Five of the greatest Olympians the world has ever seenAthletes from around the world will be plucked from obscurity to become legends over the next few weeks. These greats have already managed it
Although major sports like football and tennis take place at the Games every four years, the highlights are usually the events like track and field or swimming, which feature lesser lights.
Athletes participating in these events tend to lead more humble lives than the likes of Neymar and Novak Djokovic.
Some, through their success, have been able to transcend the ordinary and become superstars in their own right. Here’s five of the best.
With six golds to his name, Usain Bolt is irrefutably the fastest human being alive, and lives up to his pun-friendly name.
This year he’s bidding to become the first triple-winning sprinter in the 100m, 200m and 4x100 relay, respectively.
Bolt is by far the biggest name in athletics, and as much of a global icon as Cristiano Ronaldo or Roger Federer.
He’ll also be hoping to smash his own world records in these events. His 100m record stands at 9.58 seconds, and was set at the 2009 World Championships the year after his first success at the Beijing Games.
With 18 Olympic gold medals to his name, Michael Phelps is not only swimming’s biggest star, but the most decorated Olympian of all time. He’ll be returning this year at the ripe old age of 31 for his fourth Games.
The most remarkable thing about Phelps is his 12,000-calorie-a-day diet. Training five-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week is no stroll in the park, and to stay in shape Phelps has to chow down on a breakfast of three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. And that’s not all – he follows this up with a five-egg omelette and a round of French toast. A light lunch consists of pasta and sandwiches, then he finishes the day with another huge bowl of pasta and an entire pizza.
Jesse Owens is possibly the most iconic Olympian of all time. Under the watching eyes of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime, Owens – a black athlete – was the outstanding athlete of the 1936 Berlin Games with success in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay.
His achievements made a mockery of the Nazis’ idea of Aryan supremacy. Owens’ story recently made it to the silver screen in the form of Hollywood drama, Race.
American Dick Fosbury not only won the gold medal in the high jump at the 1968 Games, but changed the entire technical approach of the sport itself.
As a high school student, Fosbury had trouble with the conventional high jump “straddle” method, and consistently failed to even clear five feet in his attempts.
He tinkered with his approach and invented the style of jumping backwards over the bar, giving name to the “Fosbury Flop”. His exploits in 1968 resulted in an Olympic record of 7ft 4in.
The greatest boxer of all time began his incomparable career at light heavyweight level at the Rome Olympics in 1960 – then named Cassius Clay.
Clay breezed to gold with a knockout and three consecutive unanimous decisions in the light heavyweight division.
He later claimed to have thrown his medal into the Ohio River after he was refused service in a restaurant.
36 years on from his triumph in Rome, the world was moved to tears as Ali, now ravaged by Parkinson’s disease, lit the 1996 Atlanta Games’ Olympic flame.