This is a twist on that other thread of Greatest Athletes of the Century. But what are your thoughts on the track athletes (of any country) who have had the greatest impact on the sport of T & F. Not just the performances but all aspects of the sport.
>AS unpopular as he is with some people, Carl
>Lewis was a tremendous force in the
>professionalization of the sport.
I may be in a minority -- which surprises me -- in feeling this way, but I always felt that far from being obnoxious and arrogant, Carl was almost always gracious and generous. In his interviews he unfailingly gave credit and acknowledgment to his competitors and coaches. I thought he was a class act all the way. Confident, sure, most great athletes are. But not arrogant in the way he is often accused of being. Nothing like today's low-class trash talkers. The more I heard people refer to Carl as arrogant, the more closely I watched him in his interviews. I could never see anything to justify the accusations. Before the infamous drug bust, I remember Carl saying of Ben Johnson, "he's a 9.8 sprinter, I'm a 9.9 sprinter."
>the track athletes (of any country) who have had the greatest impact on the sport of T & F. Not just the performances but all aspects of the sport.
Of those who have transcended the sport itself and become icons in the greater public arena, I'd have to go with Bannister. You don't have to be involved in track and field in any way to know what the "four-minute mile" signifies.
But all the names mentioned so far in this thread, taken together, certainly do constitute the biggest names in the sport over the last century. But measuring the "impact" of an athlete is not easy. Impact on who? In what way? The impact of event-changers like Parry O'Brien and Dick Fosbury, mentioned above, is quite obvious because after them their events LOOKED different. You could easily see their influence. For some of the others, it's less obvious. JJK for example stands as the paragon of T&F athletes, in my view, but who looks like her? (Much as they'd love to.) It's hard to measure her "impact on the sport" because no one has been able to come close to following in her footsteps.
But I'll go ahead and add one more name to the illustrious list thus far compiled: FloJo. The very fact every one of you knows exactly who I mean though I have used a one word nickname, tells all.
>>AS unpopular as he is with some people,
>Lewis was a tremendous force in
>professionalization of the sport.
>be in a minority -- which surprises me -- in
>feeling this way, but I always felt that far from
>being obnoxious and arrogant, Carl was almost
>always gracious and generous.
I always liked him. He was in the last half of his sprinting career when I first got involved in track, so he was a natural "hero". He often said things that rubbed people the wrong way, but those people needed it anyway. Most of the time, he turned out to be right. Like criticizing the sport's management in the USA -- boy, he was right on! And when he turned down the IAAF's invitation for the Athlete of the Century award to make a stand on drugs, most people didn't understand that he gave up some pats on the back in order to try to influence the new heads of the IAAF and IOC. Could you have imagined Cassell ever doing that?
7,291 pts, the top six performances of all time in the heptathlon (all over 7,000 - a barrier that only one other person has managed to break), 284 points ahead of her nearest rival on the all-time lists (Larisa Nikitina-Turchinskaya), second and third on the all-time lists for the Long Jump with her two 7.49m jumps (just 3cm behind the world record), beating Heike Drechsler's best legal jump.
Such was her dominance, that in the 1988 Olympic trials in Indianapolis, she could have not run the 800m and would still have won! Of course, she did run and broke the world record (7215) before going on to break it again at the 88 Olympic Games.
As for longevity - she has plenty! After narrowly missing out on the 1984 Olympic Gold by 5 points, she continued to improve until she broke the WR for the first time in 1986 (7148). Her scores continued to world class standard, right through to 1993, where she scored 6837 (then aged 31) in Stuttgart. Her last heptathlon attempt was at the 1996 Olympic Games and although she withdrew with an injury, she would have had a very good chance at a medal.
Surely JJK has to be a VERY strong contender for greatest athlete of all time....?