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#2285398 - 06/09/23 02:47 AM Re: World's Greatest Athletes?
raitchjay Offline
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Watching some track and field and am reminded of the Olympic decathlons I watched as a kid...America was pretty dominant in the event back in those days and Olympic Champs like Rafer Johnson and Bruce Jenner would inevitably be referred to as "the world's greatest athlete "and back then I bought it hook, line, and sinker...after all these guys sprinted, ran long distance, hurdled, threw...everything. However when I see decathlons now, (or even if I could rewatch the guys from the 60s,70s or 80s) I'm not buying it. These guys are decent to fairly good at several disciplines and I'm not trying to say they aren't "good" athletes.....but they would get dusted in any individual event by basically every athlete specializing in that event.

It's the equivalent of saying Bert Campaneris is the greatest baseball player of all time since he could play all 9 positions.
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#2285399 - 06/09/23 12:56 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
Rocky P Offline
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A lot of different disciplines, with different emphasis.
Several running events, varying distances, but then throw in some jumping, I.e. hurdles, long jump and pole vault, followed by strength events, javelin, discus and shot put. Training is all different.
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#2285403 - 06/09/23 01:34 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
HappyGilmore Offline
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Pulling people out of the ditc...
Usain Bolt is the fastest man ever in several events, i would never classify his as the world's greatest athlete, as he is singularly focused. same with Brady as a QB, or Messi for soccer. but a decathlete? 10 events , encompassing sprints, middle, long distance, field events like javelin and discuss...yeah, these guys are the real deal. They would lose against any single-discipline athlete, but for overall athleticism, no doubt they are far greater.

for those old enough to recall the TV show in the 70s through the early 90s (Superstars) which pitted professional athletes from various sports against one another, there was a preponderance of winners from football, decathlon, a sprinter, and soccer (fun fact, in 70s after Kyle Rote Jr. won for the 3rd time, they quit inviting him as people were offended a soccer player was a far greater athlete than their preferred sports player).

then again, catch me in my Friday or Sunday soccer league, and i'll show you what the world's greatest athlete looks like smile
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#2285407 - 06/09/23 01:50 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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I guess we all have our definitions.....being "not bad" at several disciplines doesn't meet my definition of "world's greatest athlete".

Saw the NCAA winner of the decathlon last night run a 4:48 1500 meters.....over a minute off what the guys who win that event would run. You could do the same sort of comparison with every single event. And i kinda disagree about Bolt and his ilk...i DO consider Bolt a better athlete than any of these decathletes. He would positively smoke them in the sprints, hurdles, and jumping events (i'm convinced anyway). I really believe that super-serious track athletes don't even think about the decathlon....it might seem prestigious to us fans, but i don't think the athletes look at it the same way. Similarly, i think track coaches push guys into it that seem well-rounded, but not really good at any particular event.
Last edited by raitchjay; 06/09/23 02:07 PM.
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#2285408 - 06/09/23 01:52 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
raitchjay Offline
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And Happy, i do remember Kyle Rote Jr. (wasn't his dad an NFL star?) at the Superstars competition dusting everyone for a few years.
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#2285419 - 06/09/23 03:50 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? HappyGilmore
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then again, catch me in my Friday or Sunday soccer league, and i'll show you what the world's greatest athlete looks like

So you bring your phone to the game with access to youtube? grin
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#2285442 - 06/12/23 01:56 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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Pulling people out of the ditc...
No doubt Bolt could smoke them in all the sprint running events, that is his singular focus. go google how his attempt to play professional soccer went. i wonder how his javelin or shotput skills are? or tennis? swimming?

anyway, this argument could continue forever.

since you brought up the topic, whom would you consider the world's greatest athlete? and why?
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#2285448 - 06/12/23 04:46 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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I'd argue the best athlete in a given country is probably in that country's most popular sport the requires athleticism, especially if it allows for physical contact (Probably still soccer in most countries, but I could see amazing athletes getting smoked by little punks with quick feet and finding something they could dominate in based more purely on their athleticism). The low amount of people that go into training for a decathalon is going to significantly limit the chances of the greatest athlete being among them. The best athletes in my high school played football (male) and softball (female) and got scholarships in those sports. They generally did track, but if a guy gets a track scholarship and a football scholarship, most folks are taking the campus hero route. I think that used to be true for a lot of the US (probably not going to be true in a few years as people take their kids out of concussion ball).

