Every four years, the world’s best athletes compete to see who is the best in the world in each discipline, a tradition that dates back to Ancient Greece. Getting an Olympic gold is regarded as the pinnacle of sporting achievement, and it is a terrifying possibility for any pro athlete. All Olympic aspirants dream of standing on the podium knowing they are at the top of their field.
Some track and field competitors are excellent, while some are truly extraordinary, but some individuals have shown to be invincible.
Various athletes have proven their supremacy for years and years since the birth of track & field. But who are the most dominating athletes? Continue reading to find out about the fastest, strongest, and top Olympic track and field athletes of all time.
Paavo Nurmi, Men’s 800m to Marathon
Paavo Nurmi is the most dominant Olympic athlete of all time. Apart from setting a whopping 22 world records from the 1500m to the Marathon, Nurmi is still the only individual to have never lost a race in the 10,000m during the course of his whole career. For nearly two decades, ‘The Flying Fin,’ as he was dubbed by many, was completely uncontested.
Larisa Latynina, Gymnastics, Soviet Union
Larisa Latynina, one of the best gymnasts of all time, held the world record for most Olympic medals (18) for 48 years. She is also the only gymnast in history to earn nine Olympic medals. Unstoppable.
Carl Lewis, Men’s 100m, 200m, and Long Jump
Carl Lewis is definitely one of the most decorated and brilliant athletes to ever walk the globe, having been named Century’s best World Athlete by the IAAF (now World Athletics). Lewis won 18 World Championships along with gold medals in Olympics between 1979 and 1996.
He’s still one of just three athletes in the history of the Olympics to actively defend their Olympic championship four times in a row. Lewis was unbeatable in the Long Jump for over a decade before being beaten by Mike Powell. Mike Powell break the world record of Carl Lewis in the long jump at the 1991 World Championships.
Jesse Owen, Athletics U.S.A
Jesse Owens did not win the most medals, but he did win the most significant. Owens prevailed in 1936, as Hitler observed from Berlin. He won the 100m and 200m races, as well as the long jump and the 4x100m relay. Owens’ medals represent more than just winning, which is why he is so successful.
Edwin Moses, Men’s 400m Hurdles
Edwin Moses is one of the few athletes who has ever had a winning run as long as he has. Moses won 122 races in a row between 1977 and 1987. Moses was unbeaten in all 400-meter hurdles competitions for exactly 9 years, 9 months, and 9 days.
Throughout this time, Moses also broke his own world record four times, with the best time being 47.02 seconds. While Moses’ total number of Olympic and Championship medals is not as significant as some of the others on this list, his genuine dominance in any track and field event is unequaled.
Matthew Centrowitz, 1500 meter race
Centrowitz returns in top form after becoming the first American male to win a medal in the 1500 m since 1908. Centrowitz, 31, is an old man at the distance, and he questioned in 2016 if he’d have to go up to 5,000 meters for the 2020 Olympics. At the Olympic trials, though, he came second to 20-year-old Cole Hocker. He may not be the quickest, but his tactical expertise borders on magic and helped him become one of America’s best middle-distance runners.
Sergey Bubka, Men’s Pole Vault
Sergey Bubka’s level of success was widely regarded as unprecedented. Bubka set 35 world records in the pole vault throughout the course of his career. Bubka also won 11 World Championships and Olympic Gold medals during his career. He is the very first person to jump six meters. Bubka rewrote the record books from the ground up. Bubka has only ever lost his original world record once since his first attempt. With a leap of 5.91 meters on August 31, 1984, Thierry Vigneron from France broke Bubka’s world record.
In a single Olympics, which female Olympian won the most track and field medals?
Fancina Blankers-Koen and Florence Griffith-Joyner are associated with the most track win in a single Summer Olympics. At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Flo-Jo won Olympic gold medals and one silver. She broke world records both in 100m and 200m sprints that have lasted for over 30 years, and she won gold in the 4x100m relay for the third time.
She won silver in the 4x400m relay, giving her a total of four medals. With her incredible performance at the Seoul Games, Griffith-Joyner acquired the title of a swiftest woman alive and established herself as among the most dominant elite athletes in Olympic history.
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