AP Photo/Ronald KennedySome of Janet Evans' world records stood for as long as 19 years -- older when they were broken than she was when she set them.ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.
Janet Evans was only 17 years old and about 100 pounds when she secured her legacy.
The No. 15 woman in ESPN's countdown won three gold medals at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul in the 400- and 800-meter freestyle and the 400-meter individual medley and was one of just two U.S. swimmers to win individual gold at the Games.
At the 1992 Barcelona Games, she repeated as champion in the 800 free -- the first woman ever to do so -- and just missed gold again when she was out-touched in the 400.
"An athlete comes along once in a generation who stands out -- a Mark Spitz or a Michael Phelps," says swimming commentator Rowdy Gaines, who won three golds at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. "Janet was that amazing icon. She was just a dinky little thing, but she hated to lose, and she was completely fearless."
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
No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly
No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi
No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman
No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach
No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher
No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit
No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers
No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman
No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz
No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers
No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw
No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres
No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez
No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins
No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva
No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams
No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan
No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn
No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez
No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale
No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes