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Who is the Greatest Sportsperson of all Time?

Updated on January 26, 2013

Who is the Greatest of all Time?

Sports are as varied as the human race itself and sports can encompass all facets of human ability. Strength, Endurance, Calmness, Agility, Intelligence and Self Control are but a few of the traits that an elite sportsperson might require.

Some might argue that an athlete's performance outside of the pitch, oval, pool, velodrome or arena is just as important. Does off field misbehavior, the taking of recreational or performance enhancing drugs impact on our decision of the Greatest sportsperson of all time? What about on field behaviour? Do we favour sportsmanship over gamesmanship?

Who is tougher the footballer playing the last 30 minutes with a broken jaw or the equestrian rider completing the last day of a three day event with broken ribs?

Has the sportsperson served their sport or gone on to greater things in retirement?

Sport is constantly evolving. There are changes in diet, training techniques, recovery techniques and sporting equipment. Surgery and medicine has also developed to the point where injuries which once ended careers are now operable. Is it fair to compare a current athlete with an athlete 20,40 or 60 years ago?

The answer to who is the greatest sportsperson of all time is subjective and will be flavoured in some way by our own sporting culture. Our likes and our dislikes. If we don't follow a sport we are unlikely to know all of the success stories out there and thus some very deserving people will escape our focus.

Our sporting records have only been kept for a relatively short time and "All Time" encompasses all of human history including the past before records were kept. It also includes the future. The greatest sportsperson of all time might have been in ancient Rome or Greece. Philipedes, the original Marathon runner perhaps? More likely this person is someone in our future. What I will attempt to do. Through my Australian Rugby/Rugby League tinted glasses is identify a few candidates for the title of Greatest to date. I will ask you, the reader to make additional nominations citing the sportspersons background and history. When we have sufficient candidates we will the put the topic to the vote.

Who is the greatest athlete to date?

You decide!


Mark Spitz

Mark Spitz was the only swimmer to have won 7 Gold Medals in a single Olympic Games (Munich 1972) until Michael Phelps bagged eight in Beijing. Spitz set 4 individual world records in the 100m and 200m freestyle and the 100m and 200m butterfly and 3 relay world records (4 x 100 freestyle, 4 x 200freestyle and 4 x 100 medley) in the process. Spitz total medal haul from his two Olympiads, Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972 was 9 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze. He retired from swimming at age 22.

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis is a legendry track and field athlete. He won Gold Medals in the 100 and 200m sprint, the 4 x 100m relay and the Long Jump in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In Seoul he won the long jump gold medal and a silver for the 200m. He was on the 4 x 100m relay team but did not compete as the team was knocked out in the heats courtesy of a dropped baton. 3 days after the 100m Ben Johnson failed a drug test and was stripped of the gold medal. Carl Lewis had run second and was subsequently awarded the gold. In Barcelona 1992 Lewis won Gold in the Long Jump and won a fourth Long Jump Gold in Atlanta 1996 It was his 9th and Final Olympic Gold.

Martina Navratolova

Martina Navratilova was and is an absolute tennis legend. in a career spanning most of my childhood (or should I say life) she won 18 singles Grand slam titles, 31 doubles Grand slam titles and 10 mixed doubles titles. Navratilova turned pro in 1975 and retired initially in 1994. In 1999 she made a comeback before a permanent retirement in 2006. Navratilova has too many records to mention on this page. Its probably best if I refer you to her official site. In 2004 at Wimbledon she became the oldest person (47 years 8 months) to win a professional tennis match in the open era. Her second retirement in 2006 came just short of her 50th birthday.

Glenn Lazarus

I couldn't resist putting "The Brick with Eyes" in. Glenn Lazarus was a rugby league prop who won 5 Grand finals for 3 different clubs (Canberra 1989 and 1990, Brisbane Broncos 1992 and 1993, Melbourne Storm 1999. In addition to his 254 club games Lazarus played State of Origin for NSW 19 times with a further 3 games for NSW in Super leagues Tri-Series in 1997. He also pulled on the national Jersey 20 times with one extra super league appearance. Apart from which you get to hear the rubbish rugby league song in the youtube clip. Lazarus might not be the greatest athlete of all time but he was an outstanding forward whose impact won crucial matches.

Lance Armstrong

Ok he has recently decided not to contest doping allegations and has been stripped of his wins in the Tour De France. Armstrong beat cancer to come back and win the Tour De France 7 consecutive times 1999 - 2005 including 22 stage wins. Cycling is arguably the most prevalent sport for perfermance enhancing drugs and with the sheer volume of scandals it appears that a doping culture is prevalent in the sport. I would have expected Armstrong to battle doping charges relentlessly. Only a true fighter can beat cancer and win 7 tours. It doesn't seem logical to me to give up the fight unless there is some truth to the allegations. Lance Armstrong will be a polarising figure for this page. Lance hats off to you. If you are clean!

24/10/2012 Lance Armstrong has now been stripped of his Tour De France titles and really has no place on this page anymore. I will leave him on for the time being because every time I change the poll it resets the vote count.

January 2013 Lance has admitted his guilt in an interview with Opra Winfrey. Enough said.

