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40 greatest female athletes: Kristine Lilly

5/4/2012
Kristine Lilly, who is only 5-foot-4, simply wore out opponents with her tenacity. Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

Kristine Lillywas only a teenager when she got called up to the U.S. women's soccer team. By the time she retired when she was 39, she had made a record 352 appearances for the national team, played in five FIFA Women's World Cups, and played in three Olympics, winning gold in 1996 and 2004.

But perhaps more than anything else, it was her work ethic that separated her from her teammates and opponents. Lilly, the No. 36 player in ESPN's countdown, developed that work ethic early in life. She would return home from her time with the national team and embark on lengthy runs through the snow and wind in Wilton, Conn.

"Kristine just wore players out," says Tony DiCicco, coach for the U.S. from 1990-99.

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato