Greatest Overall Skiers of All Time

The 10 Greatest Women’s Overall Skiers of All Time, Ranked

Rankings

The 10 greatest women’s overall skiers of all time, ranked

Greatest Overall Skiers of All Time

Ranking the best female overall skiers of all time.

By RTB

Top 10 Rankings


Finally, we wrap up the series with the overall event, honoring some of the true legends of the sport. In this domain where versatility is key, these athletes stand out from the crowd. While calling someone the “greatest athlete” is a matter of opinion, here, we explore the incredible journeys of those who haven’t just achieved excellence but have mastered three distinct disciplines—slalom, trick, and jump—earning them the title of the sport’s greatest overall skiers.

These individuals haven’t just succeeded; they’ve gone beyond what was thought possible. Our journey takes us from the early pioneers through the sport’s golden age in the 1990s to today’s modern day greats. Along the way, we dive into each skier’s successes and challenges. These overall skiers represent the pinnacle of the sport, demonstrating unmatched athleticism and skill across all aspects of water skiing.

‘Greatest Of’ lists in any sport are inherently subjective and water skiing is no exception. There’s no definitive checklist to crown someone as the absolute best. Every fan out there has their own opinion. But decisions had to be made. We proudly present our picks for the 10 best female overall skiers in the history of competitive water skiing. So sit back, enjoy, and maybe even debate a little over our choices—after all, that’s the fun of it!

Kaye Thurlow at the 1969 World Water Ski Championships

Kaye Thurlow receives her Australian team blazer for the 1969 World Championships in Denmark (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

10. Kaye Thurlow Faulkner

Representing Australia in five consecutive World Championships from 1967 to 1975, she earned eight medals across trick, jump, and overall, including two bronze medals in the latter event. Additionally, Kaye competed in the water skiing demonstration at the 1972 Munich Olympics, securing runner-up finishes in trick and jump.

Virtually unbeatable at the Moomba Masters, she secured an incredible 20 titles on the Yarra River, including eight titles in her favored overall event. Kaye deservedly makes this list as the most dominant skier in the only professional event of her era.

Whitney McClintock slalom skiing at 2017 Moomba Masters

McClintock won an incredible eight consecutive Moomba Masters slalom titles from 2011 to 2019 (image: @desburkekennedy)

9. Whitney McClintock Rini

Between 2009 and 2019, Whitney achieved remarkable success with two World Championship overall titles and two runner-up finishes. Her impressive collection at the World Championships includes 10 medals, with five of them being gold, spanning slalom, trick, and overall.

Excellent as a junior, Whitney secured multiple junior world championships, including an under-17 overall title and back-to-back under-21 overall titles. Despite her exceptional skills, she faced the unfortunate circumstance of never having the opportunity to compete in a professional overall tournament throughout her career.

World Champion Cindy Todd

Todd’s comeback season in 1975 was an almost instant success (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

8. Cindy Todd

Between 1977 and 1983, the Florida transplant secured an incredible seven World Championship titles spanning slalom, jump, and overall, with back-to-back victories in the overall category in 1977 and 1979.

Cindy’s dominance extended to the U.S. Masters, where she asserted herself as a four-time overall champion. Stepping into the void left by Liz Allan’s retirement, Todd claimed three consecutive titles from 1976 to 1978. Her supremacy wasn’t limited to a singular discipline; across slalom, jump, and overall, Cindy clinched a total of eight titles at the Masters, solidifying her reputation as one of the greatest skiers of her era.

Willa Worthington's father taught her to water ski on Oswego Lake in 1942 when she was 14.

Willa Worthington’s father taught her to water ski on Oswego Lake in 1942 when she was 14.

7. Willa Worthington

Water skiing’s first ever world champion, Willa came agonizingly close to sweeping a World Championships, winning slalom, jump, and overall and finishing runner-up in tricks at the inaugural event in 1949. She would go on to win a total of 14 World Championships medals, eight of them gold. At her last World Championships in 1955, she narrowly missed the clean sweep again, repeating her placements from the first event. 

At the U.S. Nationals she won nine overall titles, losing only once from 1946 to 1955. Three times she clean swept the competition, winning all four gold medals. In total, she was a 29-time U.S. National women’s champion, unmatched by any skier to this day. 

The only reason she is not placed higher on this list is because of the difficulty in gauging performances from this far in the past. While she was incredibly dominant, the women’s field was often thin in the 1940s and 1950s, with only three women competing at the inaugural World Championships. 

