Some people manage to produce truly groundbreaking moments that echo throughout the ages. Some athletes come away from the games with dozens of medals.
Though it’s an almost impossible subjective exercise, PA Olympics Correspondent Mark Staniforth has attempted to compile such factors into a ranking of the finest ever summer Olympians.
Who is the Greatest Olympian of All Time
5) a. Carl Lewis
Before Bolt came the similarly famous Lewis, a long-time dominant force of track and field who defended his Olympic 100m championship in 1984 and 1988 and also captured four consecutive Olympic long-jump golds.
Lewis, who benefited from Ben Johnson’s disqualification in Seoul, was then put on the defensive for his own accidental usage of illegal stimulants.
4) Michael Phelps
Phelps is the most successful Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals, 13 of which are gold. He won eight swimming gold medals in 2008, breaking Spitz’s record of seven.
By the end of the men’s 4x100m medley relay, Phelps had added five more gold medals to his collection from Rio.
3) Teofilo Stevenson
He was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the Olympic games, earning gold in 1972, 1976, and 1980.
Claiming his allegiance to Fidel Castro’s cause, Stevenson resisted all entreaties to turn professional and engage in a battle against Muhammad Ali. A million dollars, Stevenson reasoned, was not worth losing the affection of eight million Cubans.
2) Nadia Comaneci
Those that came before you were more successful and stayed in power longer. However, very few athletes have ever been as good as the Romanian 14-year-old who, at her peak, actually managed to break the scoreboard.
In the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Comaneci made history by becoming the first gymnast to achieve a perfect 10 on the uneven bars (the scoreboard read 1.0). She went on to win five gold medals and leave an incredible legacy before she turned 20.
1) Jesse Owens
Similarly to Comaneci, Owens may not have as many medals as some of his predecessors in track and field.
The African-1936 American’s performance in front of Hitler, when he won four gold medals and set two world records, is significant for several reasons.
Owens was the most dogged opponent of prejudice and persecution in Olympic history, and for that alone he deserves to be called the greatest Olympian of all time.
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