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Old 12-01-2019, 04:10 PM
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Best athlete ever.


Who would you say is the most athletic person of all time? My vote goes to Ashton Eaton, 2 time Decathlon Olympic Gold Medalist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c4L...rr_watch_on_yt

Do you know how hard it is to win a gold medal in the Decathlon, let alone win 2? You have to be great at 10 different events.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:21 PM
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Actually, you only have to be mediocre at 10 wildly different events.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:24 PM
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Actually, you only have to be mediocre at 10 wildly different events.
OK, but you're still competing against other world-class athletes.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:35 PM
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As an Oklahoman, I feel obligated to say Jim Thorpe is better.
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Old 12-01-2019, 05:23 PM
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Who would you say is the most athletic person of all time? My vote goes to Ashton Eaton, 2 time Decathlon Olympic Gold Medalist.

Do you know how hard it is to win a gold medal in the Decathlon, let alone win 2? You have to be great at 10 different events.
I agree that the Decathlon is the ultimate test of an all-rounder.

However there were two athletes (Bob Mathias and Daley Thompson) who also won two Olympic Gold medals in the Decathlon.
How do you compare them to Eaton?

My vote for your (rather vague) title goes to Jesse Owens:

- he set three world records and tied another, all in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan—a feat that has never been equalled and has been called "the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport"

- he went on to win 4 gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany ( 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4 × 100 meter relay.)
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Old 12-01-2019, 05:36 PM
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Babe Didrickson should be in the discussion.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:59 PM
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I'll second Jim Thorpe. Played three major sports professionally and was a gold medalist in the Olympics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thorpe
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:14 PM
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Lionel Conacher
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Conacher
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Old 12-01-2019, 11:08 PM
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I'll second Jim Thorpe. Played three major sports professionally and was a gold medalist in the Olympics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thorpe
This has come up in threads before and Jim Thorpe is always a top contender.
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Old 12-02-2019, 01:49 AM
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My first thought was Babe Didrikson, but Jim Thorpe is probably the better choice. I'd maintain the best athlete at one sport is Wayne Gretzky.
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Old 12-02-2019, 05:25 PM
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If the answer to this question can be immediately followed by who?, then it's prob not the right answer - re Ashton Eaton. TWO gold medals in the decathlon is really significant, though, agreed. The injury toll the decathlon puts on an athlete's body is brutal, so to peak twice and beat the best of the world on the biggest stage really does take outlandish ability.

Canadian Bill Werbeniuk was an international dual sport athlete - world level snooker and pool player, albeit a level below the very best, but an elite, world champion bevvy merchant. Could drink 40-50 pints of lager a day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Werbeniuk
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Old 12-02-2019, 06:17 PM
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Three men have won 2 Decathlon Olympic golds so i would go for someone else. For me it's Michael Johnson. It wasn't just the amount he won, it was his domination of the races.
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Old 12-02-2019, 06:25 PM
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My first thought was Babe Didrikson, but Jim Thorpe is probably the better choice. I'd maintain the best athlete at one sport is Wayne Gretzky.
Best at one sport for me is Lionel Messi.
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Old 12-02-2019, 10:13 PM
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The greatest pure athlete I ever saw was Bo Jackson.
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Old 12-02-2019, 10:37 PM
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You also need to bring Jim Brown into the discussion. Not only is he in both the NFL and Lacrosse Halls of Fame, but in college he was also an excellent basketball player, and was on the track team.
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Old 12-03-2019, 02:59 AM
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For a single sport, In terms of being so far above his peers then Don Bradman has to be in contention. What he did is 50% better than anyone else has ever done. A statistical freak
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Old 12-03-2019, 07:25 AM
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For a single sport, In terms of being so far above his peers then Don Bradman has to be in contention. What he did is 50% better than anyone else has ever done. A statistical freak
If the competition as “winning the most Olympic gold medals,” then Michael Phelps did it, what, 150% better than anyone else has ever done?
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Old 12-03-2019, 07:29 AM
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Best athlete at what?
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Old 12-03-2019, 02:53 PM
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Add me to the Thorpe list. Keep in mind that, when the Olympics had both a track & field (athletics, for those of you outside of North America) pentathlon for men as well as the decathlon, he won both in the same Olympics.

