Britain’s greatest sportswomen of all time
Great Britain has a proud tradition of producing world-class athletes in a wide range of sports, a tradition which still continues to this day. From gold medalists to world number ones, this country has produced some truly great sportswomen. Here’s who we think are the top 20, in no particular order.
The retired Olympic gold medalist is one of the biggest names in British sport. She won heptathlon gold at the London Olympics, as well as three World Championships.
Kelly Holmes won two Olympic gold medals in 2004, cementing her status as one of the all-time greatest middle-distance runners.
While Paula Radcliffe never managed to achieve her Olympic dreams, her excellence should not be forgotten. Radcliffe has held the world record for the women’s marathon since 2003 and has won three London Marathons, three New York Marathons and the Chicago Marathon. She also won gold at the 2005 World Championships and 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Christine Ohuruogu won gold in Beijing for the 400m before picking up a silver medal four years later in London.
Victoria Pendleton is one of Great Britain’s most successful female Olympians, having won two gold medals and one silver medal too. The cycling star also won nine World Championship medals, as well as a Commonwealth gold. Her achievements resulted in her being placed in the European Cycling Union Hall of Fame.
Nowadays, you’ll see Denise Lewis on TV working as a pundit, but in the late 90s to early 2000s, she was one of Britain’s greatest athletes, winning heptathlon gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Known nowadays for presenting A Question of Sport and Wimbledon, Sue Barker initially made her name as a fine tennis player. In an 11-year career, Barker won 15 titles, with her biggest triumph coming at the French Open in 1976.
Previously Britain’s most successful swimmer, Rebecca Adlington became the first athlete to claim more than one Olympic gold medal in the pool in 2008. Four years on, she was one of the most recognisable faces at the London Olympic Games and continues to be recognised as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Nicola Adams won gold at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, turning professional in 2017 after an illustrious amateur career. She’s now hung up the gloves, retiring with an undefeated professional record, havnig held the WBO female flyweight title in 2019.
Ellie Simmonds burst onto the scene at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. At the age of 13, Simmonds claimed two gold medals. She has gone on to solidify herself as one of Britain’s greatest athletes, winning more gold medals at both the London and Rio Paralympic games in 2012 and 2016 respectively.
Former England striker Kelly Smith is known as one of the great female footballers. The 41-year-old made over 100 appearances for her country and also represented Great Britain at the London Olympics. Smith won 11 major honours during her career and regularly found the back of the net for Arsenal.
Charlotte Edwards scored over 10,000 runs throughout her impressive career and played a key role in the rise of women’s cricket. Became England’s youngest ever player when she made her debut in 1996, a record that stood for another nine years.
Alphonsi retired from Rugby back in 2014 after World Cup glory with England. She was previously a winner of the Pat Marshall award, given to her from the Rugby Union Writers’ Club.
Grainger is one of Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympians, winning medals at five consecutive Games. From Sydney in 2000 up until Rio in 2016, Grainger has been ever-present, dominating her sport.
Lizzy Yarnold is widely regarded as one of Britain’s best winter Olympians and consecutive gold medals in 2014 and 2018 reflect that.
The Plymouth-born swimmer bagged herself a gold medal during the 1978 Commonwealth Games before winning silver two years later at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
After a brilliant playing career, Clare Connor is now the current director of English women’s cricket and is playing a key role in overseeing the sport’s growth on a professional scale.
Casey Stoney made over 100 appearances for England during her playing career and was named as the first-ever coach of Manchester United women.
Sarah Storey has enjoyed success both in the pool and on the track, collecting 14 gold medals during her incredible career.
Laura Kenny is right up there with the most successful female track athletes. She won gold medals in the team pursuit during both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.