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Sports Illustrated's Fittest 50 2020

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fittest of them all?

All elite athletes are in superb physical condition, but what happens when you level the playing field and compare athletes of all shapes and sizes in disparate sports?

Sports Illustrated accepted the challenge and ranked the best-conditioned male and female athletes in the world, consulting trainers, exercise physiologists and performance experts with experience across the college, pro and Olympic levels of sports to evaluate athletes on the following criteria: performances over the last 12 months; demands and risks of their respective sports; durability; training regimens and other physical benchmarks including power, speed, strength, agility, endurance, flexibility and more.

Count down to see the fittest male and female athletes in the world right now.

MEET THE EXPERTS

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FITTEST WOMEN

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Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

If you needed a reminder that WNBA star Elena Delle Donne is a badass, the 30-year-old provided one during the 2019 Finals. The Washington Mystics forward suffered three herniated disks during Game 2, but Delle Donne returned for the final three games, pushing through the pain to help lead the team to their first championship title. Delle Donne was named 2019 WNBA MVP for her record-breaking efforts during the season—feats that are likely a product of her conditioning level, durability and commitment to fitness.

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Brigid Kosgei, Marathon

After Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier in October 2019, Brigid Kosgei made history of her own just 24 hours later, breaking the women's marathon record set by Paula Radcliffe by more than a minute with a 2:14:04 finish at the Chicago Marathon. A mother of twins, the 25-year-old says she is fueled by the challenges she faced during her childhood.

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Katie Zaferes, Triathlon

After four consecutive podium finishes in 2019, American and 2016 Olympian Katie Zaferes currently sits at the top of the ITU World Triathlon Series standings, and she has her eyes set on Tokyo 2020. The 30-year-old’s varied training regimen includes lots of hills and she makes sure to log miles on tired legs, right off the bike, to mimic the intensity of the triathlon transition.

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Kyra Condie, Rock Climbing

Headed to Tokyo to represent Team USA for sport climbing’s Olympic debut in 2020, 23-year-old American Kyra Condie is the definition of a badass. Her rock-solid, 5'4" frame is the result of climbing for more than half her life, since she first tried the sport as a 10-year-old at a birthday party. At age 12, Condie underwent major back surgery to correct scoliosis, but she never let that stop her from ascending to new heights in the sport. Condie builds conditioning and muscular strength through various hangboard exercises, speed-wall sessions, bouldering practices and more—but no matter what, it’s always done with a powerful, positive attitude.

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Maggie Steffens, Water Polo

Already a water polo legend, 26-year-old Maggie Steffens is gearing up for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where she’ll look to lead Team USA to a third-straight Olympic water polo title. A member of every title-winning team in the last decade at the Olympics, World Cup and worlds, the 5'8", 165-pound Steffens is an absolute force when it comes to fitness, from full-body, underwater training moves to intense lifts in the gym.

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Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hockey

In 2019, Kendall Coyne Schofield made history by becoming the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star skills competition, finishing seventh in the league’s fastest skater event with a time of 14.346 seconds. With just one lap, Olympic gold medalist Coyne Schofield announced herself—and her incredible conditioning, speed and agility—and that trailblazing moment reverberated throughout the sports world.

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Simone Manuel, Swimming

At just 22 years old, Simone Manuel made history in 2019 by becoming the first U.S. woman to complete a sweep of the 50- and 100-meter freestyle races at the world championships, while also breaking the 100-meter world record. A four-time Olympic medalist who is eyeing Tokyo 2020, Manuel spends most of her time training in the water (sometimes two sessions per day) but she also incorporates weightlifting workouts that target her shoulders, core and legs.

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Caroline Marks, Surfing

She’s only 17, but Caroline Marks is already making waves in the surfing world—and beyond. The 2018 WSL Rookie of the Year finished 2019 ranked No. 2 and was one of the first women to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It’s all a product of her dedication and commitment—the 5'5", 127-pound Marks wakes up at 4 a.m. to train for the balance, endurance, strength and mental skills needed while on the board and in the water.

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Valentina Shevchenko, UFC

They don’t call UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko “Bullet” for no reason. The 5'5", 125-pound fighter earned her nickname because of her speed in the octagon, and she continues to prove why she is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. In February 2019, Shevchenko will look to extend her 4-0 record in the flyweight division and defend her belt against Katlyn Chookagian.

