Changing China

Giant on the move

Can you name the perfect athlete?

July 17, 2008

woods.jpgIs there such thing as the perfect athlete? asked a list of 30 past and present Olympians from a variety of summer sports to pick the perfect athlete to see if there was any consensus on the greatest among the greatest.

Some of the respondents said it was impossible.

“The perfect athlete is any athlete who has the drive, the desire to participate and the will to achieve and succeed,” said gymnast Olga Korbut, who won four Olympic gold medals and two silver medals for the Soviet Union at the 1972 Munich Games and the 1976 Montreal Games.

But one name that did keep cropping up as possibly the perfect athlete was champion golfer Tiger Woods who won the U.S. Open for the third time this year, despite playing with a bad knee.

“Just winning the U.S. Open in pain shows the greatness and guts of a true champion,” said Jackie Joyner-Kersee, an American track and field athlete who won six Olympic medals in four consecutive games, beginning in 1984. “He has the ability, he’s humble and he’s very good at what he does.”

The Olympians’ second most popular choice was basketball player Michael Jordan whose list of achievements included two Olympic gold medals, from the 1984 and 1992 U.S. men’s team. He retired from competition in 2003.

“He was clearly physically gifted, but he never rested on that. … He still trained and pramjordan.jpgcticed harder than anybody else, mastering a sport and dominating a league in which every player demonstrated exceptional ability,” said Kerri Strug, an American gymnast who won a bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games and a gold in 1996 at Atlanta.

 The Olympians came up with 11 other idols – versatile U.S. athlete Jim Thorpe, boxer Muhammad Ali, track and field athletes Jesse Owens, Edwin Moses,  Jackie Joyner-Kersee, tennis player Martina Navratilova, surfer Laird Hamilton, swimmer Donna de Varona,  gymnast Paul Hamm, cyclist Lance Armstrong, Ethiopian athlete Meseret Defar,  decathlon champion Bill Toomey, basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and American football quarterback John Elway.

Can you name the perfect athlete?

Pictures: Tiger Woods by Mike Blake and Michael Jordan by Robert LeSieur


Professional surfer Kelly Slater. His sport isn’t as well known as others, but among the surfing cognoscenti, Slater, an 8-time world champion is acknowledge as a freak of nature.

Posted by Diego Montero | Report as abusive

How about current U.S. (and maybe Olympic in the near future)decathlon champ Brian Clay? The man is only about 5’11″ and 180 and yet he has the best ever discus throw done in a decathlon of somewhere around 181′ feet. An awful lot of much larger decathllon guys haven’t been able to throw that far. His shotput (over 53 feet) and javelin (around 235′) are not shabby either considering his relatively small size. Plus his sprinting and long jumping are great and his best high jump is nearly a foot over his height.

Posted by Herb Stein | Report as abusive

I would say Michael Jordan because he was great in every phase of his sport, he was extremely consistent, he always played his best in the most critical situations and he was a great representative of his sport off the field. You really can’t compare Tiger Woods to MJ, because the talent pool of basketball players compared to golfer is like 1000 to 1; golf is an elite sport, but everyone plays basketball.

Posted by TrackCoach | Report as abusive

Ashton Eaton…have you seen him?


Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Haile Gebrselassie

Posted by Monica | Report as abusive

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