I have a feeling the best athlete "ever" is somebody whose name, and possibly feats as well, has been lost to time for centuries.
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Old 12-03-2019, 06:46 PM
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Some exceptional sporting polymaths who weren’t US professionals and way prior to the TV age
CB Fry

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Captain of the England cricket team during the first Golden Age.
Joint holder of the world record in the long jump.
Played for England in Association Football also, and played for Southampton in the FA Cup final.
Played at top club level in Rugby Union.
Also known as a golfer, shot-putter, ice-skater and hammer thrower, and sprinter, hurdler and high-jumper.
Max Woosnam
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Wom Olympic gold and silver in tennis at the 1920 Summer Olympics, won the doubles at Wimbledon, compiling a 147 break in Snooker, making a century at Lord's Cricket Ground, captaining the British Davis Cup team, captaining Manchester City F.C. and captaining the England national football team.
With honorable mentions to:
Cuthbert Ottaway
Alfred Lyttelton

Last edited by penultima thule; 12-03-2019 at 06:47 PM.
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Old 12-03-2019, 08:54 PM
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To me, best athlete isn't always the person who won. There's sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance.

If those are in the mix, I would go for John Stephen Akwhari, last place finisher in the men's marathon in 1968, in Mexico City.
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Old 12-03-2019, 09:46 PM
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First thought is Jim Thorpe, on reading the thread my thought is Jim Thorpe.
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Old 12-03-2019, 10:49 PM
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Tatyana McFadden has to be in the discussion. She's a wheelchair racer who's won 17 Paralympic medals, in both Summer and Winter Games. In 2013, she became the first person - wheelchair or able-bodied, male or female - to win the Boston, New York, Chicago, and London Marathons in the same year. That same year, she won gold in every event - from 100 meters to 5,000 meters - at the IPC Athletics World Championships. She set course records for the Chicago Marathon, and twice for the London Marathon.

If ability, endurance, and sheer grit count towards "greatest athlete", then I have to throw in the Catalan ultramarathoner, skiier, and climber Kilian Jornet. Jornet holds the records for fastest ascent and descent of the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali, and Everest. In February of this year, he set a world record for 24 hour uphill skiing. He's won the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc three times (and finished second once), finished first and third at Western States Endurance Run, and won the Hardrock 100 four consecutive years from 2014 to 2017; these are all 100-mile mountain ultramarathons, if you're not familiar with them.

But what really put him into contention for title of "Greatest Athlete", in my mind, was his 2017 Hardrock 100 race. At mile 14, he fell in snow and dislocated his shoulder. After banging it back into place on a boulder, he fashioned a makeshift sling out of his marathon vest, and ran on. At the Ouray aid station at mile 57, he had the arm taped to his body, and won the race in that condition. That is to say, he won the race running 86 miles with a dislocated shoulder.

Amazing. Simply amazing.
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Old 12-03-2019, 11:30 PM
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But what really put him into contention for title of "Greatest Athlete", in my mind, was his 2017 Hardrock 100 race. At mile 14, he fell in snow and dislocated his shoulder. After banging it back into place on a boulder, he fashioned a makeshift sling out of his marathon vest, and ran on. At the Ouray aid station at mile 57, he had the arm taped to his body, and won the race in that condition. That is to say, he won the race running 86 miles with a dislocated shoulder.
I don't know if that makes him the best athlete ever, but it surely makes him an all-time badass mofo.
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Old 12-03-2019, 11:48 PM
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I have a feeling the best athlete "ever" is somebody whose name, and possibly feats as well, has been lost to time for centuries.
This was my thought when I read the thread title. I mean, if we're going for best athlete ever, it very well could've been some desert nomad that lived in the seventh century BCE. Or an Italian priest in the 1400s.

