We rank 'em. You react. That's how the Daily List rolls.
5/13/2008 03:06:00 PM
Greatest Female Athletes of All Time
Few athletes have a trophy case as full as Martina Navratilova's.
By Lang Whitaker, SI.com
With baseball in swing, the NBA Playoffs grinding on and the NFL draft just past us, we'll forgive you if you missed the start of the WNBA season. With Candace Parker and Candice Wiggins going to the pros, the league should be better than ever. And with Danica Patrick's recent resurgence, we thought this would be a good chance to take a look at the greatest female athletes of all time…
1. Babe Zaharias: Though she dominated the sports world, she lived in an era when the athletic accomplishments of women weren't exactly celebrated. Still, Babe hit five home runs in a baseball game, won three Olympic medals in track and field, was an All-American in basketball and won dozens of golf tournaments.
2. Jackie Joyner-Kersee: After scoring more 1,000 points as a basketball player at UCLA, Joyner-Kersee made her mark on the world as a heptathlete, winning seven Olympic medals (three golds).
3. Martina Navratilova: While many consider Billie Jean King the greatest female tennis player of all time, I'm going with Martina, who won 18 Grand Slam titles as a singles player and 31 in doubles. She also reeled off 74 consecutive wins at one point, and even King called her the greatest singles, doubles and mixed-doubles player "who ever lived."
4. Sonja Henie -- The Norwegian skater is known for revolutionizing figure skating by injecting style and structure to her routines. She won three Olympic gold medals and 10 world championships, then went on to organize skating tours and star in films.
5. Cheryl Miller: The greatest Miller family baller compiled a 132-4 record in high school, including one legendary game in which she scored 105 points in the first half. At USC, she was a four-time All-American and finished fifth on the NCAA Women's all-time charts in scoring and third in rebounding.
Who is the greatest female athlete of all time? Let us know below…
Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com
Monica Seles was the most dominant women's tennis player until some jealous, lunatic fan stabbed her. She was never the same after that. Also, Annika Sorenstam is the most dominant women's golfer of all time. No other LPGA golfer comes close. Laila Ali, would have liked to see her compete longer and would have liked to see better competition against her. Lisa Fernandez is synonymous with USA softball, and they ruled the world in their sport. They not only dominated, they ruled.
1. How could you leave the late, great Florence Griffith Joyner off the list? She was a five time Olympic medalist (3 gold, 2 silver) and still holds world records in the 100m and 200m. In 1988 she was named AP Female Athlete and USOC Sportswoman of the Year and won the Sullivan, and Jesse Owens awards. She was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1995.
2. Ever hear of the late, great Wilma Rudolph? She was born with polio and overcame it to become the star of the Tennessee State University Tiger Belles Track Team. She later would win four Olympic medals. The first was a bronze in 1956. In 1960, she would become the first woman ever to win three gold medals in a single Olympics, a feat duplicated 28 years later by the late, great Florence Griffith Joyner. Wilma Rudolph would also win the Sullivan Award in 1960 as well as being named AP Female Athlete of the Year in 1960 and 1961.
3. Does the name Teresa Edwards ring a bell? She is the youngest AND oldest person to win an Olympic gold medal in basketball. She is also the only American basketball player, male or female, to appear in five Olympics appearing from 1984-2000. She won gold in 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2000. She won bronze in 1992 with the team that was nicknamed "The Dreamettes."
Strong arguments could also be made for Althea Gibson, Steffi Graf, Evelyn Ashford, Valerie Brisco Hooks, and Bonnie Blair.
How can you leave out Mia Hamm and what she has done not only for womens soccer but for women in sports in general. Not just how she had and impact on the sport but she was also successful on the field as well. I really think you need to re think this list. Ask any young girl today who their favorite female athlete is and 9 out of 10 will say Mia Hamm!
How can you leave out Mia Hamm and what she has done not only for womens soccer but for women in sports in general. Not just how she had and impact on the sport but she was also successful on the field as well. I really think you need to re think this list.
