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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the first Black football players of the NFL, Woody Strode was also a talented decathlete. He had dabbled in professional wrestling, too, but later gained fame solely for his film roles, such as that of gladiator Draba in Spartacus, for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination.
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.
Track and field sprinter Christian Coleman has two World Championship golds in his kitty. Born into a sports-oriented family, with his sister being a track and field athlete, he was naturally drawn toward sports. He was banned for missing his drug tests and, as a result, missed the Tokyo Olympics 2021.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias was an American athlete who specialized in golf, track and field, basketball, and baseball. Considered one of the greatest female athletes ever, Didrikson won two gold medals and a silver medal in track and field at the Summer Olympics in 1932. She then went on to win 10 LPGA major championships, becoming USA's first female golf celebrity.
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.
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
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.
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.
Jim Ryun is an American former track and field athlete who won a silver medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics. At the peak of his career, Ryun was considered one of the top middle-distance runners in the world. He later became a politician and served in the US House of Representatives. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020.
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.
Cave explorer Floyd Collins is remembered for an ill-fated solo cave exploration in Kentucky, when he lost his balance and got stuck in a tight tunnel. His rescue attempt was widely covered by the media, but the tunnel collapsed and he died eventually. His body was recovered after 2 months.
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.
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.
Marion Jones became the first female athlete to win five track and field medals in a single Olympic game. She was, however, stripped of all her Olympic medals after she admitted to using steroids. She also spent 6 months in jail for being involved in a check-fraud case.
Eric Heiden is a former track cyclist, road cyclist, and long track speed skater. At the 1980 Winter Olympics, Heiden won five individual gold medals, setting one world record and four Olympic records in the process. The most successful athlete at the 1980 Winter Olympics, Heiden won more gold medals than all other nations except East Germany and Soviet Union.
Dick Fosbury is an American former track and field athlete who specialized in the high jump. Widely regarded as one of the most influential athletes in track and field history, Fosbury revolutionized the high jump with a new technique which came to be known as the Fosbury Flop. Dick Fosbury also won the gold medal at the 1968 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.
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.
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.
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.