Who is the fastest woman alive? A ranked list of women speed stars

Who is the fastest woman alive? A ranked list of women speed stars

Kenneth Mwenda
updated at November 7, 2023 at 11:28 AM

Embarking on a journey through the annals of sprinting history, we find a tapestry woven with tales of extraordinary speed, unmatched endurance, and record-shattering performances by the fastest women alive. From Shelly-Ann Fraser’s breathtaking 10.60-second dash to Elaine Thompson-Herah’s exploits cementing her as the reigning speed queen, these sprinters have redefined the limits of human velocity.

Who is the fastest woman alive?
Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica celebrates at the end of the Women 100 Meter during the Gala dei Castelli at the Comunale Stadium on September 04, 2023, in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Photo: Pier Marco Tacca
Source: Getty Images

The stories of these athletes are not merely about the numbers on a stopwatch but the legacy they have created in the world of athletics. With careers spanning from the sunbaked tracks of Kingston to the competitive stages of the Olympics, each sprinter has left an indelible mark on the sport.

Top 10 fastest women alive

This list is a tribute to the sheer velocity and enduring spirit of these remarkable women, whose names have become synonymous with speed. As we delve into the lives and achievements of the fastest female sprinters ever, we are reminded that their records are more than just times – they are milestones in the perpetual race against the clock.

10. English Gardner (USA)

Fastest woman alive
English Gardner of the United States during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Ian MacNicol
Source: Getty Images

English Gardner cemented her status as a premier sprinter with a blistering 10.74 seconds in the 100-metre dash at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. They tie with the legendary Merlene Ottey as the 10th fastest woman ever.

Born in Philadelphia and raised in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, Gardner was a standout athlete at Eastern Regional High School and later a five-time NCAA champion with the University of Oregon. Although she set a record-breaking time at the Pac-10 Championships in 2011, her mark of 11.03 seconds was never ratified, leaving the American junior record out of her reach.

9. Merlene Ottey (JAM)

Fastest woman alive 100m
Merlene Ottey of Jamaica at the 100-meter Series of the IAAF World Championships at the Olympic Stadium on August 26, 1991, in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Sergio J. Carmona
Source: Getty Images

Merlene Joyce Ottey, born May 10, 1960, is a Jamaican-Slovenian former track and field sprinter. Known for her incredible career longevity, she has been a fixture in world sprinting for over two decades.

Her best 10.74 seconds was set in Milan on September 7, 1996. Renowned for her speed and longevity, Ottey holds the world indoor record for the 200 metres set in 1993, and her name is etched high on the all-time lists for the 60, 100, and 200 metres. Thirteen times, she was celebrated as Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year.

Dubbed the “Queen of the Track” and affectionately referred to as the “Bronze Queen” for her collection of third-place finishes, Ottey’s seven appearances are unmatched by any other track and field athlete, during which she garnered an impressive nine medals, despite never clinching gold. Her 14 World Championship medals and the record for most individual event medals further cement her legacy as an icon of the sport.

8. Christine Arron (FRA)

Fastest woman alive in 2023
Christine Arron of France competes in the Women’s 4x100 Metres Relay Semi Finals during day four of the 21st European Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2012, in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Stu Forster
Source: Getty Images

Christine Arron’s time of 10.73 seconds, recorded in Budapest on August 19, 1998, has enshrined her as Europe’s fastest woman. Also in the relay, she was a 2003 World Championship gold medallist and a 2004 Olympic bronze medallist.

Born in Les Abymes, Guadeloupe, Arron arrived in Metropolitan France in 1990 and first trained with Fernand Urtebise, who coached the former 400-metre hurdles and 4 × 400 400-metre relay world champion Stephane Diagana. Her natural speed and grace on the track were evident from early in her career, and she has lived up to the expectations by delivering performances that have stood the test of time.

7. Marie-Josée Ta Lou (CIV)

Fastest woman alive mph
Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast following the women’s 100m during the London Athletics Meet, part of the 2023 Diamond League series at London Stadium on July 23, 2023 in London, England. Photo: Sam Mellish
Source: Getty Images

Marie-Josée Ta Lou’s emotional record-breaking 10.72 seconds in Monaco on August 10, 2022, was a groundbreaking moment for African sprinting. The Ivorian sprinter’s achievement not only set a new African record but also announced her as a formidable force on the global stage. Her commitment to her craft and ability to peak at the right moment are hallmarks of her racing strategy.

The performance in Monaco was a remarkable display of Ta Lou’s progress and determination to excel against the best in the world. By consistently improving her personal bests, Ta Lou has shown that she is not content with just being the fastest female in her continent but is also vying for the global crown.

6. Sha’Carri Richardson (USA)

Who's the fastest woman alive?
Sha’Carri Richardson during the Diamond League athletics meeting at Stadion Letzigrund stadium in Zurich on August 31, 2023. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini
Source: Getty Images

Sha’Carri Richardson’s remarkable performance at the 2023 track and field world championships in Budapest, where she clocked a record time of 10.65 seconds, has put her on the map as one of the fastest women ever. Her fiery persona and trademark long nails bring a unique flair to the sport, reminiscent of the legendary Griffith-Joyner.

In 2019, Richardson catapulted into stardom during her freshman year at Louisiana State University by shattering the 100m collegiate record with a blistering time of 10.75 seconds at the NCAA Division I Championships. At just 19, this remarkable performance placed her among the top ten quickest women ever.

