Olympic Legends: 10-1

10. Emil ZatopekAthleticsEmil Zatopek was known to be one of the greatest runners of the 20th century. Zatopek became famous when he won the 5 000m, 10 000m and the marathon at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki.

10. Emil Zatopek

Emil Zatopek was known to be one of the greatest runners of the 20th century. Zatopek became famous when he won the 5 000m, 10 000m and the marathon at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki.

He was known all over the world as “The Locomotive.” He dominated the long distance races from 1948 to 1954 when he won a total of 38 consecutive 10 000m races.

9. Paavo Nurmi

Paavo Nurmi made his debut at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium by competing in four events. He won three gold medals, in the 10 000m, the cross country event and the cross country team event and and he finished second in the 5 000m.

In the 1924, Nurmi won five gold medals in five events, including the 1 500m and the 5 000m. The finals of these two races were only 26 minutes apart.

Nurmi ended his Olympic career at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands winning the 10 000 m and two silver medals, in the 5 000 m and 3 000 m steeplechase.

Nurmi travelled to Los Angeles to compete in the 1932 Summer Olympics, but accusations by Swedish Olympic officials that he had received money for his successful American tours, making him a professional, were upheld by the International Olympic Committee and he was banned from competing. Nurmi’s record of twelve track and field Olympic medals stands to this day.

8. Steven Redgrave

Sir Steve Redgrave was the first athlete to win gold medals at five successive Olympic Games in an endurance sport. His streak began at Los Angeles 1984 as a member of the Coxed Four crew, and this was followed by Coxless Pair gold in 1988, 1992 and 1996.

At the age of 38, Redgrave competed in the Sydney 2000 Games and earned an incredible fifth gold medal, this time as a member of the British Coxless Four team.

7. Al Oerter

Winning one Olympic title is an outstanding achievement, but winning four consecutive Olympic gold medals over a period of 12 years is simply staggering.

 And that is exactly what American discus thrower Al Oerter did. Just weeks after turning 20, Oerter made his Olympic debut at the 1956 Melbourne Games. Up against world record-holder Fortune Gordien, Oerter surprised his American team-mate to win gold with a personal best an an Olympic record.

Four years later at the Rome Olympics he beat world record holder Rink Babka to claim his second gold medal. Despite suffering from injuries to his neck and ribs, Oerter won his third consecutive discus gold at the 1964 Games in Tokyo.

Oerter was 32 years old in 1968 when it was time to defend his Olympic title again. Once again he struck gold to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive title and again bettering the Olympic record with his 64.78m throw.

6. Mark Spitz

Mark Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, an achievement only surpassed by Michael Phelps who won eight golds at the 2008 Olympics.

Has won an astounding nine Olympic gold medals, one silver and one bronze. Before the 1968 Mexico City Olympics Spitz predicted he would win six gold medals, he won two as part of relay teams and one silver and one bronze.

At the 1972 Munich Olympics he redeemed himself by winning seven gold medals and setting seven world records, he won the 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle, 4x100m medley relay.

5. Michael Phelps

he 2008 Olympics have made the name Michael Phelps a household word. He won eight gold medals and broke Mark Spitz’ previous record of seven gold medals at a single Olympics..

He has a career total of 16 Olympic metals. He has been called by some the greatest swimmer of all time and by others the greatest athlete of all time, it remains to be seen if his records will stand the test of time.

4. Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Comaneci became the star of the 1976 Montreal Games when she was awarded the first perfect score to become the most celebrated gymnast of our time.

The diminutive Romanian eventually produced a Olympic medal haul of five gold, three silver and one bronze medal. When Comaneci dismounted from the uneven bars in the compulsory round at the Montreal Games, the scoreboard lacked the space for the proper number of digits to display her perfect 10.00 score and could only flash 1.00.

Four years later, Comaneci narrowly failed to defend her Olympic all-around crown at the Moscow Games when Elena Davidova of the Soviet Union outscored her for the gold medal by less than 0.1 point.

Comaneci still won individual golds on the beam and floor in Moscow. She retired from competition in 1984 and in 1989 she left Romania and settled in America.

3. Daley Thompson

For nearly 10 years Daley Thompson ruled the decathlon world. The multi-talented, highly competitive and controversial athlete was not only better than his rivals, he also practised relentlessly and famously trained twice on a Christmas Day.

This dedication and self-belief brought him the ultimate prize, two Olympic gold medals. He was still only 17 when he qualified for his first Olympics in 1976 in Montreal. He finished in 18th place with 7330 points. At the 1980 Games in Moscow he dominated the event from start to finish.

After a halfway lead of 264 points, the world record was there for the taking. Poor weather on the second day ruined his hopes, yet he still recorded the fifth highest total in history, becoming the Olympic champion with 8405 points.

Four years later in Los Angeles he again stamped his authority from the start over his great rival Jürgen Hingsen from West Germany. He finished fourth at the Seoul Olympics four years later.

After an operation on his knee and further injuries, he was unable to to achieve his goal of a fifth Olympics in 1992.

2. Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis is one of only four Olympic athletes to have won nine Olympic gold medals. He is widely recognised as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

At the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Lewis emulated his boyhood idol Jesse Owens by winning gold in the 100m, the 200m, the long jump and the 4x100m relay.

Lewis was awarded the gold medal in the 100m at the Seoul Olymmpics after Ben Johnson was disqualified. He also defended his long jump title and won a silver medal in the 200m.

Four years later in Barcelona, he won a third gold medal in the long jump, defeating world record holder Mike Powell by just three centimetres.

He also anchored the world record-setting American relay team. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta Lewis needed all three jumps to qualify for the final.

In the final, he moved into first place with his third jump and stayed there to win a fourth Olympic gold medal in the long jump.

1. Jesse Owens

At the 1936 Berlin Games, Owens won four gold medals, in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump. Owens managed to break or equal nine Olympic records and also set three world records.

One of those world records was in the 4x100m relay. The American quartet set a world record in the 4x100m relay that stood for 20 years.


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