You put Jim Brown in his prime against someone else in an athletic competition that neither has specialized training in, I'd take Jim Brown. Not sure who right now, but I'm still going non-QB football player for the US. Probably an edge rusher?

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#2285452 - 06/12/23 06:06 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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Bo Jackson-pre injury. Stand out in 2 sports.

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#2285453 - 06/12/23 06:11 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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I'm honestly not sure who i'd say the greatest athlete in the world is...i just know it isn't any decathlete i know of.

8 years ago, i'd have picked Usain Bolt probably. All of this is just a fun discussion, and we all have our own definitions i guess of what the greatest athlete would look like....to me, running fast and jumping high plays a particularly big role i guess. I know that being meh at a bunch of different events doesn't make one a great athlete in my eyes.
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#2285455 - 06/12/23 06:14 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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In a previous era, i would have picked Michael Jordan....freakish athletic ability, and tremendous hand-eye coordination, will to win, etc.
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#2285463 - 06/12/23 07:16 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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He was a very, very good basketball player but baseball not so much. To play 2 sports well, it is quite a feat. Deon Sanders-also fit that niche. Jimmy Graham as well, Good college BB player, great NFL career. To truly have a competent discussion on this topic IMHO, one does need to have a beer in hand!

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#2285466 - 06/12/23 07:35 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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Jordan only gave baseball a one year try.....pretty confident he would have made big strides had he stuck with it. His average was really rising towards the end of that one season if i recollect.

But as far as all-time athletes go, i certainly wouldn't argue that Bo Jackson needs to be somewhere near the top. Guy was an absolute freak.
Last edited by raitchjay; 06/12/23 07:42 PM.
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#2285471 - 06/12/23 08:15 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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Pulling people out of the ditc...
according to the Guinness Book of World records, the world's greatest athlete is Sergei Bubka from Ukraine, who holds 35 world records in pole vault between 1984 and 1994. no other athlete comes close.

(please note that this research was done without benefit of beer as Scott noted above was essential in having the discussion, with beer present, and enough beers, i'm sure my answer would change)
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#2285476 - 06/12/23 09:37 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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You are here
I would guess a MMA guy but that person would change from day to day.
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#2285522 - 06/13/23 09:45 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
Rocky P Offline
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I'll go with Simone Biles - USA gymnist - 4 Olympic gold plus dozens of other medals in a very competetive sport. Upper and lower body strength, flexability, speed, coordination, agility, in a 4'8" tall package.

Additional:
Simone Biles Owens(born Simone Arianne Biles; March 14, 1997) is an American artistic gymnast. Her seven Olympic medals tied with Shannon Miller for the most Olympic medals won by an American gymnast and is the equal ninth-most overall. Having won 25 World Championship medals, she is the most decorated gymnast in the history of the Gymnastics World Championships, and is considered by many sources to be the greatest gymnast of all time.
Last edited by Rocky P; 06/13/23 09:49 PM. Reason: added comment
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#2286687 - 07/17/23 09:10 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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I'm late to the party but wanted to give my 2 cents. This was a fun read.

I'm not sure I'd agree that Olympic decathletes are meh in multiple events. I would argue they're very good at multiple events. There is a heavy difference between training for multiple events and training hyper focused on a specific discipline. It makes perfect sense that they'd lose a sprint to Bolt, lose a swim to Phelps, or lose shooting competition with Michael Jordan, but I would assume the end-result of a decathlon between these athletes and the specialists will likely go to the decathlete. Does this make them the best in the world? I don't know - maybe, maybe not, but I don't think they can be easily discounted.

