Top-20 Most Famous Female Athletes Of All Time

Top-20 Most Famous Female Athletes Of All Time
Wikimedia Commons

Who are the most famous female athletes ever?

That’s an exciting question since more and more women are showing just how unbelievably fantastic they can be at their chosen sport.  

With a lot more fans showing great interest, and appreciate the incredible talent and hard work these ladies put in. There’s bound to be a lot of debate on who the really famous female athletes are.

So we’ve compiled a list of some incredible female athletes who were not just excellent at their chosen sports but are also role models and icons who the next generation of athletes and fans alike will look up to.

So in no particular order, let’s have a look at some of these famous female athletes.

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The Most Famous Female Athletes Of All Time

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

  • Sport: Track and Field
Famous Female Athlete – Jackie Joyner Kersee
Wikimedia Commons

Six Olympic medals (three of them gold) won, competing in the heptathlon and long jump events in four consecutive Olympic games (1984-1996).

She was also a four-time world champion while also winning a gold medal in the Pan American Games.

No wonder she was often called the American Athletics First Lady. 

Babe Didrikson Zaharia

  • Sport: Tennis
Famous Female Athlete – Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Wikimedia Commons

Excelling in any sport is something to be proud of, but doing so at a time when people had a gnawing prejudice towards female athletes made it even more impressive.

Zaharias was great at almost every sport she tried and even went on to win two gold medals at the 1934 Olympics. She began her golf career a year later and began participating in PGA events three years later.

After winning 41 LPGA events, she was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, she died at the age of 40.

Wilma Rudolph

  • Sport: Track and Field
Iconic Female Athlete – Wilma Rudolph
Wilma Rudolph winning a 100 meter race. Wikimedia Commons

For someone who had to deal with polio and was only able to walk with a metal brace during her early years, what miss Wilma Rudolph was able to accomplish was a miracle.

She became the fastest woman at the time and was the first female American athlete to win three gold medals from a single Olympic game in 1960.

Her achievements made her an icon among black people and female athletes, and she was very active in the Civil Rights movement.

Billie Jean King

  • Sport: Tennis
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King in 1978. Photo by Lynn Gilbert

One of the best female tennis players of all time with 12 grand slam singles, 16 doubles, and 11 mixed doubles to give a total of 39 grand slam titles, King was one hell of a tennis player.

She was a strong advocate for social justice and gender equality. After the Open Era began in 1968, three years later, she became the first female athlete to win $100,000 in prize money.

She showed the first seeds of equal pay in the game of tennis in the process.

Danica Patrick

  • Sport: Racing
Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick In The Camping World 500 Drivers Parade in 2017. Wikimedia Commons

The most successful female race car driver is definitely an icon to women in general.

Prevailing in a male-dominated sport is no easy feat, yet she won the 2008 Indy 300 championship in Japan and became the first woman to become an IndyCar Series Champion.

Five years later, she was the first woman to win a NASCAR Sprint Pole Series. Her successes as a NASCAR driver has encouraged other women to compete in the male-dominated sport of car racing.

You May Also Like: 10 Best Female NASCAR Drivers Ever Ranked

Serena Williams

  • Sport: Tennis
Serena Williams
Wikimedia Commons

Serena Williams needs no introduction. She is arguably the best female tennis player of the Open Era.

Serena has become a role model for the younger generation of female tennis players and people worldwide.

With 23 Grand Slam singles titles, she holds the record for the most grand slam victories in the singles category by a tennis player, male or female.

Venus Williams

  • Sport: Tennis
Venus Williams
Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to mention one without the other. Another tennis icon, Venus Williams has won 7 Grand Slam singles, and 14 Grand Slam doubles along with her sister and partner Serena.

She also has four Olympic Gold medals and tied for first place for the most gold medals by a tennis player, male or female. She is the first black woman to become world No. 1 in the WTA rankings.

Venus Williams helped finish what Billy Jean King started by winning the fight for equal pay at the Wimbledon Open with the help of Tony Blair, the Prime Minister at the time.

You May Like: Venus And Serena Williams: The Sisters Rivalry & Facts

Michelle Kwan

  • Sport: Figure Skating

The American figure skater is one of the greatest figure skaters of all time and certainly the United States’ most decorated figure skater to date.

With five world championships and a nine-time United States champion, Michelle Kwan is one of the most famous female athletes in America, even after her retirement in 2006.

Lindsey Vonn

  • Sport: Alpine Ski Racing
Lindsey Vonn wins World Cup Downhill 2010
Lindsey Vonn won the World Cup Downhill in 2010. Wikimedia Commons.

Lindsey Vonn became the first American female skier to win the downhill Olympic Gold medal during the winter Olympics of 2010.

She picked up her 20th world crystal globe title in 2016 to become the only Alpine skier to hold the record. Vonn was forced to retire in 2019 due to persistent injuries.

Yet with four world championships (three of them back to back) and three Olympic Gold medals, and 82 world championship victories, Vonn is one of the greatest skiers of all time.

Ronda Rousey

  • Sports: MMA, Wrestling

Arguably the best female mixed martial artist globally, Ronda Rousey conquered the UFC with 12 victories from 14 fights winning the World Championship.

She successfully defended her title on six different occasions before recording her first loss in the UFC.

