The greatest athletic feat of the past 100 years

What’s your nomination?

Rules are it has to have been done in a single year or “season”, though not necessarily in a single event (career records not eligible). Need not be part of an organized sport.

Thought this one over for a while, the one I keep going back to is Gretzky’s 50 goals in 39 games.

Since you didn’t specify any species that this may be limited to, I’d nominate Secretariat.

If you want to limit it to humans, I’ll go with Wayne Gretzky scoring 92 goals during the 1981-82 season. Or maybe his 163 assists in 1985-86.

Tiger Woods’ 2000 season? He didn’t just win everything, he OWNED everything.

Bob Beamon’s 1968 long jump. In one leap, he broke not only the then-unbeaten 28-foot barrier, but also the 29-foot barrier. He set a record that stood for 23 years.

I’m going to have to go with the old standby: Roger Bannister’s four minute mile.

Pete Sampras. Even if you’re not looking at his amazing career, his 2002 U.S. Open win was inspired (and inspiring).

I know next to nothing about cycling, but the greatest feat I have seen is Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France in 1999.

I second Max Torque’s vote of Bob Beamon, although I think the Olympic performances of Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz and Eric Heiden are pretty close behind.

Re: Mark Spitz

It’s hard to argue with 7 gold medals and 7 world records in one Olympics.

“At Munich, not only did Spitz win the six golds he predicted four years before—he won seven! And not only did he win all seven, but world records were set in each event.”

Pete Sampras and Mark Spitz aren’t bad choices, but I would go for Steve Redgrave - five gold medals in successive Olympics.

Circa 1990… when Hulk Hogan defeated Zuess for the WWF Crown, despite being hit repeatedly by a metal folding chair!! Hogan comes back to clobber Zuess and retain the Championship.


Another vote for Beamon. And I’d like to make a longer argument for it too. Consider that the long jump record, prior to his jump at the 1968 Olympics, was just 8.35 meters (27’ 4.75"). And no one had ever jumped 28 feet, no one had come close.

When he got to the Olympic finals in 1968, on his first jump he cleared 8.9 meters (29’ 2.5"). In one single jump he improved on the previous world record by 21.75 inches, in a sport that sees records improved by an inch or two at a time.

Think about that, 21.75 inches! That same record had improved by a total of 8 inches in the previous 30 years. And lest you think that Beamon was only the harbinger of enormous changes in the sport of long jump, it wasn’t until 1991 that the long jump record was broken again, 23 years later, and then only by 2 inches.

IMO Beamon’s jump may just be the single most impressive individual athletic performance. Beamon himself never came close to his mark, he never even jumped 27 feet again.

Another vote for Beamon. Name a single other athletic record set before 1970 that stood until the 1990s. I would say this is a tie with Flo Jo’s 10.49 100 meters in 1988 though. That record will stand at least as long.

I might get slammed for this, but I think records set in team sports (football, hockey, basketball, etc.) should not be considered alongside records from individual sports such as track & field, tennis, skiing, etc. No matter how great a player might be, in a team sport he cannot claim sole credit for his success.

Oh, c’mon! How quickly we forget! Years earlier Hogan was the only person to ever escape from the Iron Sheik’s Camel Clutch!

OK… If we are going to look at wrestling you HAVE to consider Mankind surviving Hell in a Cell in 98. No other wrestling feat comes close. Tell me wrestling is fake after that. “Scripted” maybe, fake… no way in hell.


My vote would be the Canadian 1972 Summit Series team. Best. Series. Ever.

I only wish I was around to see it live instead of watching it in its entirety last year.

The Big O averaged a triple double for an entire season.

“Robertson gained an upper hand in the rivalry in 1961-62, when he became the only player to average a triple-double (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists) for a season.”


Well, there’s DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak. There’s also the Mantle/Ruth homerun record that required improvements in chemistry to be broken. (Of course, they changed the pitchers mound to give batters a chance, also.) Seems to me the longest field goal record also lasted from the sixties through the nineties.

The problem with Beamon’s feat is that it was significantly aided by the altitude. I vote for Flo Jo’s record. Even with changes in tracks and shoes, I don’t think any previous woman could approach that time, nor can any current female athlete, but she could (unlike Beamon). The only other track achievement close is Michael Johnson’s 400, which demolished the old records.

Personally, I don’t see how you can compare feats in different sports. Eric Heiden did the equivalent of winning the marathon and the 100 yard dash. Spitz’s achievement could be considered a multisport achievement - most freestylers are poor backstrokers, and most butterfly strokers are poor breast strokers. Yet he was dominant in everything. Al Orter went to Olympic game after Olympic game. For all we know, there is some table tennis feat that is mind blowing.

If I have to vote, I vote for Eddie the Eagle. Name another British winter sport olympian.

A minor nitpick with this statement, every other athlete that day and during the qualifying rounds, competed under the exact same conditions, and no one came close to breaking the previous record, let alone Beamon’s mark. And competitions at altitude took place before and since, and, again, no one came close.