Best athlete ever? To quote Kip Dynamite: "Napoleon, like anyone can even know that."
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Old Yesterday, 08:00 AM
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In the 1935 Big Ten track and field championships Jesse Owens set three world records outright and tied another over the span of 45 minutes. Then the next year he became the first to win four gold medals in one Olympics, all in front of Der Fuhrer.

He surely belongs in the discussion.
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Old Yesterday, 08:42 AM
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For single sport domination, Alexandr Karelin is the greatest ever in his sport (Greco-Roman wrestling). Three Olympic gold, one silver, nine world championships, two World Cups, his final record upon retirement was 887-2. Both his losses were 0-1, and he went six years in international competition without giving up a single point.

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Old Yesterday, 10:58 AM
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The greatest pure athlete I ever saw was Bo Jackson.
I used to think Bo, hands down. My current pick however, i *know* will garner no support amongst the Doper crowd. And that pick is Lebron James. I almost think justifying this pick is a waste of my time but as far back as middle school, the dude was a man among boys. I have *never* seen the combination of sheer strength, finesse, vision, work ethic and pure athleticism in one athlete before. Dude looked 35 in HS. And he never stopped working to improve his game even this far into his career in the NBA. He *singlehandedly* willed an
otherwise mediocre team to an NBA championship. Nobody, not Jordan, not Kobe and not even Wilt singlehandedly took their team to a chamionship trophy. They all played with at least one fellow hall-of-famer on their championship runs. Lebron had Dwayne Wade with him for his two championships with the Miami Heat but his Championship with Cleveland a few years later was a truly stunning showcase of all his talents on full display with a team of nobodies as his supporting cast.
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Old Yesterday, 02:04 PM
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First thought is Jim Thorpe, on reading the thread my thought is Jim Thorpe.
Mine as well.


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Originally Posted by glee View Post
However there were two athletes (Bob Mathias and Daley Thompson) who also won two Olympic Gold medals in the Decathlon.
How do you compare them to Eaton?
And it’s more complicated than that. I remember seeing an interview with Catelyn Jenner long before she became Catelyn when she said she had to drop her amateur status the second she won in 76 because that was the only opportunity to earn a living off of a lifetime of hard work. Situations have changed now. You can earn a living as a track athlete and be able to still train full time. How many decathletes could not even attempt to win multiple times?’
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Old Yesterday, 02:44 PM
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Love Karelin for single sport dominance. Here's a guy who didn't ramp up and peak for the Olympics, then lay off for a year or two before coming back. His whole career was basically one big peak.

It's also an issue that today's athletes benefit far more from specialization, so the sports polymath is less common. Under those conditions, I support the pick of LeBron, dude is a seriously gifted athlete, and has been for his entire career. No doubt he could have had a career in other sports if he chose to.
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Old Yesterday, 04:46 PM
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I guess the US is the only country where one of the best male athletes is now female.
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Old Yesterday, 05:22 PM
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Gretzky for hockey is very dominant. He has around 2900 career points and the next closest guy, Jagr, is around 1900 points and he played 10 more seasons than Gretzky.
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Old Yesterday, 05:42 PM
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There is something to be said for Babe Ruth. He was a great pitcher and then the greatest hitter in baseball history. But Thorpe did everything well in any sport it seems like and was great at several.
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Old Yesterday, 06:57 PM
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Gretzky for hockey is very dominant. He has around 2900 career points and the next closest guy, Jagr, is around 1900 points and he played 10 more seasons than Gretzky.
What I find incredible is that if Gretzky had never scored a goal he would still be the all-time leading scorer in NHL history. It is often said that some records are “unbreakable”, but are merely a product of long-term production over an extended career. That one, like Cy Young’s win record in baseball, is pretty much unbreakable even if another great player plays for 25 years.

