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Guest Andrew Moore

Sporting legends

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Guest Andrew Moore

As the Euro 2004 tournament ends, and we look forward to the Olympics, the BBC (UK national broadcaster) has begun to promote its broadcast coverage of the games, with the theme of (sporting) legends - the BBC suggests, among others, Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz, Sir Steven Redgrave (5 golds in 5 games for those outside Britain), Michael Johnson, Cathy Freeman.

As we think of the Olympics, and as so many of the comments in this forum come from historians, I think it would be interesting both to nominate people (for legendary status) and justify the nomination. But also to determine what are the qualities by which we measure achievement in sport - I guess that I'm thinking of the balance of statistics, the inherent value of the event, and the context.

On statistics alone, many athletes would beat Jesse Owens (Carl Lewis, I think, among others). But when we include the context, that makes a vast difference.

I wonder if one reason why Colin Welland chose the 1924 Olympics as a subject in Chariots of Fire is that, previous to the film, most viewers knew little about this Olympiad, so he had a lot of scope for fiction.

In the US, the notion of Hall of Fame is well-established. In the UK, these halls (metaphorical and literal) are perhaps less regarded as guarantors of achievement.

So, let's have your recommendations...

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Hedley Verity on account of his taking 10 wickets for 10 runs in a first class cricket match (Yorkshire versus Nottinghamshire, 1931. He also took 10/36 against Warwickshire the same season).

Career stats show that he was an all time great, an average of 14.90 as a bowler in first class cricket is phenomenal, especially considering some of the great Australian batsmen he was bowling at in Test matches. 14 wickets in one day against Australia is almost unthinkable, he managed it.

Would probably have gone on to write more cricketing history if it wasn't for the outbreak of war. He took 7/9 in his last ever first class game, against Sussex in September 1939.

http://www.cricketarchive.co.uk/Archive/Articles/0/441.html

Double checking my stats here, I've just realised that he played for the club at the top of my road. Odd that the club doesn't make a big deal out of that, nothing obvious about him in the local pubs either. Strange for Yorkshire is that.

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I would nominate Helen Stephens of the United States. In the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Stephens, who had been unbeaten in all her races at 100m, broke the world record in the time of 11.5. After the race, the woman who finished second, Stanislawa Walasiewicz told a Polish journalist that she suspected that Stephens was really a man. When this news was published German officials arranged for Stephens to undergo a medical examination. They then announced that Helen Stephens was definitely a woman. Stephens reinforced this by telling a story that Hitler tried to seduce her. Throughout her career, Stephens was never beaten on the track.

Walasiewicz was murdered in 1980. The autopsy showed that she was a man. I suppose the reason she accused Stephens of being a man was because she thought only a man could beat her/him. For the full story, including photographs and video, see:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=1043

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The Finnish runner Lasse Virén's 10 000 meter in the Olympic Games 1972 (Munich) is one of the most astonishing performances I ever witnessed. In the fourth kilometer he stumbled and fell. Within a few seconds he was up again and started a legendaric race which gave him the Olympic gold - and a world record!

Lasse continued by winning the 5000 meter race as well. 4 years later (1976) he repeated his victories in the Olympic Games in Montreal. He won both 10 000 and 5000 meters - but this time without falling... :)

Lasse Virén

Lasse Virén (in English...)

Edited by Anders

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Guest Andrew Moore

I saw (on TV) Lasse Viren's performances in Munich and was suitably impressed. Those same Olympics gave us also Olga Korbut's astonishing gymnastics - here it is not so much the medal tally that is impressive as the manner of the display (a bit like George Best's football playing - the memory, rather than the record book, tells the story). It also gave us Mark Spitz's seven gold medals...

John is ready to go to a performance from an earlier era - I find it hard not to choose something from my own lifetime. Perhaps, too, events that seemed impressive when they happened, but still seem so, years after - I'm torn between the Brazilian team's victory in 1970 and Ali's Rumble in the Jungle. I think I would choose the former - the team had been supreme in two previous world cups, then been more or less fouled out of the 1966 tournament. But in 1970, they looked - and proved - invincible, winning decisively, and with great style.

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Jack Nicklaus is surely the finest athlete of the last 100 years with an extraordinary record of dominance in golf.

Major Championship Statistics

Summary: Victories: 20 Top-Three Finishes: 48

Second Place: 19 Top-Five Finishes: 56

Third Place: 9 Top-10 Finishes: 73

Played in a record 154 consecutive major championships for which he was eligible from 1957 U.S. Open to the 1998 U.S. Open

Major Titles: 6 Masters; 5 PGA Championships; 4 United States Opens; 3 British Opens; 2 U.S. Amateur Championships

As An Amateur: 1959: Won U.S. Amateur, defeating Charles Coe, 1-up

1960: Runner-up, United States Open

1961: Won U.S. Amateur a second time, defeating Dudley Wysong, 8 and 6

The Tiger isn't even half way there yet ;)

Better still what an excellent winner and on the odd occassion gracious loser. His concession of a half in the 1969 Ryder Cup to Tony Jacklin stands as one of greatest moments of modern sportmanship and in great contrast to the behaviour of more recent US Ryder Cup captains and players.

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Jack Nicklaus is surely the finest athlete of the last 100 years with an extraordinary record of dominance in golf.

Better still what an excellent winner and on the odd occassion gracious loser. His concession of a half in the 1969 Ryder Cup to Tony Jacklin stands as one of greatest moments of modern sportmanship and in great contrast to the behaviour of more recent US Ryder Cup captains and players.

I agree about Jack sportsmanship. I doubt whether we will ever see anything like that again.

The person I would nominate is Lance Armstrong. Yesterday he became the first person to win the Tour de France, the world’s most gruelling sporting challenge, for the sixth time. This is an amazing achievement. However, it is even more remarkable that eight years ago he was diagnosed as suffering from testicular cancer. Later it spread to his lungs and brain and was given only a 40% chance of survival. Not only did he survive, he became the greatest cyclist in history.

He has also done it without drugs (many of his top rivals have been found guilty of drug offences in an attempt to compete Armstrong). Some cynics claim that he is using a drug that is currently untraceable. Jacques Anquetil, who won the race five times, was recently asked if he used drugs. He replied: “Did you really expect to ride up those mountains on mineral water?” Of course, in Anquetil’s day, riders were not tested for drugs.

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Jacques Anquetil, who won the race five times, was recently asked if he used drugs. He replied: “Did you really expect to ride up those mountains on mineral water?” Of course, in Anquetil’s day, riders were not tested for drugs.
""

Anquetil has been dead for quite some time(died nov 18 1987) if i am not mistaken. But i agree with the nomination of Lance Armstrong. He is the greatest Tour de France cyclist. Although not the greatest cyclist ever, that is still Eddy Mercx!

Edited by Marco Koene

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