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Gwen Jorgensen, Track and Field

2016 Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen completed an incredible feat when just 71 days after winning gold, she set out to run the NYC Marathon and placed 14th in her first-ever attempt at the 26.2-mile distance. While she has since switched her focus for the 2020 Olympics from marathon to the 10,000 meters, Jorgensen still embodies an unmatched level of conditioning, proving she is dominant in the triathlon, on the roads and on the track.

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Allyson Felix, Track and Field

After giving birth to her daughter on Nov. 29, 2018, via emergency C-section at 32 weeks due to life-threatening preeclampsia, Allyson Felix surged back and won her first gold medal as a mom in September 2019, as part of the U.S. 4 x 400 relay team with a split of 50.4 seconds. With the win, the 33-year-old broke Usain Bolt’s record for the most gold medals in world championship history with 12, adding to her legacy as the most decorated female track and field athlete at the Olympics, with nine medals in four appearances. And Felix isn’t done yet—she’s pushing through setbacks and training in the gym and on the track as she prepares for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

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Daniela Ryf, Triathlon

While Daniela Ryf had an uncharacteristic, disappointing showing at the Ironman World Championships in Kona in 2019, the Swiss triathlete still reigns at the top of her sport. After finishing 12th in Kona, citing a stomach bug, Ryf’s streak of four consecutive titles came to an end, but just a few weeks before that, the 32-year-old reminded us why she is one of the best-conditioned athletes on earth. Ryf won her fifth Ironman 70.3 world title in Nice, France, becoming the first athlete of any gender to capture the Ironman 70.3 World Championship title five times.

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Caterine Ibargüen, Track and Field

A 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump, Caterine Ibargüen captured the bronze medal at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, in 2019. Ibarguen mixes sprinting sessions, technical training and weightlifting into her training as she works to perfect her explosive and powerful long jump and triple jump performances.

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Serena Williams, WTA Tennis

For 38-year-old Serena Williams, 2020 is all about one quest: claiming a record-tying, 24th Grand Slam victory. Although she has not won a major title since 2017, Serena is a consistent threat in any tournament she enters, and her ability to return to and remain at that level in a competitive tennis environment (especially after a difficult childbirth) is a testament to her long-standing commitment to fitness. Her booming serves, powerful groundstrokes and movement on the court are striking proof.

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Julie Ertz, USWNT and Chicago Red Stars

While her teammate Megan Rapinoe may have captured the headlines from the USWNT’s World Cup win in 2019, Julie Ertz was a critical part of the team’s success, impacting both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. On the field, the 27-year-old is known for toughness, stamina and strength, especially as a ball-winner, and she doesn’t shy away from intense training off of it.

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Dina Asher-Smith, Track and Field

Building on her breakout 2018 season, British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith continued to make history in 2019, capturing the 200-meter gold medal at the World Championships in Doha in dominating fashion. The 24-year-old broke her own national record with a 21.88-second finish, becoming the first British woman ever to win a major sprint title. As she prepares for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Asher-Smith is training six days a week, mixing high intensity running workouts with gym sessions that focus on stability, coordination and power.

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Courtney Dauwalter, Ultrarunning

Colorado native Courtney Dauwalter doesn’t just run extremely long races, she destroys them, beating both men and women in arduous endurance events that test the strength, stamina and spirit of both the body and mind. In September 2019, the 34-year-old tackled the grueling 171 km (106 miles) of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc ultramarathon race in Chamonix, France, in 24 hours, 34 minutes and 26 seconds, posting the second-fastest time among the entire U.S. team.

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Emma Coburn, Track and Field

After a silver-medal finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2019 World Championships, 29-year-old Emma Coburn is looking to add to her hardware haul at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and improve on her third-place finish from Rio 2016. Coburn is confident in her conditioning, and she prides herself on challenging the typical “lean and fragile” body type of middle- or long-distance runners. You won’t just see her logging miles on the track—Coburn’s shredded physique also comes from adding in resistance and functional movement training to her full-body workouts.

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Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Track and Field

Nearly 24 years after U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson won gold in the 200- and 400-meter races at the Olympics, Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller-Uibo is set to repeat the feat in Tokyo 2020. Already a 400-meter gold medalist in Rio 2016, Miller-Uibo made some noise in 2019, winning a silver medal in the 400 meters at the World Championships and posting the fastest 200-meter time in ’19. Miller-Uibo’s ripped physique doesn’t just come from sprint workouts on the track, as she also focuses on lifting workouts that help build speed.

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