After signing for the WWE in 2018, she also became a World Champion, thus becoming the first and only woman to win the title at both the UFC and the WWE.

She is also a Hollywood star, starring in big movies like The Expendables 3, Mile 22, and Furious 7.

Simone Biles

  • Sport: Gymnastics
Simone Biles
Simone Biles at the 2016 Olympics. Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil.

At 22, Simone Biles has proven herself to be the greatest gymnast the world has ever seen. With 25 gold medals in the Olympics and the world championships, she has dominated at almost every event she participated in.

Biles is a Five-time all-round US champion, a Four-time all-round World Champion, and she won four gold medals at the 2016 Olympic games.

Katie Ledecky

  • Sport: Swimming

Another lady that needs no introduction. Katie Ledecky is the best female swimmer in the world.

She won her first Olympic gold medal at the age of 15, after dazzling the whole world in the 800-meter freestyle in the 2012 Olympics, and that was only the beginning.

By 2016 she had smashed 14 world records and winning four gold medals and a silver medal, which made her the most decorated female athlete of the 2016 Olympic games.

Ledecky currently holds the record for 400, 800, and 1,500 meters freestyle. What a swimmer!!!

Megan Rapinoe

  • Sport: Soccer
Megan Rapinoe
Wikimedia Commons

The current world’s best female soccer player is a co-captain of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT).

Megan Rapinoe led her team to their second consecutive world cup scoring six goals and picking up the golden boot and the golden ball awards of the tournament.

Besides winning the World Cup again in 2015, she was also part of the 2012 Olympics soccer team who took home the gold medal.

Rapinoe is an active advocate for equal pay in soccer as a sport and LGBTQ rights as well.

Alex Morgan

  • Sport: Soccer

Alex Morgan is a fellow teammate of Rapinoe and co-captain of the USWNT, winning back to back FIFA world cups, the Olympic Gold medal and a silver medal in the 2011 world cup.

She scored 28 goals and recorded 28 assists in 2012 and became the second woman to record 20 or more goals and assists in a single calendar year, the first being Mia Hamm. Morgan has 169 caps for the US scoring an impressive 107 goals.

Just like Rapinoe, she has been an advocate for equal pay.

Missy Franklin Johnson

  • Sport: Swimming
Famous Female Athlete – Missy Franklin Johnson
Wikimedia Commons

At just 17, Missy Franklin became the first American female athlete to win four gold medals at the London Olympics of 2012, blowing everyone out of the water as she made a clean sweep of every event she participated in.

She went on to win another six gold medals the following year during the world aquatics championships.

If she hadn’t suffered from chronic pain in her shoulder, which forced her to retire at an early age, she just might have dominated the swimming world just like Michael Phelps.

Steffi Graf

  • Sport: Tennis
Steffi Graf
Mark Henckel / CC

To win a Grand Slam is an outstanding success.

But to dominate the world of tennis for a whole year, winning every Grand Slam singles title, and then adding an Olympic Gold medal in a single year takes you to a whole new level.

That is precisely what Steffi Graf did, winning the Golden Grand Slam title and was world No. 1 for 377 weeks and winning a total of 22 Grand Slam titles, making her one of the Greatest Female Tennis Players Of All-Time.

Graf holds the record for the longest World No. 1 for a tennis player, male or female.

Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh Jennings

  • Sport: Beach volleyball
Most famous Beach volleyball players – Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh Jennings
Via Instagram

These two ladies are called the greatest beach volleyball team the planet has ever seen, and for agood reason.

They smashed every single team who was unlucky enough to face them, losing just one set in 21 matches across three consecutive games, winning gold medals in 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic games.

Their partnership ended when May-Treanor announced her retirement after winning her third gold medal, and they were both inducted into the volleyball hall of fame.

Larisa Latynina

  • Sport: Gymnastics

Latynina is no doubt the greatest gymnast of all time, holding the record for the most Olympic Gold medals to be won by a gymnast male or female.

She won nine gold medals for the Soviet Union. A record which stood for 48 years, she also has five silver medals and four bronze medals to make a total of 18 Olympic medals.

Latynina retired in 1966 and became a gymnast instructor.

Lisa Leslie

  • Sport: Basketball

Drafted into the WNBA as the 7th pick in 1997, Leslie went on to have one of the best careers in the WNBA, winning two WNBA championships, three WNBA MVPs and was an eight-time All-star WNBA team.

Lisa Leslie was the first female basketball player ever to dunk in the WNBA, and she also won three Olympic Gold medals.

After her retirement in 2009, she served as a sports commentator for several networks before joining Fox Sports as an analyst in Florida.

Nastia Liukin

  • Sport: Gymnastics
Nastia Liukin
Wikimedia Commons

Nastia Liukin was pivotal to the success of the US Gymnastics team, winning three world championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

She won the gold medal for the all-around events and 4 other Olympic medals tying for the record of the most medals won in a single Olympic game.

After her retirement in 2012, Liukin became an analyst for NBC Sports; she also hosts a Nastia Liukin Cup every year to help support the sport’s growth.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, our all-time list of the most famous female athletes ever.

These exceptional women did not just conquer their various sports.

They have become role models and idols for the younger generations of athletes and the entire world. Their names will forever be etched in history.

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