When it comes to naming legends from the world of sport, there are plenty of star performers to choose from. We’ve put together a list of our favourite sporting heroes – but who has made it into our top fifteen and why?
Our Top 15 Sporting Heroes:
1. Muhammad Ali
It wasn’t just boxing fans who were affected by the death of Muhammad Ali in June 2016. The former Olympic gold medallist and heavyweight champion was adored across the globe. Formerly known as Cassius Clay, Ali was famous for speaking out against racism, as well as for beating George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” and Joe Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manilla”.
2. Don Bradman
When it comes to impressive cricket stats, nobody has the edge on Don Bradman. The Aussie, nicknamed “The Don”, famously recorded a batting average of 99.94 during the course of his twenty year career, and he also scored a whopping 6996 test match runs. A true sporting hero!
The only footballer to have been part of three World Cup winning teams, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pelé, scored 1281 goals during the 1363 matches he played in during his career, earning himself a place in any list of the world’s greatest sporting heroes.
4. Roger Federer
Known for his poise and elegance on the court, Federer has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles, earning himself a Career Grand Slam in the process. The Swiss tennis player has also spent a record-breaking 302 weeks ranked as the world’s number one.
5. Carl Lewis
Usain Bolt may be the world’s fastest man at the moment, but Carl Lewis is still the King of track and field events. Lewis matched Jesse Owens’ achievements, when he won gold medals in every event he entered at the 1984 Olympic Games (the 100 metres, 200 metres, 4 x 100m relay and the long jump).
6. Ayrton Senna
Although Michael Schumacher won seven Formula One World Championships, Ayrton Senna was the greatest driver of all time for many motor racing fans. Known for his fierce rivalry with Alain Prost, Senna won the Championship three times, but was killed during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, aged just 34.
7. Sugar Ray Robinson
Often cited as being “the greatest pound for pound fighter in history”, Sugar Ray Robinson inspired a generation. The first fighter to win a world championship division five times, his record of 173 wins in 200 fights, 108 by KO, still looks impressive today.
8. Eddy Merckx
With 525 career race victories, including eleven Grand Tour wins (five in the Tour de France, five in the Giro d’Italia and one in the Vuelta a Espana), “The Cannibal”, as the Belgian cyclist was known, dominated track and road cycling for years.
9. Bjorn Borg
With his long, blonde locks and headbands, Bjorn Borg was one of the most widely recognised sportsmen of the 1970s. When he retired in 1982, aged just 26, he’d racked up a record-breaking eleven Grand Slam singles titles, claiming the French Open trophy six times and the Wimbledon title on five occasions.
10. Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova is the only tennis player to have been ranked as World Number One in both singles and doubles for more than 200 weeks. During her 31 year professional career, she won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, plus a host of doubles’ trophies.
11. Valentino Rossi
A nine-time Grand Prix World Champion (having claimed the MotoGP World Championship trophy seven times, as well as winning one 250cc and one 125cc World Championship title), Valentino Rossi is widely considered to be the greatest motorcycle racer of all time. “The Doctor”, as he’s known, is still competing too. Truely one of our greatest sporting heroes!
12. Haile Gebrselassie
The Ethiopian long-distance runner triumphed in the 10,000 metres at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, and is a four-time World Champion in the same event. He also won the Berlin Marathon on four consecutive occasions and claimed four World Indoor Championship gold medals.
13. Steve Redgrave
The British rower made history in Sydney in 2000, when he claimed his fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal and became the most successful rower in the history of the Games. A nine-time World Rowing Champion, he has won three Commonwealth Games’ gold medals too.
14. Daley Thompson
With two Olympic gold medals, three Commonwealth Games’ golds, one World Championship title and two European Championship wins to his name, Daley Thompson is often considered to be the greatest ever male decathlete.
15. Steffi Graf
Truly the golden girl of tennis, Steffi Graf is the only player to have achieved a Golden Slam – that is, to have won an Olympic gold medal and each of the four Grand Slam tournaments in the same calendar year.
What do you think about our list of sporting heroes? Is there anyone else that you think deserves a place in the top fifteen? Let us know in the comments section.