40 greatest female athletes: Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee showed the country a new kind of greatness: the all-around kind. Tony Duffy/Getty Images

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

As a kid, Jackie Joyner-Kersee was fast. And she could jump. In high school at Lincoln (East St. Louis, Ill.), she was a state champion in both basketball and track.

And from there, the No. 3 woman in ESPN's countdown became a legend.

By the time she retired, Joyner-Kersee was a three-time Olympic gold medalist, having won the heptathlon and long jump in 1988 and the heptathlon again in 1992. She also took silver in the inaugural heptathlon in 1984 and bronze in the long jump in 1992 and 1996. She repeatedly set world records in the heptathlon. In fact, Joyner-Kersee holds the top six scores in heptathlon history.

"She didn't have any competition except herself," says her brother, Al Joyner, who won Olympic gold in the triple jump at the L.A. Games in 1984. "She kept setting records, making it look easy."

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