The author claims that many consider Billie Jean King to be the greatest female player of all time. Really? Not many serious tennis enthusiasts are likely to agree.
Navratilova is a better candidate , but even there I think she is overshadowed by Steffi Graf. Not to take anything away from the amazing career Navratilova put together, but Graf was a superior athlete and a better tennis player.
Phillippa Raschker, at age 61, was a finalist for the Sullivan award this year and has been the best living female athlete for the past 20 years hands down, slam dunk, none of the pros listed could carry her spikes. We're talking of over a hundred age group world records in track and field.
If you're including skaters, then definitely Catriona le may Doan. She's set a pile of world records (she once set eight consecutive world records on a single distance). She's won Olympic medals, several world championships and just about any other prize you can name.
Caulkins won a record 48 national championships, and set 5 world and 62 U.S. records. She was the first American to win a national title and set an American record in each of the four swimming strokes (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle)
Sonja Henne and Cheryl Miller? Please! Look at Sonja's tapes and they are in a word--Boring. If you pick a skater, you have to look at Yamaguchi, Witt or Hamill. Cheryl Miller is the most overrated member of the overrated Miller family and that is saying something. To me great is a lifetime not a couple of years, look at Nancy Lopez or Annika Sorenstam--top of their games for YEARS. Dark Horse--how about Pat Summitt, pretty good player and damn good coach who is creating a true legacy every single day.
HAVE YOU CONSIDERED ALTHEA GIBSON, THE TENNIS GREAT OF THE 1950S WHO WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN GRAND SLAM WINNER LONG BEFORE ARTHUR ASHE OR THE WILLIAMS SISTERS... ALSO CONSIDER LUISA HARRIS, WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PLAYER FOR DELTA (MISS.) STATE, PERHAPS THE FIRST SUPERSTAR OF THE TITLE IX ERA
I disagree that Steffi Graf should be on the list, given that, in her prime, she was clearly not as good as Monica Seles (and no one is claiming Monica should make the list). I'm not sure if I have the statistic right, but I remember reading that Monica won something like eight of eleven grand slams before she was stabbed. That's dominance, and in particular it's dominance over Steffi. When Monica left the game for that long hiatus, Steffi was pretty much unchallenged. It's not that Steffi's slam wins and time at number 1 after Seles left (and she wasn't the same when she came back) aren't impressive, it's just that you can hardly call someone the greatest ever when that player was second best for a sustained period during her prime.
You've got to include Bonnie Blair, Annika, Nadia, Flo Jo, and Mia on that list. And how about Dot Richardson and certainly Wilma Rudolph. Bonnie, Annika, Nadia and Mia defined excellence in their respective sports. Flo Jo, Wilma, and probably Gail Devers have to rank very high on the list of our great track and field athletes.
Mia Hamm springs to mind, obviously. Navratilova over any other tennis player, not only for number of victories, majors, and longevity, but also for changing the women's game from long chess-like rallies to a power game, much like the men's. And Annika Sorenstam, for dominating the women's field for years. I also learned that she was a tennis player, but injury turned her to golf. Two very different sports, a true "athlete", not just a one-sport star, like straight track or basketball. SDMark
Babe did it all. You can't argue with that. Anyone who did track and field in the 70's and 80's should have an * or a ? next to their performance. I know I was their trying to keep up. Lots of Tennis players are notorious for not being able to do anything else other than play tennis. Mia Hamm was dominant. Iolanda Balas did not lose a high jump contest in ten years from the 50's to 60's. That's certainly something
You leave yourself open to too many queries by trying pick only five. Some sports are better known (particularly in the US) no one put Jennie Longo (cycling) for example. Anybody even consider any triathletes ? Tough call, but I am suprised Mia Hamm was left out.
