Who is the All Time Greatest Female Athlete?
Most lists of the greatest athletes of all time tend to be dominated by male athletes, though there have been many female athletes who have excelled in their sport and had a significant impact on their sport.
There have been several lists of great females athletes, and any reliable list should have Babe Didrickson Zaharias and Lottie Dod at or near the top. These two were once named by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most versatile female competitors. Athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee is also found at the top of these lists, and may be the greatest modern greatest female athlete.
Here are some details of top female athlete lists that have been published.
- Sports Illustrated list of the Top 118 Female Athletes - published in 2000, top of this list is Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
- ESPN list of the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years from June 2012 had US Soccer player Mia Hamm leading from Martina Navratilova then Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
- Bleacher Report list of the Top 50 female athletes ever, with Jackie Joyner-Kersee top followed by mulit-sport athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
- The ESPN SportsCentury program in 1999 created a list of the Top 100 Athletes of the 20th Century (which was limited to North American athletes), which included eight females; Babe Zaharias (ranked 10th), Martina Navratilova, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Wilma Rudolph, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Althea Gibson, Bonnie Blair.
Some of the Greatest Female Athletes
Here is a list of some of the top 'greatest female athletes' the world has ever seen, sourced from the above lists and others. If you have someone else to suggest, let me know by commenting below.
|Babe Didrickson Zaharias||track & field, golf, basketball.||USA||At the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, she won gold in both the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw, and took silver in the high jump. She won the British Ladies' Amateur golf tournament. She was the first (and still the only) woman in history to make the cut in a regular PGA Tour event. She achieved All-American status in basketball|
|Lottie Dod||tennis, hockey, archery, golf||UK||At age 15, she became the youngest woman ever to win the Wimbledon Ladies' Singles Championship, and went on to win it 4 more times. Played field hockey for England national two years after taking up the sport. She won the British Ladies' Amateur golf tournament in 1904. Won the silver medal in archery at the 1908 Olympics in London.|
|Jackie Joyner-Kersee||track & field||USA||4-time Olympian and 6-time Olympic medalist who twice won gold in the Heptathlon. Sports Illustrated voted her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.|
|Fanny Blankers-Koen||track & field||The Netherlands||sprinter and hurdler who won 4 gold medals in the 1948 London Olympics. In the post-war years she set or equalled 12 world records in events as diverse as the long jump, the high jump, sprint and hurdling events and the Pentathlon. In 1999 the IAAF voted her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.|
|Clara Hughes||cycling / speed skating||Canada||a 6-time Olympian and the only person (man or woman) to win multiple medals in both summer and winter Olympics|
|Mia Hamm||Soccer||USA||She appeared in the first four Women's World Cups (winning two of them). She also won gold in the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics. She has 158 career goals in international competition, more than any other man or woman. Was also named Women's FIFA World Player of the Year the first two times the award was issued|
|Larissa Latynina||Gymnastics||Soviet Union||gymnast who won a total of 18 Olympic Games medals (9 of them gold)|
|Martina Navratilova||tennis||Czech / USA||player with the best winning record (man or woman) in tennis history.|
|Billie Jean King||tennis||USA||Won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, with a career Grand Slam. Oldest woman to win a singles tournament at age 39. Famously won a "Battle of the Sexes" match, against Bobby Riggs in straight sets in 1973.|
|Wilma Rudolph||Track & Field||In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games.|