While female athletes do not generally receive the same recognition as male athletes, there are a few women who rise to the top and become household names. Here are the top five most influential female athletes.
1. Serena Williams
As one of the most dominant tennis players to ever play the game, Williams became a household name long before she ever took the court. Trained by her father alongside her tennis star sister Venus, she has won 39 grand slam titles in the last 25 years, including 23 individual titles.
2. Danica Patrick
Unarguably the most successful woman in professional racing, Patrick may be more of a household name than any male in the field. She won one race in her 14 year career, the 2008 Indy Japan 300, but she is still undoubtedly successful and remains one of the highest paid female athletes. Later in her career, she switched from Indy racing to NASCAR.
3. Lindsey Vonn
Through 19 seasons of alpine ski racing, Vonn has racked up endless medals and titles. She has won the World Cup Championship four times, only the second woman to do so. She also ranks second overall, men’s and women’s, in the FIS Super Ranking, which is based on results from Olympics, World Cups, and World Championships. Plagued by injuries and forced to retire in 2019, Vonn remains the most recognizable name in female alpine skiing.
4. Simone Biles
With a combined 30 World Championship and Olympic Medals, Biles is one of the most decorated female gymnasts ever. At the 2016 Rio Games, she medaled in every event except the uneven bars (team, individual all-around, floor, vault, and beam). Already almost unanimously considered the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles isn’t done yet. She will compete at the 2020 Toyko Games in 2021.
5. Katie Ledecky
At just 15 years old at the 2012 London Olympics, Ledecky won her first gold medal in the 800 meter freestyle. Since then, she has gone on to win 34 medals in major competitions, and she has been named Female Worldwide Swimmer of the Year five times. She has broken world records fourteen times, and at just 23 years old, she is just getting started.