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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11 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.
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.
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
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.
16 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.
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.
Gymnast Dominique Moceanu was part of the Magnificent Seven, the women’s team that won the gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. After retiring, she has studied management and also penned a book. She also sued her father for misusing her earnings as a gymnast and won the case.
19 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.
20 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.
21 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.
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.
23 Phil Davis
Mr. Wonderful Phil Davis is a popular American MMA fighter who represents Bellator MMA. He has previously been a four-time NCAA D-I All-American at Penn State and also boasts of a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He had also excelled in tennis and cross-country running in his younger days.
24 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.
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.
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.
27 Breaux Greer
Retired American javelin thrower Breaux Greer holds a national record in the sport. The three-time Olympian earned the bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships in Japan and has been a US National Championship eight times. He is married to actor Katy Mixon and is a father of two.
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.
Simone Manuel is the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold in swimming, She achieved this feat at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She started swimming at the age of four and swam across the pool on her second day of swim lessons.At the 2016 Olympics, she won gold medals in the 100-meter freestyle and the 4x100-meter medley.
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.
Known as Awesome Dawesome, Dominique Dawes is a retired star gymnast from the U.S. who was part of the gold-winning team at the Atlanta Olympics. She also became the first African-American to earn an individual Olympic medal, with her bronze. She is also part of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
32 Tommie Smith
Winner of the 200-meter sprint finals at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, Tommie C. Smith finished the race in 19.83 seconds, thus becoming first to break the 20 seconds barrier. Today however he is better remembered for raising a black gloved fist over his head at the victory stand in protest against the injustice meted out to the blacks.
33 Edwin Moses
34 Dot Jones
Best known for her roles in Lizzie McGuire and Material Girls, arm-wrestler-cum-actress Dot-Marie Jones never aspired to become an actress. Instead she competed in shot put and power lifting, eventually becoming 15-time world arm wrestling champion. Discovered at a body-building tournament by Shirley Eson, she debuted on screen with Knights and Warriors, thereafter appearing in numerous films and television productions
35 Galen Rupp
While he had been a promising soccer player in school, Galen Rupp later discovered track and field and became one of the best long-distance runners of the U.S. He is a three-time Olympian and has two Olympic medals, a silver and a bronze, in his kitty.
Kathrine Switzer was a 20-year-old Syracuse University student when she registered for the Boston Marathon in 1967. Though women were practically barred from competing, she competed as KV Switzer, avoiding mentioning her gender. Attacked at the event, she made history and became a champion for women’s rights.
37 Debi Thomas
Former figure skater Debi Thomas is also an Olympic bronze medalist. She began skating at 5 and participated in her first figure-skating contest at 9. A Stanford engineer and a qualified orthopedic surgeon, too, Thomas surprisingly ended up being broke and began living in a trailer in the Appalachian mountains.
Dean Karnazes began running for fun while in kindergarten; taking diversionary routes while returning home from school. Slowly, he started taking it more seriously, running a marathon to the South Pole in 2002, embarking on the Endurance 50: 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days in 2006. Currently a businessperson, he has also written a book on marathon.
American ice-hockey player Max Pacioretty, who plays for the NHL team Vegas Golden Knights, has also captained the Montreal Canadiens in the past. He was knocked motionless in a 2011 game against the Boston Bruins but couldn’t recall the incident later. The McDonald’s Max 67 burger was named in his honor.
Rulon Gardner is an American former Greco-Roman wrestler who won the gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Gardner went on to win a gold medal at the 2001 World Wrestling Championships and the bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award and Jesse Owens Award, Gardner is currently serving as a motivational speaker.
Alexander Rossi is an American racing driver who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 as a rookie. The following year, he registered another win at Watkins Glen International. Alexander Rossi currently competes in the IndyCar Series, representing the popular racing team Andretti Autosport.
Suzy Favor Hamilton is a former middle-distance runner who participated in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Summer Olympics, representing the USA. Favor broke many hearts when she turned to prostitution which in turn ended her career as an athlete. She claimed mental illness as the reason for her downfall and is currently serving as a speaker at mental health conferences.
43 Bob Hayes
Bob Hayes was an American athlete and a football player. An Olympic gold medalist and a Super Bowl ring winner, Hayes was inducted into both Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. He won gold medal in 100m and 4 x 100m relay in 1964 Tokto Oympics Hayes was once regarded as the world's fastest human.
44 John Carlos
John Carlos is a former football player and track and field athlete. Carlos won a bronze medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics. After his track career, he helped organize the 1984 Summer Olympics as part of his work with the United States Olympic Committee. In 2003, Carlos was made an inductee of the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame.
Delilah DiCrescenzo is an American track and field athlete who competes in the 3000 meters steeplechase. She helped Team USA win the gold medal at the Americas Cross Country Championships in 2009. Delilah DiCrescenzo is the subject of a hit song titled Hey There Delilah by the popular American rock band Plain White T's.
Wrestler Shannon Moore is known for his stints with the WCW, the WWE, and TNA. Loved for his trademark moves such as the Twist of Fate, he is also a talented musician who composes his own entry music and owns a band named Peroxwhy?gen with fellow wrestler Jeff Hardy.
James van Riemsdyk is an American ice hockey player who currently plays for the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL. Apart from appearing in the National Hockey League, James van Riemsdyk has also represented his country on several occasions, including the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Alberto Salazar is an American former long-distance runner who won the silver medal at the 1982 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Rome, Italy. After his retirement from the sport, Salazar served as the head coach for the Nike Oregon Project and received the 2013 IAAF Coaching Achievement Award in Monaco. He was later banned for doping and sexual offenses.
49 Dave Wottle
Dave Wottle is an American former track and field athlete who specialized in middle-distance running events. Wottle is best known for winning the gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics, competing in the 800-meter run. Dave Wottle used to wear a golf cap while running; it later became his signature style.
Victor Espinoza is a Mexican jockey who competes in the American Thoroughbred horse racing. In 2015, Espinoza became the first Hispanic and oldest jockey to achieve the Triple Crown; he achieved the feat on a famous horse named American Pharoah. A three-time Kentucky Derby winner, Victor Espinoza has also won the Preakness Stakes on three occasions.