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40 greatest female athletes: Mia Hamm

6/22/2012
Mia Hamm possessed astonishing acceleration and made fearless runs at defenders. She also had the smarts and skills to create. Ben Radford/Getty Images

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

Mia Hamm was just 15 years old when she became the youngest woman ever to don the jersey of the U.S. senior squad.

She wore that jersey for 18 years and scored 158 international goals, more than any player ever, and tallied 144 career assists, the most ever by an American player.

The No. 1 player in ESPN's countdown, Hamm appeared in the first four Women's World Cups, winning two of them -- including the mythic 1999 tourney on home soil. She also won gold in the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics.

"My motivation is not about personal gains," she once said. "I want to do as much as I can to get the sport out there."

She retired a winner, a legend and a symbol of what women's sports can be.

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

No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans

No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt

No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller

No. 12: Sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner

No. 11: Tennis player Billie Jean King

No. 10: Tennis player Serena Williams

No. 9: Tennis player Steffi Graf

No. 8: Gymnast Nadia Comaneci

No. 7: Tennis player Chris Evert

No. 6: Speedskater Bonnie Blair

No. 5: Basketball player Lisa Leslie

No. 4: Golfer Annika Sorenstam

No. 3: Track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee

No. 2: Tennis player Martina Navratilova