One of the greatest athletes ever, Usain Bolt is popular by the nickname ‘Lightning Bolt’. He holds the world record for 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 × 100 metres relay and is the only sprinter to win Olympic 100 m and 200 m titles at three consecutive Olympics (2008, 2012 and 2016).
2 Mo Farah
Widely regarded as one of the greatest track and field athletes of all time, Jesse Owens' three world records in less than an hour in 1935 came to be known as the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports. He was credited with destroying Adolf Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy when he won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics.
Legendary American sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner is still regarded as the fastest woman in the world. Her world records in both the 100m and 200m categories have still not been broken. The three-time Olympic gold medal winner was also known for her six-inch nails and her unconventional outfits.
Nadia Comaneci is a Romanian former gymnast. One of the best-known gymnasts in the world, Comaneci has five Olympic gold medals under her belt. Credited with popularizing gymnastics around the world, Nadia Comaneci was honored by the Laureus World Sports Academy by including her in their Athletes of the 20th Century list in 2000.
Jim Thorpe was an American athlete who was counted among the most versatile athletes of the modern era. Jim Thorpe won two gold medals at the 1912 Olympics and became the first Native American to give the United States an Olympic gold. He also played American football, professional baseball, and basketball. He was memorialized in the 1951 film Jim Thorpe – All-American.
The most-decorated track and field athlete, Allyson Felix, once bullied for having skinny legs, now has a record 9 Olympic medals, including 6 gold medals. Named to Time 100 in 2020, she is also part of the board of Right to Play, which caters to children in underdeveloped countries.
A dominant sprinter and long jumper, Carl Lewis has won ten Olympic medals, nine of them gold. From 1981 to 1991, he topped the world rankings in the 100 m, 200 m and long jump events, slowly starting to lose his dominance thereafter, eventually retiring in 1997. Currently a businessperson, he has also appeared in films and television productions.
10 Tyson Gay
Born into an athletic family, Tyson Gay naturally developed an interest in sports. One of the fastest sprinters in both the 100m and the 200m categories, he was part of the 2016 Olympic relay team that was stripped of its medal for breaking game rules.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson remains the only man to win both the 200m and the 400m events in the same Olympics. He was the Track & Field News 1996 Athlete of the Year. In 2008, he returned his 2000 Olympic relay medal, as a teammate had taken performance-enhancing drugs.
Sprinter Wilma Rudolph made history by becoming the first American female athlete to win three track and field gold medals in a single Olympic game. As a child, she needed orthopedic shoes to help her walk. The sports icon lost her life to cancer but was immortalized through books and movies.
Five-time Olympic medalist and renowned sprinter Justin Gatlin is a specialist in the 100m and the 200m categories. In 2005, he became the first to win both the 100m and the 200m world titles. He was a childhood fan of Mike Tyson and had initially been a hurdler.
The first to score over 7,000 points in the heptathlon, Jackie Joyner-Kersee is considered by many as one of the greatest female athletes ever. While in school, she excelled in sports such as volleyball, basketball, and track, and also did well in studies. She later won three Olympic golds medals.
Cathy Freeman is a former sprinter known for her achievements in the 400 meters events. Her personal best of 48.63, set at the 1996 Olympics, makes her the eighth-fastest woman of all time. She gave Australia an Olympic gold at the 2000 Olympics. Also a humanitarian, Freeman is credited with founding the Cathy Freeman Foundation.
16 Denise Lewis
Denise Lewis is a British sports commentator and former athlete. She won the heptathlon gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and became the first European to win Olympic gold in the heptathlon. A two-time Commonwealth Games champion, Lewis also won silver medals in the 1997 and 1999 World Championships. She was also the 1998 European Champion.
Linford Christie is a Jamaican-born British former sprinter who won gold medals in the 100 meters at the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the European Championships, and the Commonwealth Games. He is one of the most highly decorated British athletes of all time. He was awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1993.
18 Milkha Singh
Indian track and field legend Milkha Singh, also known as "The Flying Sikh,” was orphaned during the Partition of India. The former army man won four Asian Games gold medals. He also competed in the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Summer Olympics, finishing fourth in the 400-meter event in 1960.
19 Kelly Holmes
Kelly Holmes is a retired English middle-distance athlete who specialized in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters events. She won gold medals for both distances at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Beginning her career with the British Army, she turned to professional athletics in 1993. She took part in her final major championship in 2004.
Allison Stokke became an internet sensation after a few of her images went viral when she was 17. The talented high-school pole vaulter earned the 2011 All-American honors. She later gained more fame as a fitness model and a sex symbol than as a sportsperson. She also failed her Olympic trials.
Daley Thompson is a British former athlete who specialized in decathlon. He has won gol medals in decathlon at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. He also broke the world record for decathlon on four occasions. He also won three Commonwealth titles and is regarded as the greatest decathlete ever.
Donovan Bailey is a retired Jamaican-Canadian sprinter. He once held the world record for the 100 meters and is considered the greatest Canadian sprinter of all time. Noted for his top speed, he became the first Canadian to legally break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters. In 2004, he was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
25 Lolo Jones
While she believes missing out on the gold medal at the 100m hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was her most painful experience, American hurdler and bobsledder Lolo Jones is still quite a star. She has penned a memoir and has also appeared on shows such as Celebrity Big Brother.
