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Top Olympic Athletes

Top Olympic Champions - Best of the Best

Will and Guy present their lists of outstanding Olympians selected from the summer Olympic Games.  These athletes brought us immense enjoyment.

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Top 10 Olympic Athletes from Track and FieldOlympic Trivia

As it's notoriously difficult to compare Olympic champions from different eras, consequently, we have decided to list them in date order.

  1. Jim Thorpe - 1912 Stockholm Decathlon and Pentathlon gold.
  2. Paavo Nurmi (Flying Finn) - 1920 Antwerp: 10,000m.  Also 1924 Paris: 10,000m, 5,000m.
  3. Mildred (Babe) Didrikson - 1932 Los Angeles gold medal in the javelin and 80m hurdles.
  4. Jesse Owens - 1936 Berlin 100, 400m, long jump 100m relay.
  5. Emil Zátopek - 1952 Helsinki 5,000m, 10,000m, marathon.
  6. Al Oerter - Discus gold medal: 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968.
  7. Bob Beamon - 1968 Mexico City long jump.
  8. Carl Lewis - 1984 Los Angeles 100, 400m, long jump 100m relay. Also long jump 1988, 1992 and 1996.
  9. Michael Johnson - 1992 Barcelona 200m and 400m.  Also 1996 400m.
  10. Usain Bolt - 2008 Beijing.
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Top 10 Olympic Champions from Swimming and Water Sports

Times get faster for each generation, which makes it difficult to compare the top Olympic champions of different eras, for this reason we have decided to list our best Olympic champions in chronological order.

  1. Duke Paoa Kahanamoku - 1912: 100m freestyle.
  2. Anita Lonsbrough - 1960 Rome: 200m breaststroke.
  3. Dawn Fraser - 1956, 1960, 1964: 100m freestyle.
  4. Mark Spitz - 1972 Munich seven gold medals.
  5. Greg Louganis - 1988 Seoul. Qualified for the springboard final despite hitting his head on the board. He went on to win the final, to follow up his achievement of winning the same event 4 years earlier.
  6. Kristin Otto - 1988 Seoul
  7. Jennifer Beth Thompson - 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004
  8. Ian Thorpe - 2000 Sydney: 400m freestyle.
  9. Steve Redgrave rowing.  Won gold medals at 5 consecutive Olympiads 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000.
  10. Michael Phelps - 2008 Beijing.  Won 8 gold medals, most ever at one Olympiad.  He also won 6 golds in Athens in 2004.

Top Olympic Gymnasts

Olga Korbut - 1972 Munich

Nadia Comaneci - 1996 Montreal. Scored seven perfect 10s on her way to three gold medals.

Olympic Athletes Who Deserve More Credit

  • Alvin Kraenzlein - 1900 Paris: won the 60m, the 110m hurdles and 200m hurdles, and the long jump.  His record of four individual victories at one games still stands for a track and field athlete
  • American gymnast George Eyser - 1904 St Louis: won six medals even though his left leg was made of wood.
  • Dorando Pietri - 1908 London: Marathon disqualified for receiving help.
  • Nedo Nadi of Italy - 1920 Antwerp: earned gold medals in five of the six fencing events.
  • Fanny Blankers-Koen - 1948 London gold medal in 100m and 80m hurdles.
  • Bob Mathias - 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki decathlon gold medal.
  • Abebe Bikila - 1960 Rome, 1964 Tokyo marathon winner.
  • Bob 'Bullet' Hays - 1964 Tokyo 100m, especially the 100m relay.
  • Dick Fosbury - 1968 Fosbury flop high-jump technique.
  • Alberto Juantorena - 1976 Montreal 400m and 800m.
  • Daley Thompson - 1980 Moscow and 1984 LA decathlon gold medal.
  • Ed Moses - 1984 Los Angeles.

Unsung Zeros

The 1968 Mexico City games also saw the first drug disqualification, as a Swedish entrant in the modern pentathlon, Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, tested positive ...... for excessive alcohol.

Eric 'The Eel' Moussambani 2000 Sydney. What few remember about Eric was that he actually won his 100m swimming heat.

7 Olympic Records That Will Never be Broken

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Always a risky thing to say.  But Guy is willing to bet that none of these records will broken at the 2012 Olympic Games.

  1. Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn earned a silver medal in the team double-shot running deer event to become the oldest medallist ever aged 72.
  2. Nedo Nadi of Italy - 1920 Antwerp: earned gold medals in five of the six fencing events.
  3. Between 1928 and 1960, Indian teams won six straight gold medals in men's Hockey.
  4. In 1928 at Amsterdam Hungary earned the first of seven consecutive gold medals in team sabre fencing. 
  5. Luigina Giavotti at the 1928 Amsterdam Summer Olympics became the youngest ever medallist when she gained silver in gymnastics at 11 years and 302 days.  
  6. 13 year-old Marjorie Gestring of the United States won the gold medal in springboard diving.  She remains the youngest female gold medallist in the history of the Summer Olympics.
  7. Teófilo Stevenson of Cuba won the Olympic heavyweight boxing gold medal three times 1972, 1976 and 1980.

