1.3k voters

The Most Influential Female Athletes of All Time

Updated September 25, 2019 14.6k votes 1.3k voters 8.8k 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.

  • Annika Sörenstam1

    Annika Sörenstam

    Professional golfer, Architect

    BirthplaceBro, Sweden, Sweden

    NationalityUnited States of America, Sweden

    Annika Sörenstam (pronounced [ˈanːɪka ²sœːrɛnˌstam] (listen); born 9 October 1970) is a...  more
  • Yelena Isinbayeva2

    Yelena Isinbayeva

    Track and field athlete

    BirthplaceVolgograd, Russia


    Yelena Gadzhievna Isinbayeva (Russian: Елена Гаджиевна Исинбаева, IPA: [jɪˈlʲɛnə gɐˈdʐɨjɪvnə...  more

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  • Marit Bjørgen3

    Marit Bjørgen

    Athlete, Cross-country skier

    BirthplaceTrondheim, Norway


    Marit Bjørgen (born 21 March 1980) is a retired Norwegian cross-country skier. She is ranked...  more
  • Anni Friesinger-Postma4

    BirthplaceBad Reichenhall, Germany


    Anna ("Anni") Christine Friesinger-Postma (born 11 January 1977) is a German former speed...  more
  • Lidia Skoblikova5

    Lidia Skoblikova

    Speed Skater

    BirthplaceZlatoust, Russia

    NationalityRussia, Soviet Union

    Lidiya Pavlovna Skoblikova (Russian: Лидия Павловна Скобликова; born 8 March 1939) is a...  more
  • Fanny Blankers-Koen6
    Francina "Fanny" Elsje Blankers-Koen (26 April 1918 – 25 January 2004) was a Dutch track and...  more
  • Inge de Bruijn7

    BirthplaceBarendrecht, Kingdom of the Netherlands


    Inge de Bruijn (Dutch: [ˈɪŋə də ˈbrœyn]; born 24 August 1973) is a Dutch former competitive...  more
  • Birgit Fischer8
    Birgit Fischer (born 25 February 1962) is a German kayaker, who has won eight gold medals over...  more
  • Věra Čáslavská9

    BirthplacePrague, Czech Republic

    NationalityCzech Republic

    Věra Čáslavská (Czech pronunciation: [ˈvjɛra ˈtʃaːslafskaː]; 3 May 1942 – 30 August 2016) was...  more
  • Larisa Latynina10

    BirthplaceKherson, Ukraine

    Larisa Semyonovna Latynina (Ukrainian: Лариса Семенівна Латиніна, Russian: Лари́са Семёновна...  more
  • Sonja Henie11

    Sonja Henie

    Figure Skating

    BirthplaceOslo, Norway


    Sonja Henie (8 April 1912 – 12 October 1969) was a Norwegian figure skater and film star. She...  more

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  • Chris Evert12

    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,...  more

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  • Steffi Graf13

    BirthplaceMannheim, Germany

    NationalityGermany,West Germany

    Stefanie Maria "Steffi" Graf (German pronunciation: [ˈʃtɛfiː ˈɡʁaːf]; born 14 June 1969) is a...  more

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  • Stefka Kostadinova14
    Stefka Georgieva Kostadinova (Bulgarian: Стефка Георгиева Костадинова; born March 25, 1965) is...  more
  • Nadia Comăneci15

    Nadia Comăneci


    BirthplaceOnești, Romania

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Nadia Elena Comăneci (UK: , US: , Romanian: [ˈnadi.a koməˈnetʃʲ] (listen); born 12 November...  more


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  • Lindsey Vonn16

    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...  more

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  • Annemarie Moser-Pröll17
    Annemarie Moser-Pröll (born 27 March 1953) is a former World Cup alpine ski racer from...  more

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    #98 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time#2 of 62 The Greatest Alpine Skiers of All Time

  • Martina Navratilova18

    BirthplacePrague, Czech Republic

    NationalityUnited States of America, Czechoslovakia

    Martina Navratilova (Czech: Martina Navrátilová pronounced [mar'cɪna navˈraːcɪlovaː]; born...  more

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  • Nastia Liukin19

    Nastia Liukin

    Actor, Gymnast

    BirthplaceMoscow, Russia

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Anastasia Valeryevna "Nastia" Liukin (; Russian: Анастасия "Настя" Валерьевна Люкина...  more

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  • Paula Radcliffe20

    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...  more
  • Gertrude Ederle21

    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...  more
  • Billie Jean King22

    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...  more

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  • Kerri Walsh Jennings23

    Kerri Walsh Jennings

    Beach Volleyball

    BirthplaceSanta Clara, California, United States of America

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Kerri Lee Walsh Jennings (born August 15, 1978) is an American professional beach volleyball...  more

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  • Maria Sharapova24

    Maria Sharapova

    Athlete, Model

    BirthplaceNyagan, Russia


    Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (Russian: Мари́я Ю́рьевна Шара́пова, IPA: [mɐˈrʲijə ˈjʉrʲjɪvnə...  more

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  • Jackie Mitchell25

    Jackie Mitchell


    BirthplaceChattanooga, Tennessee

    Virne Beatrice "Jackie" Mitchell Gilbert (August 29, 1913 – January 7, 1987) was one of the...  more