Greatest American track & field athlete ever


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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby Guest » Tue Jul 01, 2003 5:17 pm

Can't go with Moses. He was fantastic in big meets, but he also picked and choosed, not racing as much as his competitors - so he was smart in one way, and scared in another. His "streak" was also b.s.. I was at the Mt. Sac Relays in '77 when he lost to Sam Turner - but the officials handed the race to the Oly champ - despite the finish line cam showing the teenage Turner had nipped Moses. Disgraceful. (I think the streak may actually have been claimed to begin later that year, but Moses lost that race) Also disgraceful was his behavior toward the winner, and the TV crew, after he finished third at the '88 Games.

Have to go with Carl. So dominant in the LJ that it may be 30 years or more before someone that dominating comes along.
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby Guest » Tue Jul 01, 2003 5:40 pm

>Can't go with Moses. He was fantastic in big
>meets, but he also picked and choosed, not racing
>as much as his competitors - so he was smart in
>one way, and scared in another. His "streak"
>was also b.s.. I was at the Mt. Sac Relays in
>'77 when he lost to Sam Turner - but the
>officials handed the race to the Oly champ -
>despite the finish line cam showing the teenage
>Turner had nipped Moses. Disgraceful. (I think
>the streak may actually have been claimed to
>begin later that year, but Moses lost that race)
>Also disgraceful was his behavior toward the
>winner, and the TV crew, after he finished third
>at the '88 Games.

Have to go with Carl. So
>dominant in the LJ that it may be 30 years or
>more before someone that dominating comes along.
>

Yes, his winning streak began in 1977. Despite his attitude, he was a superb athlete and immensely raised the profile of his event.

When it comes to winning streaks, most people automatically think "Oh, Edwin Moses". However, Iolanda Balas is getting a raw deal! She had a winning streak of 140 competitions, spanning 11 years. She improved upon the WR a total of 13 times, taking it from 1.75m (1956) to 1.91m (1961), and won the 1960 and 1964 Olympics to boot.

Her WR jump of 1.91m was (at the time) 7cm higher than the 2nd best all-time jumper. That WR lasted for ten years.


I would therefore rank Iolanda Balas above Edwin Moses so far as "Greatest Athletes" are concerned, but seeing as this thread is about American athletes, I gotta go with Jackie Joyner-Kersee. (Also my candidate for greatest athlete of all time).
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby Guest » Tue Jul 01, 2003 5:45 pm

I will readily acknowledge, as was noted in one of the previous posts, that the weak spot in the argument for Jesse Owens is that his major accomplishments were confined to two years, 1935 and 1936. However, I'm not sure that you all appreciate how truly mindboggling these accomplishments were!

In addition to those I stated in my previous message above (including that Owens set more world records in a single afternoon than Carl Lewis did in his whole career, excluding relays), I'd like to throw out another fact...

Owens's 1935 long jump of 26-8 1/4 (a world record that stood for 25 years) would have been good enough to qualify for the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. Yes, that's right, 2000.

http://www.trackandfieldnews.com/specia ... en/lj.html
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby Guest » Wed Jul 02, 2003 3:26 pm

Has to be Carl Lewis

After that it gets tight, my top 10 (male athletes) goes:
2. Oerter
3. MJ
4. Owens
5. Moses
6. Jim Thorpe
7. Mathias
8. Rafer Johnson
9. Parry O'Brien
10. Warmerdam
HM: Lon Myers
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby swamprunner » Thu Jul 03, 2003 5:52 am

Anybody remember a guy named Jim Ryun?

He may not have been the greatest American track and field athlete (In my book he may well have been), but the fact that he has not even been mentioned suprises me.

Just like Jesse Owens's performances were not only outstanding for their era but stood the test of time as well, so did Ryun's. This guy ran 3:53 for the mile on a dirt track as a teenager. No one, Alan Webb included, has come close to that almost 40 years later.

Granted, he did not dominate as thoroughly or for as long as Carl Lewis or Michael Johnson, but Jim certainly deserves honorable mention at the least.
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby Guest » Thu Jul 03, 2003 8:40 am

Ryun held world records not only in the mile and 1,500 meters, but also at 880 yards (a distance that, up until perhaps the mid-70s, used to be contested regularly in the U.S., if not elsewhere).

As many of you are aware, Ryun is now a member of the U.S. House of Reps. He still operates a running camp, the website for which has a summary of his running accomplishments and online videos of a few of his most momentous races (playable if your computer has the necessary media software). The site is at: http://www.ryunrunning.com/
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby Guest » Thu Jul 03, 2003 10:19 am

>Owens set more world records in a single
>afternoon than Carl Lewis did in his whole
>career, excluding relays.

If you mean officially-recognized WRs, then you're right. The problem is that in 1936 there were more than twice as many running events as now, with imperial and metric distances.

At the 1935 Big 10 meet, Owens ran 9.4 to tie the 100y WR. He'd already done that many times, as had several other athletes. He set a WR in the 220y at 20.3 (and was credited with the 200m record at the same time). The IAAF did not distinguish between times on a straightaway and around a curve back then; Australia's James Carlton had run 20.5 around a turn, so Owen's mark was slightly inferior. Another record was the 220y hurdles -- run only in the USA, it's hard to call a mark in that event a "World Record". His best mark that day was definitely the LJ -- more on that later.

Lewis competed at a time that all sprint WRs were altitude-aided. Lewis set 3 officially-recognized WRs for the 100. When you include unofficial low-altitude WRs, he set 6 in the 100, one in the 200, and three in the LJ.

Owens' LJ mark stood for 25 years, while Lewis' three low-alt. marks stood for a total of 10. Owens improved on the previous WR by less than 2% while Lewis' three marks improved it by more than 2%. Finally, Lewis also set the indoor WR in the LJ -- and it still stands today.

As far as WRs go, I think Lewis has at least as much to point to as Owens. As far as other accomplishments go, it's not even close.
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby Guest » Thu Jul 03, 2003 10:24 am

>Ryun held world records not only in the mile and
>1,500 meters, but also at 880 yards (a distance
>that, up until perhaps the mid-70s, used to be
>contested regularly in the U.S., if not
>elsewhere).

Yes, but . . . he ran 880y in 1:44.9, which is intrinsically equal to the 1:44.3 that Snell ran in 1962. Snell ran his on a 385y grass track, while Ryun ran his on a 440y cinder track. I don't think that an 800m intermediate time was taken for Ryun.

In the early 1970s, Rick Wohlhuter set an 880y WR and got cheated out of an 800m WR because meet management hadn't bothered to put down a line at 800m.
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby Guest » Thu Jul 03, 2003 12:42 pm

Here's the true test. :)

As I noted above, Jesse Owens's 1935 LJ would still have been good enough to place him on the U.S. Olympic team in 2000 -- 65 years later.

According to Carl Lewis's athlete bio at http://www.usatf.org , his LJ PR is:

29-1.25/8.87m '91

(presumably from his '91 WC battle with Mike Powell).

So, will a jump of 29-1.25 still be good enough to make the Olympic team in 2056 (1991 + 65) ?

The only way I'm going to know for sure is if I live to 94. :) We'll know sooner (perhaps within 10 or 20 years) if one or more U.S. jumpers start hitting 29-6 (which would be a pretty strong sign).
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Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

Postby gh » Wed Jul 30, 2003 5:33 pm

>Al Oerter's 4 consecutive Olympic golds are
>better than Carl, Jesse, etc, because he was NOT
>the favorite in at least 3 of the 4.>>

Actually, T&FN's international panel of experts had him tabbed to win in both '60 (almost unanimously) and '64 (narrowly, over Danek).
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