Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Who is the greatest Olympian ever?

Steve Redgrave
Bradley Wiggins, he of the sideburns and breathtaking pedal power, is the man of the moment on the back of yesterday's Olympic glory which quickly followed his Tour de France success.
But, and I've agonised as long as it took him to win that Time-Trial, much as I like and admire the guy, in my view he's still not the best British Olympian of all time despite now having more Olympic medals (seven) than anyone else in the UK (Chris Hoy could tie him in the coming days) so how could I place Wiggo in the best Olympian of all time top five list?
To me the man who remains Britain's greatest because he won FIVE gold medals (Bradley has four) from 1984 to 2000 is that fella who sits beside the BBC's coolest presenter John Inverdale commentating on the rowing.
Sir Steve Redgrave, who also earned a bronze, stand up and take a bow. Agreed he was helped considerably by Matthew Pinsent and others, but Redgrave stuck around for 16 years in one of the toughest sports of all and won every time he entered the Games.
If Wiggins goes on to Rio 2016, he may overtake the 50-year-old Redgrave, but he hasn't done enough just yet.
Sir Steve is rightly revered in Olympic circles and is a true Lord of the Rings.
Carl Lewis
London 2012 might beat it but to date my favourite Olympic Games has to be Los Angeles 1984. I loved watching Seb Coe, Daley Thompson and Tessa Sanderson win gold.
But most of all I marvelled at Carl Lewis winning gold, gold, gold and gold.
He did it in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay all in that red American vest.
It was awesome to watch with those long legs, once they got going, moving quicker than a cheetah. Well, it seemed that way anyway.
Lewis equalled the feats of Jesse Owens all those years ago, and then in a stunning Olympic career that spanned 12 years he went on to collect another five golds (100m, three in the long jump and 4x100 relay) as well as a silver for the 200m.
One of those golds you may recall came after Lewis, now 51, finished second to a certain Ben Johnson in 1988. Johnson was disqualified for taking drugs and Lewis got a first class upgrade.
There have also been suspicions about Lewis down the years, but nothing has ever been proved, so for those nine golds and that remarkable performance in 1984 he's a contender.
Mind you, if he was chocolate he would eat himself, and if Usain Bolt delivers in London, Carl might struggle to keep his place.
The verdict
In London 2012 you hear a lot of athletes talking about being mentally tough under pressure.
They should have tried running and jumping in Jesse's skin in 1936.
While the Hitler story is the stuff of legend, what is perhaps less known is that this Olympic hero was often treated like dirt by statesmen in his own country due to his colour.
Owens died in 1980 at the age of 66.
He only competed in one Olympic Games but will never be forgotten.
Jesse Owens is my best Olympian ever.
Under the greatest pressure of all he stood up and showed what Olympic spirit is truly about. You really can’t ask for more than that.

It’s an argument you may never win.

Statistically, of course, it’s Michael Phelps, courtesy of his 19 medals — so far. But can you judge the swimmer’s claims on gongs alone?

Others may have won far fewer, but can still have worthy claims on what must be the ultimate sporting title.

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