When it comes to the finest athletes of all time, American athletes have dominated much of the world’s sports. They are a powerhouse of everything it takes to be a great athlete, including speed, accuracy, quickness, determination, endurance, physical ability, and hand-eye coordination.
They are experts in their fields and have achieved great success in their respective sports. While modern American sportsmen are notable and extraordinary, one cannot help but think about famous American athletes like Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens.
Both former track and field athletes made significant contributions to American athletic achievements throughout their careers as sprinters and long jumpers, respectively.
While Lewis had 10 Olympic medals and 10 World Championships to his name, Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Other well-known American athletes include Sanya Richard Ross, Ashton Eaton, Allyson Felix, Justin Gatlin, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Lolo Jones, and many more.
With their record-breaking achievements, their astounding career stats and figures have helped them find their way into history books. This article provides a quick summary of them and other well-known American athletes, their lives, and their sporting careers…
America’s Most Famous 10 Athletes
1. Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens is the most famous American athlete, with an HPI of 81.42. On Wikipedia, his biography has been translated into 76 other languages.
Owens’ specialization was in sprints and long jumps, and he was dubbed, probably the best and most famous athlete in all of track and field history, during his career.
At the 1935 Big Ten track meet of Ann Arbor, Michigan, he established three world marks and tied another one, all in less than an hour— termed the best 45 minutes ever in sports for a performance that has never been surpassed.
2. Louis Zamperini
Louis Zamperini is the second most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 74.88. His autobiography has been translated into 24 languages.
Louis Silvie Zamperini (January 26, 1917 – July 2, 2014) was an Olympic distance runner and World War II soldier from the United States.
In high school, he began running and qualified for the United States in the 5,000 m event for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finishing eighth and setting a new lap record in the process. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces in 1941. On the Pacific, he was a bombardier in B-24 Liberators.
3. Bob Beamon
Bob Beamon is the third most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 72.01. His autobiography has been translated into 46 languages.
Robert Beamon (born August 29, 1946) is a retired American track and field athlete best remembered for setting a world mark in the long jump at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
By leaping 8.90 m (29 ft. 2.5 in.), he smashed the previous mark by 55 cm (21+23 in.), and his world record held for over 23 years until it was broken in 1991 by Mike Powell. The leap is still the Olympic record and the second longest wind permitted jump in history as of 2021.
4. Carl Lewis
Carl Lewis is the fourth most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 71.58. His autobiography has been translated into 67 languages.
Frederick Carlton Lewis is a former track and field athlete from the US who won ten World Championship medals, eight of which were gold, nine Olympic gold medals, and one Olympic silver medal.
His career extended from 1979 until 1996, which is when he earned his last Olympic gold medal. He happens to be one of only six Olympic athletes who has won gold in the same individual event four times in a row.
From 1981 through the early 1990s, Lewis was a strong sprinter and long jumper who routinely dominated the world rankings in the 100 m, 200 m, and long jump events. He established world marks in the 100 m, 4 100 m, and 4 200 m relays, and his indoor long jump world record has remained since 1984.
His 65 straight long jump victories during a ten-year period are one of the sport’s greatest unbeaten runs. Lewis broke 10 seconds for the 100 meters fifteen times and 20 seconds for the 200 meters ten times during his athletic career. Lewis also made 71 long jumps over 28 feet.
5. Dick Fosbury
Dick Fosbury is the fifth most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 70.57. His autobiography has been translated into 34 languages.
Richard Douglas is a former American high jumper who is largely considered as one of the sport’s most important athletes. Along with Debbie Brill and her Brill Bend, he revolutionized the high jump event with a “back-first” method, now known as the Fosbury Flop, which has been adopted by practically all high jumpers today.
His approach was to dash diagonally towards the bar, then curve and jump back over it, giving him a lower center of gravity in flight than previous tactics. He is active in sports and is a member of the World Olympians Association’s executive board.
6. Thomas Burke
Thomas Burke is the sixth most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 70.20. His autobiography has been translated into 39 languages.
Thomas Edmund “Tom” Burke was a sprinter from the United States. He was also the onw who was first Olympic champion in both the 100-meter and 400-meter dashes.
7. Ray Ewry
Ray Ewry is the seventh most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 69.94. His autobiography has been translated into 30 languages.
He was an American track and field athlete who won eight Olympic gold medals as well as two gold medals in the Intercalated Games.
8. Bobby Morrow
Bobby Morrow is the eighth most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 68.28. His autobiography has been published in 35 different languages.
Bobby Joe Morrow was a sprinter from the United States who won three gold medals in the 1956 Summer Olympics. He has been described as “the preeminent sprinter of the 1950s” and the calmest sprinter of all time, even more, relaxed than his hero Jesse Owens.
9. Wilma Rudolph
Wilma Rudolph is the 9th most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 68.28. Her autobiography has been translated into 44 languages.
Wilma Glodean Rudolph was an American sprinter who won gold medals in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, becoming a world-record holder and international sports icon in track and field.
At the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, Rudolph raced in the 200-meter dash and earned a bronze medal in the 4 100-meter relays. She also won three gold medals in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, in the 100- and 200-meter individual races, as well as the 4 x 100-meter relay.
Rudolph was the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Game.
Rudolph, along with other Olympic sportsmen like Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali), Oscar Robertson, and Rafer Johnson who participated in Italy, became international stars as a result of the worldwide television coverage of the 1960 Summer Olympics.
10. Al Oerter
Al Oerter is the tenth most renowned American athlete, with an HPI of 67.50. His autobiography has been translated into 36 languages.
Alfred Oerter Jr. (September 19, 1936 – October 1, 2007) was a four-time Olympic discus throw champion from the United States. He was the first athlete in Olympic history to win 4 gold medals in a row in the same individual event. Oerter is an IAAF Hall of Fame inductee.
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