World's Best Female Athletes
It's never easy to compile a list of "the best" of anything, especially professional athletes. While statistics are kept and accolades are plentiful for athletes, so much of what goes into making such lists is very subjective. We take into account not only raw data that can be collected, but the overall impact of players on the sport as well as their off-field achievements and impact on humanity. The following are just a few of my picks for the world's best female athletes.
Mia Hamm - Soccer
For many, Mia Hamm literally put women's soccer on the map. As a forward with the US Women's National Team, 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. For years, she held the team record for goal scoring with 158 career goals in international competition, more than any other man or woman. That record was since broken by the following pick.
The first two times that FIFA chose the Women's World Player of the Year, that honor went to Mia Hamm.
Mia was a founding member of the club team, Washington Freedom for whom she also played from 2001-2003. She scored 25 goals in 49 appearances with that club and 158 goals in 275 appearances with the US Women's National Team.
As a result of her influence, young girls everywhere took up soccer, joining club teams, taking lessons and hoping to capture the same measure of success on the pitch.
Abby Wambach - Soccer
Mia Hamm was instrumental in mentoring Abby Wambach when she was first chosen to the Women's National Team. She remembers Abby as a loud, aggressive, but lovable player that would someday leave a special mark on the sport. And that she has.
As a forward for the US Women's National Team, Abby broke Mia's long standing goal scoring record with 183 goals in 245 appearances. She also scored 70 goals in 116 appearances from 2002-2014 w/ 3 club teams and is known for having the best header in the game.
She is a two time Olympic gold medalist with the US team in 2008 and 2012. In 2012 she was named FIFA World Player of the Year. Other awards include having won the US Soccer Athlete of the Year Award in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2013. She has been awarded the WPS Player of the Week Award seven times as a member of club teams, Washington Freedom and MagicJack. At the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, Wambach won both the Bronze Boot and the Silver Ball. She was the first individual soccer player, male or female, the receive the Associated Press's Female Athlete of the Year Award. In 2015 she was chosen as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Hope Solo - Soccer
Regarded by most as the best female goalkeeper in the world, Hope Solo has made a significant impact on the sport as a member of the US Women’s National Team. Off-field shenanigans aside, her talent for denying her opponents the goals they do desperately crave cannot be denied. She has made 174 appearances for the US team since 2000 and won two Olympic gold medals with the US team, in 2008 and 2012. She boasts 87 shut-outs, which is a team record and has an undefeated streak of 55 games. Other awards include: US Soccer
Female Athlete of the Year: 2009
FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Glove 2011
FIFA Women’s World Cup Bronze Ball, 2011
Sports Spectacular Female Athlete of the Year: 2013
Marta - Soccer
No list of the best female athletes is complete without including Marta, the Brazilian soccer superstar. Marta holds a number of records and has received many accolades. She won the FIFA World Player of the Year five times in a row between 2006-2010, and has scored the most goals in a Women's World Cup Tournament, with 15. She has 2 Olympic silver medals from games in 2004 and 2008. Other awards include: the Golden Ball (MVP) at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championships and in the 2007 Women's World Cup she won the Golden Ball award for being the best player and the Golden Boot award for top scorer.
Paula Newby-Fraser - Triathlon
My personal pick for best female athlete of all time goes to this gal. She started out as a competitive swimmer as a child, but her love of endurance sports and immense fitness made her a natural for the sport of Triathlon. While some of her records have fallen, she was a still a trailblazer in the sport of Triathlon and won the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii 8 times in 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, and1996. She also won 21 of 26 Ironman competitions in total.
It is difficult to imagine swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running a marathon in just over 9 hours, but she's done it numerous times, making her one of the toughest people, male or female, on the planet!
Chrissie Wellington - Triathlon
Chrissie Wellington is one of the most successful female triathletes of all time, besting even some of Paula Newby-Fraser's records. She is the only athlete (male or female) to win the Ironman World Championships less than 1 year after turning pro and she holds the Ironman record for women w/ a course time of 8:18:13, which is 32 minutes faster than the previous record.
Chrissie holds the greatest number of sub 9 hour performances (9), which is 5 more than Newby-Fraser.
Serena Williams - Tennis
Serena Williams has been ranked #1 singles on six separate occasions, including once as the oldest world number 1 player in WTA’s history. Her strength, speed and agility on the court are unmatched.
She holds 35 grand slam titles and in 2002-03 she held all four titles simultaneously and was only the 5th woman ever to do so.
Billie Jean King - Tennis
She may be one of the most influential women of all time, athlete or not. In addition to her 39 grand slam titles, in 1973, at age 29, she won the so-called Battle of the Sexes match against 55 year old Bobby Riggs, proving that in fact, girls CAN hold their own against the boys. She has been inducted into the Southern California Tennis Hall of Fame and was chosen by the Associated Press as Female Athlete of the Year in 1967.
One of her greatest achievements perhaps, was not for her tennis prowess at all, but for her off-court advocacy of women's rights and LGBT issues. For these efforts, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Nadia Comaneci - Gymnastics
This tiny titan from Romania scored the first perfect 10 in gymnastic history at age 14 at the 1976 Olympics. She followed up that feat by winning the gold medal on balance beam and floor and taking the silver medal for best all-around performance in the 1980 Olympic Games.
Comaneci was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame and received the Olympic Order, the highest award given by the International Olympic Committee.
Jackie Joyner Kersee - Track and Field
One of the strongest female athletes of all time, Jackie Joyner Kersee was a stand out in the long jump and heptathlon.
She participated in four olympics in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996 in which she won a total of 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal and , 2 bronze medals.
She also took part in three world championships during which she won 4 gold medals in these events, making her one of the most successful female track and field stars of all time.
In 1996 she tried her hand at a basketball career, signing with the Richmond Rage. But after only 17 games she returned to the track.
In 1990 Sports Illustrated for Women named her the greatest female athlete of "all time".
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