    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    NationalityUnited States of America,Germany

    Gertrude Caroline Ederle ( ED-ər-lee, AYD-; October 23, 1905 – November 30, 2003) was an American competition swimmer, Olympic champion, and former world record-holder in five events. On August 6,...  more
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    89
    12

    Peggy Fleming

    Figure Skating

    BirthplaceSan Jose, California, United States of America

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Peggy Gale Fleming (born July 27, 1948) is an American former figure skater. She is the 1968 Olympic Champion in Ladies' singles and a three-time World Champion (1966–1968). Fleming has been a...  more
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    15

    Misty May-Treanor

    Beach Volleyball

    BirthplaceLos Angeles, California, United States of America

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Misty Elizabeth May-Treanor (born July 30, 1977) is a retired American professional beach volleyball player. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and as of August 2012, the most successful...  more
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    BirthplaceLong Beach, California, United States of America

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Billie Jean King (née Moffitt; born November 22, 1943) is an American former World No. 1 professional tennis player. King won 39 Grand Slam titles: 12 in singles, 16 in women's doubles, and 11 in...  more

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