5. Shericka Jackson (JAM)

Top 10 fastest woman alive
Shericka Jackson celebrates winning the Women’s 200m Final during day seven of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at National Athletics Centre on August 25, 2023, in Budapest, Hungary. Photo: Shaun Botterill
Source: Getty Images

Shericka Jackson’s recent ascent in the sprinting world has been nothing short of meteoric. In 2022, she became the fastest woman alive and second fastest woman of all time in the 200 metres. Furthermore, her astonishing 10.65-second performance in Kingston on July 7, 2023, thrust her into the spotlight, tying her with the legends of the sport.

Jackson holds the unique distinction of being the sole athlete to secure medals in the 100m, 200m, and 400m events in the history of the World Championships, including achievements in both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. Additionally, she is the second-ever athlete, following in the footsteps of Marita Koch, to attain podium finishes across the 100m, 200m, 400m, 4x100m, and 4x400m events at either the World Championships or the Olympic Games.

4. Marion Jones (USA)

How fast is the fastest woman alive?
Marion Jones during the women’s 100-meter dash on June 23, 2006, at AT&T Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis. Photo: A. Messerschmidt
Source: Getty Images

Marion Jones once captivated the world with her stunning speed, recording a breathtaking time of 10.65 seconds in Johannesburg, RSA, in 1998. At her peak, she was the epitome of the fastest woman alive speed, dominating the sprinting events with an ease that made her seem invincible.

Her involvement in the notorious BALCO scandal, which implicated over 20 elite athletes, marked her as one of the most high-profile athletes connected to performance-enhancing drug use. The scandal also included her former husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter, and Tim Montgomery, the 100m sprinter and father of her first child,

Beyond her track and field notoriety, Jones also ventured into professional basketball. She showcased her athletic versatility as a point guard for the Tulsa Shock in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), playing during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

3. Carmelita Jeter (USA)

Fastest woman alive speed
Carmelita Jeter of the United States celebrates winning bronze in the Women's 100-metre final during Day Three of the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 at Luzhniki Stadium on August 12, 2013, in Moscow, Russia. Photo: Ian Walton
Source: Getty Images

From 2009 until 2021, Jeter was recognised as the “Fastest Woman Alive,” a title she earned by clocking a personal best of 10.64 seconds in the 100m at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix on September 20, 2009. Her prowess in the 100m was further solidified when she clinched the world championship in 2011 and secured a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics.

In addition, her Olympic career boasts three medals, underscoring her status as a dominant sprinter on the world stage. This blistering performance established her as one of the fastest women ever and solidified her position in the pantheon of sprinting royalty. On May 25, 2023, she was named the new head coach of the track & field and cross country programs at UNLV.

2. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM)

Fastest woman alive speed
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Team Jamaica during day seven of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at National Athletics Centre on August 25, 2023, in Budapest, Hungary. Photo: David Ramos
Source: Getty Images

One of the most enduring track athletes in history, Fraser-Pryce’s career spans over a decade and a half, from the late 2000s to the 2020s. Her best time of 10.60 seconds, achieved on August 26, 2021, in Lausanne, showcases her phenomenal talent and staying power in a highly competitive field.

In the annals of the World Athletics Championships, Fraser-Pryce shines as one of the most decorated athletes in history, boasting a collection of ten golds and four silvers. Unmatched in the 100m, she’s clinched five world titles across 2009, 2013, 2015, 2019, and 2022.

Her 2019 victory heralded her as the first mother to secure a global 100m crown in 24 years, and her triumph in 2022 at 35 years old established her as the most senior sprinter to ever win a world championship. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest sprinters of all time.

1. Elaine Thompson-Herah (JAM)

Fastest woman alive
Elaine Thompson-Herah of Team Jamaica during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Alexander Stadium on August 06, 2022, in Birmingham, England. Photo: David Ramos
Source: Getty Images

Elaine Thompson-Herah confirmed her status as the fastest woman alive in 2023 when she clocked an electrifying 10.54 seconds on American soil at Hayward Field. She holds the title of the fastest woman alive over 100 metres and is the second fastest over 200 metres.

A five-time Olympic gold medalist, Thompson-Herah achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first woman and only the second sprinter after Usain Bolt to accomplish the “sprint double” — winning gold in both the 100m and 200m in successive Olympic Games, achieving this feat in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and repeating it in Tokyo in 2021.

A six-time Olympic medal winner, Thompson-Herah first grabbed international attention at the World Athletics Championships in 2015, clinching a silver medal in the 200 metres. Her performance in that event elevated her to the status of the fifth fastest woman ever in that distance at the time.

Who is the fastest woman of all time?

Florence Griffith-Joyner of the USA is the fastest woman of all time. Her iconic 10.49-second sprint in Indianapolis has remained the stuff of legend, and she is the world’s fastest woman at top speed. This record, set on July 16, 1988, sent shockwaves through the athletic world and has proven to be an unassailable benchmark for speed, translating to a velocity of approximately 23.35 mph (37.58 km/h), securing her title as the fastest woman alive mph.

Fastest woman ever
Studio portrait of Florence Griffith Joyner on January 26, 1996. Photo: Tony Duffy
Source: Getty Images

Griffith Joyner unexpectedly ended her athletic career in February 1989. She sustained her celebrity status with sponsorships, acting roles, and fashion designing. Passing away in 1998 at 38, she succumbed to an epileptic seizure induced by an abnormality of blood vessels in her brain. Her final resting place is at El Toro Memorial Park in Lake Forest.

The 'last lap'

The chronicles of the fastest women alive continue to inspire awe and admiration. Their legacies, a blend of rapid pace and resilient determination, pave the track for future generations to chase the horizons of speed.

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Kenneth Mwenda photo
Kenneth Mwenda
Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. At Sportsbrief, he contributes to writing biographies and listicles.