Top Olympic Personalities

Here are Olympians that have achieved fame in other field.  Will and Guy acknowledge a British bias in this list.

  • George Patton, who would later become a famous U.S. general, competed in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics pentathlon, an event combining pistol shooting, swimming, fencing, cross country and steeplechase. Patton performed poorly in his best event, pistols, but shined in fencing, defeating the French army champion. 'Old Blood and Guts' finished fifth overall, the only non-Swede to make the top seven.
  • Philip Noel-Baker 1920 Antwerp won silver in the 1500m, and later went on to become an English MP. In 1959, he became the only Olympian to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Harold Abrahams in the 100 meters and Eric Liddell in the 400 1924 Paris: Chariots of Fire.
  • Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) - 1924 Paris: 100m and 400m also the relay.  Then he went on to play Tarzan and make that haunting call.

    On a stormy day in July 1927, Johnny Weissmuller was training on the lakefront off Chicago's North Avenue Beach  with his brother Peter when a sudden storm swamped the pleasure boat Favorite. The disaster killed 27 of the 71 people aboard, mostly women and children, but the Weissmuller brothers rescued 11 people.  He can really be considered a hero as well as a legend.
  • Lord Burghley won the 400m Hurdles - Amsterdam 1928.
  • Crown Prince (later King Olav) won a gold medal in yachting - Amsterdam 1928.
  • Australian rower Henry Pearce. Midway through his quarterfinal race, he stopped rowing to allow a family of ducks to pass single file in front of his boat. Pearce won the race anyway and, later, the gold medal as well.
  • Buster Crabbe, the great American swimmer who was to go on to make a name in Hollywood as Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.  Won the gold medal in 400m freestyle swimming at Los Angeles 1932.
  • Chris Brasher (Great Britain) 3000 Metre steeplechase winner 1956 Melbourne.
  • Mohamed Ali 1960 Rome - Won light-heavyweight gold medal.  Let the flame in Atlanta 1996.
  • Princess Anne 1976 - No she did not win a medal, but she did say: 'The horse is about the only person who does not know you are Royal'.
  • Lord Sebastian Coe 1980 won 1,500m gold medal.  Former British MP.  Head of the London bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Unlucky Losers

  • The USA 1972 Basketball team.
  • Anatoly Solomin in Moscow 1980 was leading the 20km walk with 1 lap to go when he was disqualified for lifting.
  • Mary Decker tripped by Zola Budd in the 1984 Los Angeles games.
  • Roy Jones, Jr 1988 Seoul Scandalous Boxing Decision
  • Sergey Bubka 1992 Barcelona pole vault.  Was he unlucky, arrogant, or did he just choke?
  • El Guerroudj fell in the 1,500m at the Atlanta 1996 Olympiad.
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Five Best, Clean and Interesting Quotes by Olympians

  1. I was not talented enough to run and smile at the same time - Emil Zatopek, champion Czechoslovakian distance runner, when asked about unusual facial expression when running.
  2. The swimming and diving were held in part of the old moat ... it was the clammiest, darkest place and the water was frigid. It looked bottomless and black - Alice Landon, American Diver, on facilities at the Antwerp Games of 1920.
  3. One shouldn't be afraid to lose; this is sport. One day you win; another day you lose. Of course, everyone wants to be the best. This is normal. This is what sport is about. This is why I love it. - Oksana Baiul, Olympic Gold Medalist.
  4. All I've done is run fast. I don't see why people should make much fuss about that - Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 Games.
  5. To anyone who has started out on a long campaign believing that the gold medal was destined for him, the feeling when, all of a sudden, the medal has gone somewhere else is quite indescribable. - Sebastian Coe, after losing the 800m final in 1980.

Will and Guy's Favourite Olympic Champions

These Olympic athletes need not necessarily be the very best or the most famous, but we would just like to recognise the enjoyment each brought to us.  Again, we declare a particular interest in British Olympians.

Mildred (Babe) Didrikson - 1932 Los Angeles

In the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, Mildred (Babe) Didrikson won gold medals and broke her own world records in both the javelin and the 80-meter hurdles.  In the high-jump she was awarded the silver in the high jump despite clearing a world-record height.  The judge's strange reasoning was because they disliked her technique of clearing the bar headfirst.

For sheer athletic ability, Babe Didrikson may have been more versatile than Jim Thorpe.  She led the Dallas Cyclones to three AAU national basketball championships and scored 106 points in one game.

After the Olympic Games Babe Didrikson pitched for the House of David men's baseball team and once struck out Joe DiMaggio. Pro basketball, billiards, handball, swimming, diving, lacrosse, football, boxing, she did them all and, as she was quick to point out, she did them better than the next person. She was good at everything, typing (86 words a minute), gin rummy, cooking, dancing, harmonica playing and crossword puzzles.

