40 greatest female athletes: Tracy Caulkins

Tracy Caulkins won 48 national titles, set 63 American records and conquered five world marks. Getty Images

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

When swimmer Tracy Caulkins was just 15, she won five gold medals at the 1978 world championships, helping her to become the youngest-ever winner of the Sullivan Award as America's outstanding amateur athlete.

Imagine her disappointment when the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics when she was 17 and in her prime.

But, Caulkins, No. 23 in ESPN's countdown, refocused her training while competing for the University of Florida, where she won 12 NCAA titles, and came back to win gold in the 400-meter individual medley, the 200-meter IM and the medley relay, where she swam the breaststroke leg, at the 1984 Olympics.

"She was the most amazing all-around swimmer I've ever seen," Rowdy Gaines says. "Think about it: She set American records in every stroke."

Read the complete 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