Natallia Berdnikava Water Ski Champion

Berdnikava held the world trick, jump, and overall records throughout her career (image: @natiski200)

6. Natallia Berdnikava

With an impressive tally of ten World Championship medals earned between 2007 and 2017, Natallia Berdnikava stands as one of the most formidable figures in water skiing. Her crowning achievement unfolded at the 2011 World Championships in Dubna, Russia, where she achieved an extraordinary sweep in women’s trick, jump, and overall events. This remarkable feat laid the foundation for Belarus’ team victory, securing its place as only the fourth nation to claim that prestigious title.

Despite limited opportunities to compete professionally in overall competitions throughout her career, Natallia clinched the 2018 Latrobe City International. Regarded among the greatest trickers and jumpers of all time, she has emerged as one of the dominant athletes in the 21st century.

A trailblazer in the sport, Natallia still holds the distinction of being the highest-scoring female of all time. She has broken the world overall record three times, maintaining her grip on it since 2012, making it one of the longest-standing records in the sport.

Elena Milakova trick skiing

Elena Thomsen-Milakova excelled in trick, jump, and overall (image: Swiss Waterski & Wake)

5. Elena Milakova

The Russian dominated the sport at the turn of the century, clinching three consecutive world overall titles from 1997 to 2001. Throughout her career, she amassed a total of nine World Championship medals, demonstrating her skills across the trick, jump, and overall events.

Her other major achievements include overall victories at the 1999 U.S. Masters and 2001 World Games, underlining her consistent excellence on the international stage. During a remarkable run of form in 2001, Elena broke the world overall record three times. This incredible feat included setting new records in both the preliminary and final rounds of the European Championships.

Waterski champion Karen Bowkett Neville

Karen and her husband Mick made up one of the sport’s greatest duos through the 1980s (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

4. Karen Bowkett Neville

The standard-bearer for Australia’s golden generation, Karen graced the overall podium in four consecutive World Championships from 1985 to 1991 and claimed the top spot twice. Her instrumental role in the Australian team led to three consecutive second-place finishes from 1985 to 1989, bringing them on the cusp of dethroning the United States’ decades-long reign. Her remarkable achievements include breaking Deena Brush Mapple’s four-year winning streak in 1989 to secure the U.S. Masters overall title, and she added another feather to her cap by winning the U.S. Open in 1991.

Karen dominated the Moomba Masters throughout the late 1980s, securing eight overall titles between 1984 and her retirement in 1993. Her remarkable tally of 20 titles across all four disciplines places her on par with Kaye Thurlow Faulkner as the most successful skier in the history of the Moomba Masters. Karen’s outstanding achievements in water skiing became a source of national pride, leading to her recognition as the Australian Sportswoman of the Year in 1985.

Deena Brush Mapple at the U.S. Masters

The Queen of Water Skiing (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

3. Deena Brush Mapple

From 1979 to 1989, the Sacramento native played a pivotal role in guiding the U.S. Team to an impressive seven consecutive World Championship team titles, showcasing her consistency by only missing the overall podium twice during this period. Following two runner-up finishes and a bronze, she solidified her legacy by claiming back-to-back world overall titles in 1987 and 1989. Her illustrious career boasts a total of 15 World Championship medals, spanning slalom, jump, and overall events, with an impressive six golds.

Renowned as one of the most dominant skiers in the history of the U.S. Masters, Deena secured a remarkable 20 titles across slalom, jump, and overall, with 14 of them earned after the Masters became professional in 1985. Her prowess in women’s overall was particularly noteworthy, experiencing only one loss between 1985 and 1993 on Robin Lake. Similarly, at the U.S. Open, she won four consecutive overall titles from 1987 to 1990, before taking the 1991 season off for the birth of her first child.

Deena stands as the sole female athlete to simultaneously hold the world slalom and jump records. Among her many accomplishments, the Grand Slam Victory in 1987 stands out, securing overall wins at the World Championships, U.S. Nationals, U.S. Masters, and the Pro Tour—a feat only matched by one other athlete. Known fondly as the ‘Queen of Water Skiing,’ Deena’s achievements place her among the greatest of all time.

World Champion Liz Allan

Liz Allan revolutionized women’s jumping through the 1960s and 70s (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

2. Liz Allan

At just 14 years old, the American phenom announced her arrival on the global stage by becoming only the second woman to jump 100 feet. In that same remarkable year, she clinched her inaugural world titles, seizing gold in both the jump and overall events.

Liz’s dominance in water skiing is unparalleled, as evidenced by her incredible tally of 15 World Championship medals between 1965 and 1975, boasting an impressive 11 golds—the highest count by any skier in history. Notably, she stands alone as the only skier to secure World Championships in all four disciplines: slalom, trick, jump, and overall, winning the latter event three times throughout her illustrious career.