'The best way to take athletics, 'she said,' is to like them all. Athletics are all I care for.  I sleep them, eat them, talk them and try my level best to do them as they should be done.'  The first time she tried golf, without a lesson, she shot 95 for 18 holes.

After three lessons, she was down to 83 and driving the ball 250 yards.  In 1934, in her first tournament, she shot 77.  She took the game so seriously that she spent 12 to 16 hours a day on weekends hitting golf balls until the blisters on her hands broke.

She won 17 consecutive amateur tournaments, and when she turned professional she helped point the women's tour to its present importance. In 15 years, she won 55 amateur and pro tournaments.

Chris Brasher - I956 Melbourne

Chris Brasher was an unexpected winner of the steeplechase, sprinting to a 15 metre victory.  A short time after the race it was announced that he had been disqualified for interfering with Ernst Larsen, the Norwegian runner who had finished third.  Larsen agreed that he had been bumped by Brasher but indicated that he did not support the disqualification.  Sandor Rozsynyoi of Hungary, the athlete who finished second, also supported Brasher.  After an agonising wait of three hours, Brasher's disqualification was overturned and he was reinstated as the winner.

In later life Chris Brasher co-founded the London Marathon.  In earlier life Chris Brasher paced Roger Bannister to the first ever sub-minute four minute mile.

'Bullet' Bob Hayes - 1964 Tokyo

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Bob Hayes won the 100m gold medal despite wearing borrowed shoes and running in a chewed-up lane 1.  In those days they drew lots for lane numbers.  His time of 10.0 equalled the world record in 1960.  I liked his cavallier style of just tossing down the portable running blocks and hammering them down wherever they landed.

However, it was when it came to the 100m relay that the 'Bullet' showed the world what he could really do, and why he earned the tag of the 'fastest man on the planet'. The grainy black-and-white film of the 4x100 relay shows Hayes take the baton on the last leg in about 5th place.  He was at least 5m down on the French race leader.  Then the 'Bullet' unleashed what many think is still the fastest last leg ever run.  After 50 yards he had caught everyone including the Frenchman, and won pulling away by a good 3m.  Study of the film indicates that he may have run that 100m in under 8.5 seconds.

Bob Hayes went on to star for the Dallas Cowboys, and is the only man to win an Olympic gold medal and a SuperBowl ring.  He was such a fast American Football wide receiver that no defensive back could catch him.  Consequently, opponents had to scheme special zone coverage schemes just to contain that blistering acceleration seen in that Olympic relay final.  As Bob also had a physical presence, that did not work too well and he set numerous receiving records, including a 95 yd touch down reception which is still the longest by a Dallas player.  In 2009 Bob Hayes was posthumously inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Lyn 'The Leap' Davies - 1964 Tokyo

It was wonderful news that Welshman Lyn 'The Leap' Davies won the long jump.  There is a well known syndrome that teenage boys try and emulate their heroes, they pretend to score winning goals, or smash balls to the boundary.  Well this teenager - Guy Thomas, literally came down to earth with a bump.  Even with my longest run-up I could not jump from the white board actually into the sand pit!  Still, as long as Lyn the Leap soared over 8 meters and collected the gold medal - I didn't care that I could not jump 8 ft.

1. Lynn DAVIES  (GBR)   8.07m.
2. Ralph BOSTON   (USA)   8.03m.
3. Igor TER-OVANESYAN  (RUS)   7.99m.

Ann Packer - 1964 Tokyo

Will remembers David Coleman's commentary on BBC television on the Women's 800m final. Ann Packer [GB] was the slowest of the starters in the final and had only run the distance 5 times before in competition. A 400m runner, it was the finishing burst of speed of a sprinter around the final bend which lives in Will's memory. She moved passed the opposition as if they were standing still to win the gold medal in a world record time of 2 minutes 1.1 seconds.

Daley Thomson - Decathlon 1980 and 1984

Daley Thompson won gold in the Moscow and Los Angeles Decathlons.  His arch rival, Jurgen Hingsen, was so much bigger it seemed unfair.  Hingsen's best for the individual events was better than Thompson's yet in ten head-to-head competitions Daley Thompson won every time.  This leads Will and Guy to think that even among Olympic champions, we doubt if any were more dedicated, single minded or just plain determined to win than Daley Thompson.

Eric 'The Eel' Moussambani - Sydney 2000

Swimmer Eric 'The Eel' Moussambani became a worldwide personality.  Others, notably 'Eddie the Eagle', made a name for themselves by coming last.  But what few remember about Eric was that he actually won his 100m swimming heat!

What happened was that his two rivals were both disqualified for a false start, leaving Eric to finish the 100m course alone.  However, this was not straightforward, at one point the life guards considered jumping in to assist the struggling Eric.  It's safe to say that his time of 1:52 will never be exceeded by the winner of an Olympic Games 100m race.  To give a comparison, all the 200m finalists were inside Eric's time for the 100m.

 

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