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Old Yesterday, 07:11 PM
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BTW Jaromir Jagr is still playing at age 47 in the Czech league. Gretzky retired at 38 and he was still playing well, 62 points in 70 games. I saw a rare event , a game where Gretzky was ejected.

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Old Yesterday, 07:20 PM
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A story about Thorpe, at the 1912 Olympics, that I had forgotten about:

Just before he was to compete in the decathalon, he discovered that someone had stolen his cleats. He found a mismatched pair of cleats (including, apparently, one that he pulled out of a trash can), wore those, and not only won the gold medal, but posted a record score that stood for nearly 20 years.

This picture of Thorpe from the games appears to show the mismatched cleats: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:J...r_Olympics.jpg

Last edited by kenobi 65; Yesterday at 07:20 PM.
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Old Yesterday, 08:34 PM
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For single sport domination, Alexandr Karelin is the greatest ever in his sport (Greco-Roman wrestling). Three Olympic gold, one silver, nine world championships, two World Cups, his final record upon retirement was 887-2. Both his losses were 0-1, and he went six years in international competition without giving up a single point.

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If you want to talk about a single sport how about Al Oerter? He won Olympic gold in the discus in 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968.
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Old Yesterday, 09:43 PM
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If you want to talk about a single sport how about Al Oerter? He won Olympic gold in the discus in 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968.
Kind of like Carl Lewis winning Olympic gold in the long jump four times, only with the part about also killing it in the 100-meter dash.
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Old Today, 09:59 AM
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My pick is Gretzky also. I don't have a cite, but i read somewhere once that Gretzky said he "passed the puck to where his teammate was gonna be", and a teammate said "Wayne knew where I was gonna be before I did."
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Old Today, 10:23 AM
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BTW Jaromir Jagr is still playing at age 47 in the Czech league. Gretzky retired at 38 and he was still playing well, 62 points in 70 games. I saw a rare event , a game where Gretzky was ejected.
Kings vs Jets? If so I was at that game too.
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Old Today, 11:27 AM
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If you want to talk about a single sport how about Al Oerter? He won Olympic gold in the discus in 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968.
And I believe in 1968 he had a broken rib. So yes, good example both of greatness and the ability to overcome adversity.

ISTM that, as sports develop, the top performers are going to be dominated by people who are freakishly well-adapted to that particular sport. Thus there are going to be fewer and fewer top performers in multiple endeavors as time goes on. Only in closely related sports requiring the same physical attributes, like sprinting and long jump, and not in sports that are highly technical. A hundred years ago Jim Thorpe could do it - nowadays the competition is too fierce.

An argument could be made that someone who was third- or fourth-best in several sports is the greatest athlete nowadays.

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Old Today, 12:01 PM
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I think Thorpe is the obvious answer.
Dave Winfield is the only athlete ever drafted by four different pro sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA and ABA).
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Old Today, 12:22 PM
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There is something to be said for Babe Ruth. He was a great pitcher and then the greatest hitter in baseball history.
I dont see how its fair, to either those athletes of Ruths generation (and beyond) or to those athletes of todays generation, to take the best players of each and try to compare them side by side to determine the "best of all time". It is apples to oranges to it core.

I mean, Babe Ruth *might* be the greatest batter and baseball player of all time but we only have the training, nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle, technology and healthcare affects and markers of the early 20th century to apply to Ruth. We can only speculate (pretty meaninglessly) as to how his performance and stats would be buoyed if he had played in todays more sophisticated era where all those markers and affects are much better understood and and manipulated and controlled than in Ruth's time.

But even that isnt enough. If you transport Ruth and all this potential to a more modern time with more learned, sophisticated means of caring for and getting the most potential out of the human body, well then you'd also have to account for all of his competiton as having much more utilized potential with better outcomes and affects.

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