40 greatest female athletes: Janet Evans

Some of Janet Evans' world records stood for as long as 19 years -- older when they were broken than she was when she set them. AP Photo/Ronald Kennedy

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