In 1969, at the age of 18, Liz showcased near invincibility, very nearly effecting a clean sweep across all three events and overall at the U.S. Masters, U.S. Nationals, and World Championships. Her sole defeat that season came in slalom at the Masters. Liz’s dominance at her peak has yet to be surpassed by any other skier.

Her legacy extends to the U.S. Masters, where she reigns as the most successful skier in its storied history. Liz secured a staggering 24 titles, including an unmatched nine overall titles, with only one loss between 1966 and 1975. Liz’s extraordinary accomplishments reached their peak before she made the decision to retire from top-level competition at the remarkably young age of 24.

Regina Jaquess at the 2015 Malibu Cup

Jaquess is arguably the greatest water skier of all time, male or female (image: @regina_jaquess)

1. Regina Jaquess

Displaying exceptional talent from a young age, Regina Jaquess received her inaugural invitation to the Junior Masters at the tender age of 12. At 16, she nearly achieved a clean sweep at the Under-17 World Championships, securing victories in slalom, jump, and overall, only stumbling in the trick final, despite posting the highest score of the tournament in the preliminary round.

Undeterred, Regina clinched her first open world title in the trick event the following year at 17. She continued her dominance into the first two editions of the Under-21 World Championships, amassing a total of six gold medals. Her illustrious career includes five world overall championships, with back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2005, and an impressive three consecutive titles from 2013 to 2017. In total, Regina boasts 19 World Championship medals across slalom, trick, jump, and overall, securing 10 golds. A record-breaker, she has broken the world overall record four times and holds the World Championship tournament record.

Regina’s prowess extends to the Pan American Games, where she is a three-time overall champion, triumphing in 2011, 2019, and the most recent victory in 2023. Her outstanding performance in Chile last year, clinching gold in slalom, jump, and overall, earned her a nomination as the female athlete of the games.

Despite her remarkable achievements, Regina has faced a scarcity of opportunities to compete in professional overall tournaments, her career coinciding with a two-decade drought of events. Nonetheless, she made her mark by winning tricks and overall at the 2002 U.S. Open as an 18-year-old. In recent years, she has reached the podium on the WWS Overall Tour, reaffirming her enduring excellence in water skiing.

Honorable Mentions:

Clementine Lucine

While Clem may be best remembered as the first woman to trick 10,000 points, she boasts an impressive collection of eight World Championships medals, with four earned in overall competitions from 2003 to 2013. Her crowning achievement came in 2007 when she stood atop the podium in both the trick and overall events. Notably, she held the overall world record for an impressive five years, breaking it twice in 2004 and 2006.

Rhoni Barton Bischoff

While Rhoni could never secure top honors at the World Championships, she earned four medals, including back-to-back bronzes in the overall event in 1999 and 2001. On the professional circuit she was a two-time U.S. Masters overall champion and multiple-time U.S. Open champion. Making history, Rhoni became the first-ever world record holder in the overall category when the IWWF started recording records in the late 1990s.

Judy McClintock Messer

Between 1985 and 1995, Judy featured on the World Championships overall podium five times, finally clinching the coveted gold in 1995. She emerged as the backbone of the Canadian team, playing a pivotal role in their groundbreaking victories during the 1990s.

Ana-Maria Carrasco

Despite her greatest achievements coming in tricks, Ana-Maria secured a world overall title in 1983, alongside two runner up finishes throughout the 1980s. Throughout the decade, Carrasco consistently performed at an elite level, claiming gold in overall and trick at the inaugural World Games in 1981, and earning a U.S. Masters overall title in 1984.

Karin Roberge Woodson

The first Roberge to make their mark on the world stage, Karin secured back-to-back U.S. Masters overall titles in 1979 and 1980. She then claimed the title of world overall champion in 1981, showcasing her skills with podium finishes in both the slalom and trick events. Throughout the 1980s, she continued to shine, adding three consecutive Moomba Masters overall titles to her career achievements.

Giannina Bonnemann Mechler and Hanna Straltsova

These two young stars have been at the forefront of women’s overall for the last few seasons and are beginning to post scores that could threaten Berdnikava’s longstanding world record.

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Matt Dunn
2 months ago

Where is Camille Duvall???

Jack Burden
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Dunn

Duvall is inarguably one of the greatest women’s slalomers of all time, but this article is specific to overall. She didn’t have any major victories in overall (beyond a U.S. Nationals title in 1977), although she did win three World Championship bronze medals in the event. Probably could make the case she should have been listed among the ‘Honorable Mentions’