40 greatest female athletes: Mary T. Meagher

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

Mary T. Meagher was only 16 when she pulled off what Sports Illustrated would later recognize as one of the greatest sports performances ever.

It was August of 1981 at the U.S. long course championships when "Madame Butterfly" set a pair of world records that would stand for nearly two decades. In the 100-meter butterfly, Meagher knocked an incredible 1.33 seconds off her old world mark. In the 200 fly, she finished nearly 10 meters in front of her nearest competitor and broke her own record by nearly half a second.

Meagher, who was born the 10th of 11 children into a strict Catholic family in Louisville, Ky., is No. 32 in ESPN's countdown.

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