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.
2 Mo Farah
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
14 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.
15 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.
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.
17 Ashton Eaton
Two-time Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton began his international career in 2008, winning his first international medal, a silver, at the 2011 World Championships. In the following year, he won two gold medals, one in Heptathlon at the World Indoor Championships and the other in Decathlon in London Olympic Games, defending his Olympic title four years later in Rio de Janeiro.
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.
21 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.
22 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.
23 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.
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.
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 Edwin Moses
28 P. T. Usha
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.
30 Paavo Nurmi
31 Ben Johnson
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.
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.
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.
35 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.
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.
37 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.
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.
Sebastian Coe is a politician and former athlete who represented Great Britain in two Olympic events. He won four Olympic medals including two gold medals as a middle-distance runner. In 2012, he was inducted into the IAAF Hall of Fame. The same year, Coe was honored at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
Moroccan former middle-distance runner Hicham El Guerrouj is a four-time 1500m world champion. The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador became the second athlete to win both the 1500m and 5000m titles in the same Olympics. He won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year thrice and holds many indoor and outdoor records.
Alun Wyn Jones is a Welsh rugby union player who is currently playing for the Ospreys. Jones is the current captain of the Wales national rugby team and has helped his team win five Six Nations Championships. He has also won other important trophies, such as three Grand Slams, four Triple Crowns, three Doddie Weir Cups, and four Prince William Cups.
Carl Frampton is a British former professional boxer who won the silver medal at the Men's 2007 European Union Amateur Boxing Championships where he represented Ireland. He held the IBF super-bantamweight and WBA (Unified) titles between 2014 and 2016. From 2016 to 2017, he held the WBA (Super) featherweight title.
Paula Radcliffe is a retired distance runner, credited with winning the London Marathon and the New York Marathon three times each. Born into an athletic family, she emerged as a running talent by the time she was in her teens, winning the world junior cross-country title at the age of nineteen, eventually. She held the Women's World Marathon Record from 2003 to 2019.
45 Chris Hoy
Chris Hoy is a British racing driver and former track cyclist. A highly decorated Olympic cyclist, he is the recipient of six gold and one silver medals. He is also an 11-time World Champion. He announced his retirement from competitive cycling in 2013. He is also interested in motorsport and competed at the 2015 Race of Champions.
Born to former New York City mayor and media magnate Michael Bloomberg, Georgina Bloomberg was no stranger to the glitz of an affluent lifestyle. An elite equestrian, she now owns the New York Empire team. She has also co-authored a few novels and is an animal rights activist and a philanthropist.
Colin Jackson is a Welsh former athlete who represented Wales and Great Britain during his career. Jackson, who specialized in hurdles, won the silver medal in the 110m hurdles at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. His world record for the 110m hurdles stood for more than ten years, while his world record for the 60m hurdles stood for almost 27 years.
48 Efren Reyes
49 Daniil Kvyat
Johnny Gaudreau, or Johnny Hockey, is the son of Guy Gaudreau and had learned playing ice hockey by following a trail of Skittles candy at the ice arena his father headed. Now part of the NHL team Calgary Flames, he has also won a gold at the World Junior Championships.