27 Wim Hof
28 Eddie Hall
Eddie Hall is a British former professional strongman who won the World's Strongest Man 2017 competition. Previously, he had won the UK's Strongest Man and England's Strongest Man competitions many times. As a young man, he trained as a bodybuilder and entered the strongman circuit. He is the subject of the documentary titled Eddie: Strongman.
29 Abebe Bikila
Ethiopian marathon runner, Abebe Bikil,a became the first black African Olympic gold medalist at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Four years later, he won his second gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. He created world record both the times. A pioneer in long-distance running, he participated in a total of 16 marathons.
American beach-volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings was born to a baseball player father and a volleyball player mother, and was naturally drawn toward sports. She later attended Stanford on a sports scholarship and won three gold medals at the Olympics. She is married to fellow beach-volleyball player Casey Jennings
31 Alex Scott
Alex Scott is an English TV presenter and former professional football player. Apart from playing for popular clubs like Arsenal and Birmingham City, Scott also represented the women's national football team. She also played for Great Britain at the London Olympics. In 2019, she was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
Long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine had competed in only one Olympic, finishing fourth in the 5000m race in Munich. However, he had begun breaking records since high school and excelled in cross-country running. His tragic death in a car accident after attending a party ended his life and his sports dreams.
33 Sergey Bubka
Russian star pole-vaulter Sergey Bubka had started training at age 9. He soared to fame after winning the world championship in Finland at age 15 and later became the first to jump 6.1m. He won the 1988 Seoul Olympic gold and shattered the global men’s pole vault record 35 times.
34 Ben Johnson
37 Bob Beamon
Bob Beamon is a former American track and field athlete who won the gold medal for the long jump at the 1968 Olympics. He created a world record in the process of winning the gold medal; the record was broken by Mike Powell almost 23 years later. Beamon was inducted into United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson is an English heptathlete whose performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games earned her a gold medal. She also won the gold at the 2019 World Championships. Katarina Johnson-Thompson holds the British record for the women's pentathlon with 5,000 points. A highly talented athlete, Katarina Johnson-Thompson also holds the British records for high jump in both outdoors and indoors.
Indigenous Canadian actor Jay Silverheels gained international popularity for playing Tonto, the Native American companion of the protagonist in the American western TV series The Lone Ranger. As a young man, he excelled in athletics and became a lacrosse player. He later quit sports to pursue acting. He bred and raced Standardbred horses as a hobby.
40 Eric Liddell
Eric Liddell was a Scottish athlete who won a gold medal in 400 meters race at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. In his later years, he became a Christian missionary. Though he was of Scottish origin, he was born in China, where he spent most of his life and died eventually.
Ettore Ewen, better known by his ring name, Big E Langston, currently performs for the WWE’s SmackDown. The 290-pound wrestler first gained fame as a footballer at the University of Iowa. He had also been a powerlifter before taking up wrestling. He has also voiced Canon Wulf in Lazor Wulf.
Wayde van Niekerk is a South African athlete who competes as a sprinter in the 200 and 400 metres. He is the current Olympic and world record holder in the 400 metres. Wayde van Niekerk holds the world record in the 300 metres as well. He won the gold medal in the 400 metres event at the 2016 Olympic Games.
43 Dave Mirra
Dave Mirra was an American BMX rider who set the X Games record for most medals won in BMX Freestyle. He was also a rallycross racer, competing alongside the Subaru Rally Team USA for many years. Dave Mirra committed suicide in 2016. Later that year, he was inducted into the BMX Hall of Fame.
Maurice Greene is a former track and field athlete and a former world record holder in 100-metre dash. Greene won four Olympic medals, including two gold medals, representing the United States of America in two Olympic Games. Maurice Greene also has five gold medals at the World Athletics Championships under his belt.
45 Jim Kelly
Athlete and martial artist Jim Kelly won hearts with his Afro hairstyle and his roles in action film such as Enter the Dragon and Black Belt Jones. Apart from films, he also excelled in karate, winning contests such as the International Middle Weight Karate Championship. He has also played professional tennis.
46 Paavo Nurmi
Clarence Clemons, also popular as The Big Man, gained fame as the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. While he joined the Maryland State College on both football and music scholarships, a car accident later ended his football dreams. He also had his own band, The Red Bank Rockers.
Born without fibular bones, Aimee Mullins had to have her legs amputated below the knee as an infant. Undeterred, she grew up to be a Paralympic record-breaker, competing as a track and field athlete with prosthetic legs. She has walked the ramp for Alexander McQueen and has starred in films, too.
49 Matt Miazga
American soccer player and Chelsea defender Matt Miazga has previously also represented the New York Red Bulls. Born to Polish immigrant parents in the U.S., Miazga is a staunch Christian and often expresses his religious views on social media. He was part of the American Olympic campaign in 2016.
Ellen Whitaker is an English show jumping rider. In September 2019, she was ranked 211 on the FEI riders' Longines Ranking list. She began competing at the tender age of five and qualified for the Horse Of The Year Show (HOYS) at just eight years old. She represented Great Britain in the European Championships in 2007.