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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.

Serena WillamsSerena Willams

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.

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.

The available lists of the greatest female athletes are becoming dated. Women's sport is on the rise, and some great athletes have made their mark in recent years, including gymnast Simone Biles, Serena and Venus Williams, skiier Lindsey Vonn, swimmer Katie Ledecky and so many others.

name sport notes
Babe Didrickson Zaharias (USA) track & field, golf, basketball. 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 (UK) tennis, hockey, archery, golf 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 (USA) track & field 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 (The Netherlands) track & field 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 (Canada) cycling / speed skating a 6-time Olympian and the only person (man or woman) to win multiple medals in both summer and winter Olympics
Mia Hamm (USA) Soccer 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 (Soviet Union) Gymnastics gymnast who won a total of 18 Olympic Games medals (9 of them gold)
Martina Navratilova (Czech / USA) tennis player with the best winning record (man or woman) in tennis history.
Billie Jean King (USA) tennis 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 (USA) 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.

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Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

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