You got him, houstonian. Bob Mathias was born today, 83 years ago. Can you imagine an 18 year old boy winning the Olympic decathlon in 2016 or 2020? I imagine it could happen, but the chances are pretty slim. I also realize that Mathias was lucky that the Soviet Union did not compete in London in 1948. Had the Soviet Union been in London, there was a good chance Mathias might not have won the gold medal. Heino Lipp (Estonian) would have been the clear favorite in London, but he wasn't there.
Actually, Bob Mathias was 17 years and about 263 days old when he won the Olympic gold medal in London. Hard to imagine anyone that age winning Olympic gold now. Maybe some African distance runner at that age could win the 5,000 or maybe the 10,000, but not likely.
Mathias was an athlete for the ages. He was an incredible physical specimen. He would win the gold medal today, though not at 18. Some athletes transcend eras by virtue of their amazing physicality (Wilt Chamberlain, Doug Atkins, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, Randy Matson, etc). Mathias belongs in that category of immortality.
KD, And were you reticent to mention Bobby Morrow, as the 3 Golds winner, thinking it was so obvious? I was fortunate to draw the same 100 yds. Heat, at Fresno Relays, as BM; that way I could appreciate, up close and too personal, that famed gear-change acceleration about 10 yds. out (I'd actually gotten out even, making it even more of an imprint). That's an effect on a Sprinter that I'm convinced led to Ray Stewart, of Jamaica via Texas (A&M?), missing out on a medal in 1984: Ray had run the fastest Heat, ~10.17, and drew the adjacent lane to Carl Lewis in the Final. When Lewis hit his own acceleration point, around 20-25m, he stood Ray right up, quite visibly.