One of the strengths of swimming for sport is that it produces as many athletes from one gender as another. There are females among the great swimmers that rank among the finest athletes the world has ever known. Below is a short-list of some of the best of the best of the worlds most famous swimmers.

Jennifer Beth Thompson – Jenny Thompson is the most awarded female swimmer in Olympic history. In her competitions at the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympic Games, Thompson won a total of 12 medals. Eight of those medals were gold and all won in the relay. She was selected Swimmer of the Year in 1993 and 1998 by Swimming World Magazine and was voted 62nd greatest female athlete of all time by Sports Illustrated in 1999.

Krisztina Egerszegi – Hungarian swimmer, Krisztina Egerszegi was an Olympian swimmer in the 1988, 1992, and 1996 games. During her Olympic career, Ezerszegi won seven medals including five gold. Four of her gold medals were in the backstroke event where she still held the record for the 200m backstroke for nearly 17 years. Egerszegi is also an inductee into the Swimming Hall of Fame. She is also one of the only two people in the world to win the same swimming event at three consecutive Olympic Games.

Dawn Fraser – Australian Dawn Fraser is the other part of the duo that has won the same event three Olympic Games in a row. Fraser won the 100m freestyle in the 1956, 1960, 1964 Games. During her Olympic career, Fraser won a total of eight medals, half of which were gold. Fraser was voted Australian of the year in 1965 and was one of the Olympic torch bearers in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

Shane Gould – Shane Elizabeth Gould only participated in the Olympic Games once at the 1972 Games in Munich. In a single Games, the 15 year old Gould won five medals including three gold which was the greatest outing by Australian in a single Olympics up to that time. In winning those three gold medals, Gould also broke a record in each event, making her the first female swimmer to ever win three gold medals all in world record time. Gould retired from competitive swimming at the age of 16. She was voted Australian of the Year in 1972 and, along with Dawn Fraser, was one of the torch bearers at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

Kristin Otto – Like Gould before her, Kristin Otto only participated in a single Olympic Games. In the 1988 Games in Seoul, Otto swam for her home of East Germany and won a total of six gold medals, breaking the records in 50 m freestyle, 100 m freestyle, 100 m backstroke, and 100 m butterfly. Like Gould, Kristin Otto retired within a year of her only Olympic outing. She was also selected Female World Swimmer of the Year in 1984, 1986, and 1988.

UPDATED 10/17/11