The most celebrated event in the world of sports, where the athletes strive to win for themselves as well as for their nation, where the reputation of the entire country is at stake- such is the magnanimity of the Olympics Games. Olympics have seen miracles, prodigies, unbelievable world records. The glory of winning a medal at Olympics is the dream of every sportsperson in the world. The hard work, the dedication it takes to reach that pedestal is incomparable to anything else. It’s an obsession for some. Ruthless competition, magnificence of the organisation, the heat of Olympics spreads long before the actual games.
Olympics has given us heroes, such outstanding sportsperson whose grandiose remains etched in our minds and history forever. Let’s take a look at those who have risen above all. Here’s a list of 10 Greatest Olympians of all times!
10. Nadia Comaneci
Named as one of the ‘Athletes of the century’ by the Laureus World Sports Academy in 2000, Nadia Comaneci is one of the most renowned gymnasts in the world. Boasting of 5 Olympian Gold medals, she achieved a perfect 10 in 1976, Montreal Olympics, at the mere age of 14. It was a historical moment, as in the history of Olympics, no one had ever been able secure a full score. Her record of being the Youngest Olympic Gymnastics all round champion is still unbroken, and probably will remain unbeatable forever. Nadia is the sole receiver of the Olympic Order, the highest honor given by the International Olympic Committee, twice. Known for her distinctive skills and calm style in the field of athletics, Nadia Comaneci became the first athlete in the history who was invited to speak at the United Nations, at the launch of Year 2000 International Year of Volunteers.
9. Jessie Owens
Son of a farmer and grandson of a slave, Jessie Owens was a miracle athlete. It was the 1936 Berlin Olympics where Jessie made his mark in the pages of history. He was competing for the United States, and won four consecutive gold medals in the same Olympic Games for 100m sprint, long jump, 200m sprint and the 4*100 relay team. It was the time when World War II was descending, and Hitler was preaching about the superiority of the Aryan race. When Owens, a black, made such a remarkable performance, he refused to acknowledge his victories. As quoted by Jessie himself, the reason for his success was, “I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.”
8. Emile Zatopek
Known as one of the greatest runners of the 20th century, Emile Zatopek was a Czech long distance runner. His landmark was the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, where he won 3 gold medals, for 5000m, 10000m and marathon, respectively. He also won gold at the London Olympics, in 1948, for 5000m. In February 2013, the editors of the Runner’s World Magazine gave him the title of the greatest runner of all time. Emile was the first athlete ever to break the 29 min limit in 10km run. He died in 2000, at the age of 78, as a man who was a hero in his land, and a legend in his own right.
7. Fanny Blankers-Koen
Named as the ‘Flying Housewife’, Fanny Blankers-Koen was a Dutch athlete. The 1948 London Olympics made her outshine every other female athlete in the world. She won four gold medals in this Olympics, in the 100 m, the 200 m, the 80 m hurdles, and the 4 × 100 m relay, bagging the claim to be the most successful athlete in 1948 London Olympics. Fanny achieved this feat at the age of 30, and being a mother to two children. Her decision to continue in sports was criticized by almost everyone in her nation, and she was told to go back to her children and take care of them. But she did not lose confidence. In a way, her success was an indication that age and motherhood can never be a barrier to achieve anything. She was named the “Female Athlete of the Century” by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) in 1999. In later years of her life, Fanny suffered from Alzheimer’s, and died at the age of 85, in 2004.
6. Carl Lewis
He was conferred upon the title of ‘Sportsman of the Century’ by the International Olympics Committee, ‘Olympian of the Century’ by the American sports magazine Sports Illustrated, and ‘Athlete of the Year’ for three consecutive years by Track & Field News. Frederick Carlton Lewis is a former track and field athlete, with 9 Olympic gold medals in his cap. He set the record for indoor long jump in 1984, and the record, till date, has stood unbroken. Carl Lewis was the one to break Jesse Owens record of winning four gold medals in one Olympics, when he won four gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for the same four events!
5. Paavo Nurmi
Called as the ‘Flying Finn’, Paavo Nurmi held sway over the distance running in the early 20th century. He won 9 gold and 3 silver medals in his Olympic career. In his 14 year career, no one could beat him in cross country evens and 10000m. He won 5 gold medals in the 1924 Paris Olympics, and in 1923, Nurmi was the only runner, and still is, to hold world records for all three- mile, 5000m and 10000m, all at the same time. In the cross country event of 1924 Paris Olympics, while the heat made all other participants utterly incapable f running the entire distance, Paavo Nurmi ran and finished the race without much exertion showing on his face. He never got tired of running. A social recluse, he refused to engage in conversations with his rivals. His method and techniques were so mysterious to everyone, and remain so till now, but they were well ahead of his time!
4. Larisa Latynina
Larisa made her Olympic debut in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, where she won four gold medals, in the all-around, vault, floor exercise and the team events. Belonging to Soviet Union, her record of 18 Olympic medals was held unbeatable until last year, when Michael Phelps leveled it. Still, her record of 14 Olympic medals in individual events is as yet unreachable. Her victories did not stop after the Melbourne Olympics. In fact, she went to claim yet 3 gold medals in 1960, Rome Olympics, and again 2 gold medals in 1964, Tokyo Olympics. She is known for making Soviet Union the domineering nation in the arena of gymnasts. Larisa retired in 1966 after the World Championship, and coached the female gymnastics team of Soviet Union till 1977, also leading them to gold in 1968. Always a merciless competitor, Larisa won 4 gold medals in the 1958 World Championships while being four months pregnant!
3. Mark Spitz
Born in California, United States, Mark Spitz made his presence known first at the 2968 Mexico City Olympics, where he won 2 gold medals. Considered as the swiftest swimmer of all times, he won seven gold medals in the 1972 Munich Olympics. What made this feat even more enthralling was the fact that he set world records in all the seven events! The record of winning seven gold medals in one Olympics was broken by Michael Phelps, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He is one of the five Olympians to have won nine or more gold medals in their career. He retired at the extremely young age of 22, just after his legendary performance in Munich Olympics.
2. Michael Phelps
When Michael Phelps competed in his first Olympics in 2000;, he was the youngest American swimmer to have qualified for the Olympics, in decades. He won 22 medals in his four Olympics career, 18 of them gold. He broke the record of Mark Spitz of winning seven gold medals in a single Olympics, when he won 8 gold medals in 2008 Beijing Olympics. That Olympics Games remain the one of the most enchanting games in the history of Olympics. Named as the ‘Flying Fish’, Michael Phelps still holds the world record for 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual relay race. Mark Spitz, whose record Phelps broke, called him as the greatest swimmer of all times. Phelps retired after 2012 London Olympics, though the rumors of his comeback keep floating in the Olympics circles.
1. Steve Redgrave
The most decorated rower in Olympics, Sir Steven Geoffrey Redgrave is the only Olympian to have won gold medals in five different consecutive Olympic Games. He became the BBC Sports Personality of the Year after winning his fifth gold in the fifth consecutive Olympics held in Sydney. A dyslexic since childhood, Steve was honored with a gold Olympic Pin by the President of International Olympics Committee at the 2000 Olympics. His 14 gold medals, including the Olympics and the World Championships have till date been unbeatable by any other rower. Steve’s victorious streak made it to the top of the list of 100 Greatest Sporting Moments, in 2002. He was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, in May 2001 in Buckingham Palace, for his ‘services to rowing’. Steve Redgrave’s achievement of five consecutive gold medals has made him the greatest Olympian of all time!