These might not be great in terms of being an "overall" athlete, but, due to their individual sport performances, honorable mention could be given to: Shirley Muldowney - drag racing Picabo Street - Skiing Manon Rheaume - Ice Hockey
stop with the asinine soccer comments. running up and down a field is hardly skillful. martina navratilova is the greatest because of her athleticism and longevity. she was still winning grand slams into her late 40s. name another athlete with better hands who was at the top of their game for thirty years. she transformed the female athlete with her training, mental toughness, and remember, this is a person who had to defect her communist regime and deal with same-sex issues. billie jean paved the way, but martina went higher. maybe skiers are more athletic, but they have short careers. soccer? hilarious
Firstly you have to choose world sports - not just those played in the US.... :0)
Annika Sorenstam has to be in there, surely.
USA have won the world cup twice and got to the semi finals the other times (i think) - German (2 wins, 1 runner up) player Birgit Prinz was 3 time world player of the year to Mia's 2 (though granted, that's not always a great indication as Ronaldo won the men's one year after only playing for about 4 months..)
A woman named Larissa Latynina won 9 olympic golds (18 medals in total) over 3 olympics.
Birgit Fischer won 8 golds and 4 silver over a 24 year period in canoeing
what about michelle kwan??? she changed the face of figure skating winning multiple world,national medals, and two olympic medals. she has accomplished more perfect 10s than man or women. she is the best figure skater!!!
I am glad that Soccer and Softball are not represented on the list. The talent pools in those sports are too thin. Steffi Graf or Monica Seles maybe more than Martina. Steffi did win the Grand Slam and Monica had the unfortunate incident.
I agree that Flo Jo should be on this list and probably would have been if not for the steroid suspicions. She was either the most amazing woman athlete of all time (her record in the 100m bested the previous WR by more than a second) or a Ben Johnson-esque steroid abuser.
Hmm... I just wonder if we'd be having the greatest female tennis player ever conversation if Maureen Connolly wasn't injured in the horse riding accident. 11 Grand Slam appearances, 9 Grand Slam wins, including all four in the same calendar year. All before she turned 20... alas for injuries in sports...
Soccer requires no skill? Have you ever played? I would like to see you try to get past Mia Hamm, or even stop Mia Hamm (this after her playing days, not in her prime) I think you would end up crying for your mother when you finally gave up trying. Michelle set the stage and Mia brought women's soccer to the attention of a nation, she deserves a spot on the list.
Good list. With all due respect to Billie Jean, Martina was a much better athlete. Another name to consider: Joan Joyce, the softball great who went on to have a professional golf career also. She draws comparisons to Babe Z.
No question about the Babe as No.1 - In 1932, she won the National AAU Women's track and field team championship despite being the only member of her team. She set five world's records in one afternoon. She was limited to three events in the '32 Olympics and won or tied for first in all. Later, she took up golf and regularly outdrove (and embarrassed) male pros.
As for the greatest single women's sports achievement, it has to be Gertrude Eberle being the first woman and first American to swim the English Channel in 1926, and shaving almost TWO HOURS off the men's record. This at a time when the longest womens swim event was 400 meters.
To the person who said "I agree that Flo Jo should be on this list and probably would have been if not for the steroid suspicions." There were never any steroid suspicions concerning the late, great Florence Griffith Joyner. She NEVER had a positive drug test.
The suspicions, which were later confirmed, surrounded a more recent competitor: Marion Jones.
To the person who said "Jackie Joyner-Kersie? Come on - its obvious she was filled with steroids like the rest of the US track teams. Give me a break.", first of all it's KERSEE, and second of all like her late, great sister-in-law Florence Griffith Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee NEVER had a positive drug test.
The steroid suspicions concerned the subsequently stripped Ben Johnson in 1988 and more recently the aforementioned Marion Jones, her ex-husband C.J. Hunter and the recently sentenced Tim Montgomery.
Lots of good names. But I remember being inspired and in awe of Wilma Randolph, as a young boy watching her win those golds in Rome. Her overcoming polio, which some kids still had at the time, and as a young girl from small HBC I hadn't heard of, made me a fan. No one had Nancy Liberman? Wasn't she one of the early women's bball stars too?
You definitely omitted the two greatest woman tennis players: Steffi Graf and Margaret Smith Court. Also, you forgot to mention that Cheryl Miller won the Olympic gold medal in women's basketball, and the NCAA chanpionship while at USC. DAW