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England captain Leah Williamson holds the UEFA Women’s EURO trophy

The greatest British sportswomen of all time 

Image: England captain Leah Williamson holds the UEFA Women’s EURO trophy | photograhyjp /

With Britain’s long and rich history of female sporting prowess, compiling a shortlist of the nation’s greatest sportswomen is no small task. Our history books are filled with record-breaking, award-winning, trophy-lifting women, who've achieved amazing feats across a multitude of sports.

After much deliberation, let’s take a look (in no particular order) at some of the very best.

Lily Parr - Football

The English winger scored over 900 goals in a career that spanned two World Wars from 1919 to 1951. Football's first female icon played in front of crowds as large as 53,000 at Goodison Park and was the first woman to be inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame. Lily was also part of the LGBT+ community and since she died in 1978, she has become an icon for the community

The 2022 Lionesses - Football

The Lionesses created history in 2022 when they defeated Germany 2-1 in the final of the UEFA Women’s Euros, becoming the first England senior football team to lift a major trophy since 1966.

Tanni Grey-Thompson – Wheelchair Racing

One of Britain’s most successful Paralympians of all time, wheelchair racer Tanni Grey-Thompson dominated the sport for over a decade between the 90s and early 2000s. She claimed 11 Paralympic gold medals, six World Championship gold medals, and set over 30 world records. She also won the London Marathon an astonishing six times.

Ellen MacArthur – Sailing

In 2005, 28-year-old sailor Ellen MacArthur broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe, shaving over a day off the previous record. She then went on to become Britain's youngest Dame.

Nicola Adams – Boxing

Nicola Adams' boxing record speaks for itself. After winning gold in the flyweight division at London 2012, she repeated the feat four years later in Rio. By May 2016, Adams held the title in every amateur event available. She then turned pro in 2017 and remained undefeated until her retirement in 2019.

Jessica Ennis-Hill – Athletics

Jessica Ennis-Hill is one of Britain’s most decorated athletes. She dominated the heptathlon at the London 2012 Olympics where she claimed a gold medal during the famous ‘Super Saturday’. During her career, she also claimed three World Championship titles (2009, 2011, 2015), as well as a World Indoor Championship.

Christine Ohuruogu – Athletics

Specialising in the 400m, Christine Ohuruogu won gold on the world’s biggest stages including the Olympics (2008), World Championships (2007, 2013) and Commonwealth Games (2006). She also picked up a host of other medals for Team GB throughout her career making her one of the country’s most successful athletes of all time.

Kelly Holmes – Athletics

Kelly Holmes was already an accomplished middle-distance runner before she arrived at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but that event cemented her place in history. Holmes broke an 84-year wait for a British person to bring home gold in both the 800m and 1500m at the same games. She retired in 2005 and was made a Dame. She still retains British records in several events.

Dina Asher-Smith – Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith is quite simply the fastest British woman in history. At the World Championships in 2019, Asher-Smith ran the 100m in 10.83 seconds and the 200m in 21.88, the fastest times ever recorded by a female British athlete. In 2016, at the Rio Olympics, she claimed another British record with her Team GB teammates by running the 4x100m in 41.77 seconds.

Paula Radcliffe – Long-distance running

Britain's greatest ever female long-distance runner, Paula Radcliffe won several marathons in her career, including the London Marathon (2002, 2003, 2005), the New York Marathon (2004, 2007, 2008), and the Chicago Marathon (2002). She also held the Women’s World Marathon Record for 16 years until 2019.

Virginia Wade – Tennis

Throughout the late 60s and into the 70s, Virginia Wade captured three Grand Slam singles titles and four doubles titles. She is the last British woman to have won at Wimbledon after her victory in 1977 and was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1989.

Laura Davies – Golf

Laura Davies is regarded as the greatest British golfer of modern times with 87 wins to her name, including four majors. She not only became the first non-American to top the LPGA Money List, but she also captured the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit a record seven times between 1985 and 2006. In 2015, she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Ellie Simmonds – Swimming

In 2008, at just 13 years old, Paralympian swimmer Ellie Simmonds went to the Beijing Olympics as part of Team GB and brought home two gold medals. That same year she became the youngest winner of the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award and was the youngest-ever recipient of an MBE the following year. Upon retirement in 2021, Simmonds was a five-time Paralympic Champion, as well as the holder of several world records.

Sarah Storey – Swimming and Cycling

She is Britain’s most successful Paralympian with 28 medals to her name (including 17 golds) after a career that spanned eight Paralympic Games from 1992 to 2020. She also won her medals in different disciplines, her first 16 coming as a swimmer before switching to cycling in 2005.

Laura Kenny – Cycling

With her six Olympic medals (including five golds), Laura Kenny is the most successful female cyclist and the joint most successful British female athlete in Olympic history. She is also the first British woman to win gold at three consecutive Olympics (2012, 2016, 2020).

Beth Tweddle – Gymnastics

Britain’s most successful female gymnast, Beth Tweddle is a triple World Champion, six-time European Champion, a Commonwealth Champion, as well as an Olympic medallist after she claimed bronze in the Uneven Bars at London 2012.

Charlotte Dujardin – Dressage

Charlotte Dujardin is the greatest British dressage rider in the history of the sport. With six Olympic medals (including three golds), she joins Laura Kenny as the most decorated female Olympian of all time.

Chrissie Wellington – Triathlon

The four-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion and multiple world record holder, Chrissie Wellington is the only triathlete, male or female, to have won the World Championship less than a year after turning professional. At one point, she held all three world and championship records relating to Ironman Triathlon races.