Special Report

The Greatest Female Athletes in History

Source: Mike Powell / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Steffi Graf
> Sport: Tennis

In 1988, Steffi Graf accomplished a feat unequaled in tennis. She won the four Grand Slam titles and the women’s singles gold medal at the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, all in the same calendar year. The West German athlete lost only one match in all of 1988. Gifted with a powerful forehand, Graf occupied the No. 1 ranking in the world for a record 377 total weeks before she retired in 1999.

Source: Bob Levey / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Mia Hamm
> Sport: Soccer

Mia Hamm was an early superstar in American women’s soccer. She joined the United States Women’s National Team at age 15 and was on the national squad for 17 seasons. Hamm scored 158 goals, which was an American women’s soccer record until it was surpassed by Abby Wambach, and also had 144 assists. She was a member of two World Cup championship teams in 1991 and 1999. Hamm was Women’s FIFA World Player of the Year twice. She was the first woman inducted into the World Football Hall of Fame.

Source: Central Press / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Sonja Henie
> Sport: Figure skating

Sonja Henie is the most famous female skater of all time. The Norwegian skater won three Olympic women’s figure gold medals in 1928, 1932, and 1936, 10 straight world championships, and was a six-time European Champion. Henie became a professional skater whose tours were very successful and she also became a film star, one of the first female Olympic athletes able to capitalize on her fame.

Source: Getty Images / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Florence Griffith Joyner
> Sport: Track and field

Also known as Flo-Jo, and the sister-in-law of fellow track athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner earned a silver medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Four years later, the spotlight was hers as she won three golds and one silver at the 1988 Olympics, capturing the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay, while taking second in the 4×400 relay. She came under suspicion for using performance-enhancing drugs after the 1988 Olympics. Joyner always claimed her innocence and she never failed a drug test.

Source: Tony Duffy / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Jackie Joyner-Kersee
> Sport: Track and field

Jackie Joyner-Kersee was one of the most dominant women athletes in track and field in the 1980s. After earning a silver in the heptathlon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, she hit her stride in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, winning gold at both the heptathlon and the long jump. She repeated her gold in the heptathlon at the Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992, and earned the bronze that year in the long jump. At age 34, she completed her Olympics career with a gold in the long jump in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics. Joyner-Kersee also captured four golds in the World Championships and one in the Pan American Games.

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