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).
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.
Jessica Ennis-Hill is a British retired track and field athlete. She specialized in multi-eventing disciplines and 100 meters hurdles. In 2012, she won an Olympic gold in the heptathlon. She was introduced to sports as a young girl and immediately took an interest in athletics. She has won several other titles as well in addition to her Olympic gold.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is a Jamaican sprinter who achieved international recognition in 2008 when she won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing. She then went on to win gold medals at the 2012 and 2020 Olympic Games. Counted among the greatest sprinters of all time, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also has many World Championship gold medals under her belt.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist middle-distance runner Caster Semenya in an intersex woman, with high testosterone levels. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was asked to take medication to decrease her testosterone levels, to participate in the 2021 Olympics women’s events, and filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights.
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.
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.
Yohan Blake is a Jamaican sprinter who became the youngest 100 meters world champion when he won a gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in 2011. He also won gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games as part of the Jamaican relay team. Yohan Blake is the second-fastest man in both 100 meters and 200 meters events.
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.
Ben Johnson is a Canadian retired sprinter who was adjudged the world's fastest man during the 1987–88 season after he broke the 60m and 100m indoor world records. He is best known for his performance in the 1984 Olympic Games, where he won two bronze medals. Ben Johnson also won a gold medal at the 1985 World Indoor Championships.
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.
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.
Ethiopian Olympic legend and businessman, Haile Gebrselassie, a retired long-distance, road and track running athlete, is counted among the greatest distance runners in history. He set 27 world records in athletics and broke 61 Ethiopian national records. His achievements include winning two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship titles, four World Indoor Championship titles and one World Half Marathon Championship.
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.
Asafa Powell is a Jamaican sprinter who set the 100 metres world record on two occasions between 2005 and 2008. He achieved international prominence in 2016 when he won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Asafa Powell has also won a couple of gold medals at the World Championships.
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.
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.
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.
Paavo Nurmi was a Finnish athlete who specialized in long-distance and middle-distance running. Nicknamed the Flying Finn, Nurmi dominated important distance running events in the early 20th century. He won nine gold medals and three silver medals across three Olympics in 1920, 1924, and 1928. Paavo Nurmi also set 22 official world records during his career.
Merlene Ottey is a Jamaican-Slovenian retired track and field sprinter. She represented Jamaica in international events for 24 years before representing Slovenia for 10 years. In 1993, she clocked 21.87 seconds to set the world indoor record for 200 metres; she has been holding that record ever since. Merlene Ottey is also known for winning several medals at Olympic Games.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
British middle-distance athlete and neurologist Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister was the first athlete to run a mile in less than four minutes. Before achieving such feat, Bannister set a British record in the 1500 metres during the 1952 Summer Olympics. In the medical field, Bannister became a neurologist and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford.
Hurdler Liu Xiang created history by becoming the first Chinese Olympic gold medalist in any men’s track-and-field event. While he excelled in high jump in his younger days, he deviated to hurdles by 15. He has also earned gold medals at the world championships and the Asian Games.
Jarmila Kratochvílová is a Czech retired track and field athlete known for winning gold medals in the 800m and 400m events at the 1983 World Championships and setting a world record in the process in the 400m event. In 1983, she also set a world record in the 800m event. Kratochvílová also won a silver medal at the 1980 Olympics.
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.
Armand Duplantis is a Swedish pole vaulter. He currently holds the world indoor record with a height of 6.18 meters. When he was 15 years old, Duplantis won a gold medal at the 2015 World Youth Championships. He then went on to win a gold medal at the 2018 European Championships and a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships.
Efren Reyes is a Filipino professional pool player who is regarded as the greatest player of all time. Nicknamed The Magician, Reyes is best known for his ability to display numerous trick shots. Efren Reyes has also won more than 100 international titles over the course of his illustrious career. Reyes is a WPA World Eight-ball and Nine-ball champion.
Magnús Scheving is best known as the creator of the BAFTA-winning children’s series Lazy Town, which has its roots in Scheving’s first book and centers around children’s fitness. The Icelandic aerobic gymnastic champion is also a motivational speaker and has previously been a fitness trainer at a school.
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.
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.
Teemu Selänne is a Finnish retired ice hockey player who played as a winger. Dubbed the Finnish Flash, Teemu is the highest scoring player from Finland in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL). In 2017, he became only the second Finn after Jari Kurri to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Apart from winning a gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Steve Ovett also set six world records. He once ruled the middle-distance running scene. A talented footballer in his teens, he later chose athletics, since he wanted to pursue a sport that wouldn’t make him dependent on his teammates.