Muhammad Ali

No page about the Greatest Athlete would be complete without the man who proudly proclaimed "I am the Greatest". No doubt many would have seen him as brash and outspoken. Muhammad Ali had the strength of personality, the conviction and belief in his own abilities and what he stood for to become one of the most respected and successful athletes ever both inside and outside the ring. His prowess in the ring with 56 wins, 37 by knockout from 61 fights is undisputable especially when we consider the talented boxers he went up against. George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson to name a few.

Sadly Ali contracted Parkinsons with most crediting this to the fights late in Ali's career. The keen mind is still there and he still has the ability to captivate the world.

Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn is a dual international having played Rugby League for Australia and Rugby for the All Blacks (For the Americans out there the All Blacks are the New Zealand rugby team:-). Somehow his New Zealand upbringing qualified him for Queensland State of Origin representation.

Thorn played for the Brisbane Broncos team which won the one and only Australian Super League grand final in 1997 and won an NRL premiership with the Broncos when the competition was re-unified in 1998. in 2000 Thorn won another premiership with the Broncos before returning to New Zealand to play Rugby for the Canterbury Crusaders winning the National Provincial Championship (NPC) in 2001 and 2004. He returned to League And the Broncos in 2005. The Broncos won Thorns 4th premiership in 2006.

In 2007 he signed with Tasman Rugby in order to be eligible to play for the Crusaders. In 2008 he won a Super 14 title with Canterbury and was selected for the All Blacks the following year. Probably the crowning glory of Brad Thorns career was the Rugby World cup win in 2011. He has signed to play Rugby for Fukuoka Sanix Blues but took advantage of the Japanese off season to win a Heineken cup title with Leinster. The trophy cabinet is overflowing at the Thorn household.


Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps achieved true legend status at the 2012 London Olympics where he secured his 22nd Olympic swimming medal and his 18th gold medal. Phelps Olympics career started in Athens in 2004 where he secured 6 Gold 100 and 200 Butterfly, 200 and 400 Individual Medley, 4 x 200 freestyle relay and 4x 100 medley relay. He also secured two Bronze in Athens in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay and the 200 freestyle. WInd the clock forward to Beijing 2008 where Phelps improved on his Olympics performance with 8 Gold medals. 100 and 200 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 200 and 400 individual medley, 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 freestyle relay and the 4 x 100 medley relay. Phelps has the record for most gold in one Olympic Games eclipsing Mark Spitz in Beijing. In London 2012 Phelps game home with 4 Gold 100 butterfly, 200 medley, 4 x 200 freestyle relay, 4 x 100 medley relay and two silver 200 butterfly and 4 x 100 freestyle relay. The Baltimore Bullet's record gold and total medal hauls will stand for many years to come

Nadia Commenici

The first gymnast to score a perfect 10 in an olympic event. Nadia won 3 gold Medals in the montreal Olympics in 1976 aged 14. Her first perfect 10 was on the uneven bars in the Team event. Nadia then completed 6 more 10s during the competition and went home with three personal Gold and became the youngest person to win the all around beam and bars event. Nadia also took home Bronze for the floor exercise and helped Romania to a silver medal in the team event.

In 1978 Nadia became the first gymnast to win three consecutive European titles in the all around event. At the worlds in 1978 she competed in spite of being incapacitated by blood poisoning. Her 9.95 on the beam led the Romanians to their first ever team gold.

At the Moscow Olympics in 1980 Comenici won silver in the all around event, gold on the beam and tied for gold on the floor.

Jessie Owens

James Cleveland (Jesse) Owens only competed at one Olympics but what an Olympics it was. 1936 in Nazi Germany the black athlete blew away the concept of the "Master Race" and won the hearts of German citizens through his sporting feats and humility in victory. Hitler famously refused to shake his hand after he won the Gold medal in the 100m sprint. His second gold medal came in the broad jump (now known as the long jump) where he struck up a friendship with competitor Luz Long. Jesse had fouled his first two jumps in qualifying when Long suggested he jump well short of the board. The lead changed numerous times in the final with Owens the eventual victor and Long winning silver. In a display of friendship which was remarkable considering the circumstances the two posed together for photos and walked to the dressing room holding each other arms. Sadly Long died in combat in 1943. Owens third gold was in the 200m sprint. Jesse's fourth Gold was won in the 4 x100 relay after the American team bowed to pressure not to allow 2 jewish athletes to run for their team in the final.

Usain Bolt

Usain St Leo Bolt is a Jamaican sprinter and the current world record holder in the 100m & 200m sprint. He was also a part of the world record holding 4 x 100m Jamaican relay team. He is the first to set three world records at one Olympics (Beijing) and overcame injury to beat a star studded field in the 100m in London. Bolt then went on to complete the double double by winning the 200m in London and equalled his Beijing performance with gold in the 4 x 100m relay. There are rumours of a summer of 20/20 cricket in Australia which should make for some very quick singles.

The readers choice

Who is the greatest Sportsperson of all time?

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Want your favourite sportsperson added? write a comment.

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    • profile image

      bubba 

      4 years ago

      Bobby jones-no doubt about it. O.k.put Ali in there too.

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