As for who is the greatest athlete???? I'll put my money Jordan. The Bulls were good without him during his short retirement but couldn't win the title. With him, they won three in a row...twice. Pure speculation, but if he doesn't get total burn out and sticks with, could they have pulled off 8 consecutive titles?
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#2286689 - 07/17/23 09:38 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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"Meh in multiple events" is a relative term. Decathletes could smoke me in every event.....but most decathletes aren't even close to being good enough in any one of the 10 events to think about even sniffing a final in that event. Like i said originally, Bert Campaneris was very versatile and played all 9 positions in baseball (as a publicity thing, he notably played all 9 positions in the same game once). Doesn't make him one of the greatest baseball players of all time because he was "pretty good" no matter where you stuck him on the field. Decathletes (IMHO) are the utility infielders of track and field.
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#2286690 - 07/17/23 09:42 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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And just a last thought....track and field is a very basic sort of sport when you boil it down. I mean....there's no ball involved, and unless you're involved in a specialty field event like the shot, discus, or hammer (which honestly, don't interest me at all), then being a track athlete boils down to 1 or 2 skills.....running fast (albeit at varying distances) and/or jumping high/far. So, decathletes are highly versatile, but also not really good at any particular event. So yeah, a guy who can run an 11.2 100 meters is fast compared to me, but he'd look ridiculous being in the same race with Bolt or Fred Kerley. Same with a guy running a 4:50 1500 meters or high jumping 6'4.

Also, decathletes have events they are relatively good at (again, nowhere near the elite guys in that event, but respectable) and they have events they are almost laughably bad at (at least compared to the elite at that event). So, you have guys who (relatively speaking) kill it at the javelin, discus, and shot and are pretty darn bad at the 100 meters and the hurdles, and vice-versa. Not trying to trash those guys...i enjoy the decathlon....i just don't think most decathletes are anywhere close to an "elite" athlete (again, compare them to other elite athletes, not guys watching them on the TV).
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#2286772 - 07/19/23 02:53 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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Hey now ... there is a ball involved! The shot put is a ball! lol
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#2286776 - 07/19/23 03:09 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
raitchjay Offline
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smile
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#2286811 - 07/20/23 12:29 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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I'll just add this - FINALLY, a cooler-worthy discussion thread. Haven't had many of those over recent years.
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#2286848 - 07/20/23 09:19 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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Yes, I'd agree, I too have been checking this thread to see where it rambled. Some great names have been mentioned, record-setters and once-in-a-century talents. Here's an idea, plot the 'sport' or effort required for excellence on 2 axes: stamina vs. accuracy/skill. Maybe you'd get agreement on which event/sport/effort required the highest degree of both. For example:

Bowling is down near (0,0) and even Curling is higher. Maybe we could agree on that.
A great archer/shooter stands still, but you need stamina to win the Biathlon at the Olympics.
Golfers swing and hardly ever miss, but their ball doesn't move. In baseball, you stand at the plate trying to connect with a 95 mph-or-higher pitch with a 28-inch bat, and you're successful if you get a hit 3 out of 10 tries.
Bolt is fast, but could he be successful at dodging 11 opponents, or reeling in a Favre bomb with one hand while falling down?
Biles can do amazing things in the air, and sometimes land on a 4-inch beam after being airborne, but can she do a 720-degree flip, land on her feet, then keep going to do another flip 3 seconds later like White?
Gould has to be crazy accurate, and quick, to split goalposts from 55 yards away before being mugged, but Pele had to play keep-away from opponents with the ball before shooting (while avoiding being mugged, too).
Speedskaters are fast and need to be accurate, but they don't have to control then shoot a puck into a net and past a human vacuum.

Great athletes come from activities that require high levels of physical stamina AND accuracy. Talk amongst yourselves.
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#2286856 - 07/21/23 12:41 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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Pulling people out of the ditc...
in my soccer match last weekend i scored 1 goal and had 3 assists (i play defense), then switched in to goal and kept the other team scoreless for the last 20 minutes as we won 5-3.

at the age of 58, i'm playing in an open league with many of the players being less than 1/2 my age. clearly, i'm the worlds greatest athlete, at least i was last saturday!
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#2286882 - 07/21/23 08:22 PM Re: Re: World's Greatest Athletes? raitchjay
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Still bummed that i can't fix the title to this thread. I definitely didn't win the "world's greatest speller" award that day.
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