Daley's top 10 world Olympians: Legend's list of the best from around the globe
01:55 GMT, 28 July 2012
Sportsmail's Daley Thompson chose his top 10 Olympians from across the ages and iconic artist Paul Trevillion was on hand to put pencil to paper.
1. Carl Lewis (USA)
Los Angeles 1984: Gold 100m, Gold 200m, Gold 4x100m relay, Gold long jump.
Seoul 1988: Gold 100m, Silver 200m, Gold long jump.
Barcelona 1992: Gold 4x100m relay, Gold long jump.
Atlanta 1996: Gold long jump
Just so, so good. I don’t even like the fella and he has to make my list. He was the fastest man on earth and easily the best long jumper, but the only chink in his athletic armour was that he never broke the long jump world record. Mike Powell beat him to it, which was a travesty. Lewis was so physically capable I can't believe he didn't do it.
2. Viktor Saneyev (USSR)
Mexico City 1968: Gold triple jump. Munich 1972: Gold triple jump. Montreal 1976: Gold triple jump. Moscow 1980: Silver triple tump.
For me, this is the most physically demanding event. The training for it is really tough. Four Games, three golds, enough said.
3. Birgit Fischer (East Germany/Germany)
Moscow 1980: Gold canoeing K-1 500m. Seoul 1988: Gold K-2 500m, Gold K-4 500m, Silver K-1 500m. Barcelona 1992: Gold K-1 500m, Silver K-4 500m.
Atlanta 1996: Gold K-4 500m, Silver K-2 500m. Sydney 2000: Gold K-2 500m, Gold K-4 500m. Athens 2004: Gold K-4 500m, Silver K-2 500m.
Sickness has robbed Birgit of competing at the highest level for 32 years of Olympic Games. She was supposed to be here this summer going for gold after winning her first in 1980. To reach the pinnacle every four years for so long is phenomenal, which is why she’s one of my top non-British Olympians. Incredible.
4. Jim Thorpe (USA)
Stockholm 1912: Gold pentathlon, Gold decathlon.
King Gustav of Sweden described him as ‘the world’s greatest athlete’, which was true until I came along! Now he’s the second greatest athlete. Thorpe’s Native American name of ‘Bright Path’ was pretty cool, too.
5. Lasse Viren (Finland)
Munich 1972: Gold 5,000m, Gold 10,000m. Montreal 1976: Gold 5,000m, Gold 10,000m.
The first bloke to do the ‘double double’. An amazing achievement. He even finished fifth in the marathon just 18 hours after claiming gold in the 5,000m at Montreal. That blows my mind.
6. Dawn Fraser (Australia)
Melbourne 1956: Gold 100m freestyle, Gold 4x100m freestyle, Silver 400m freestyle.
Rome 1960: Gold 100m freestyle, Silver 4x100m freestyle, Silver 4x100m medley.
Tokyo 1964: Gold 100m freestyle, Silver 4x100m freestyle.
Great personality, great athlete. A typical Aussie who worked hard and played hard. Then played some more. Three swimming sprint golds in a row is seriously impressive.
7. Emil Zatopek (Czechoslovakia)
London 1948: Gold 10,000m, Silver 5,000m.
Helsinki 1952: Gold marathon, Gold 10,000m, Gold 5,000m.
I fell in love with this incredible distance runner because of two brilliant stories. When I was little I read about how he’d train by running while holding his breath and that his wife would go out and find him unconscious.
I was also told that Ron Clarke, probably the greatest athlete never to win Olympic gold, went to visit Zatopek and after he left he found that the Czech had slipped one of his gold medals into Clarke’s bag. Classy gesture.
8. Fanny Blankers-Koen (Holland)
London 1948: Gold 100m, Gold 200m, Gold 80m hurdles, Gold 4x100m relay.
After all those years of war and deprivation, the world needed a lift and got one. Fanny was just an ordinary person with extraordinary ability.
9. Jesse Owens (USA)
Berlin 1936: Gold 100m, Gold 200m, Gold 4x100m relay, Gold long jump.
Iconic. To go to Germany at that time and beat the Germans ensures he’s a shoo-in on this list.
10. Mark Spitz (USA)
Mexico City 1968: Gold 4x100m freestyle, Gold 4x200m freestyle, Silver 100m butterfly, Bronze 100m freestyle.
Munich 1972: Gold 100m butterfly, Gold 100m freestyle, Gold 200m butterfly, Gold 200m freestyle, Gold 4x100m freestyle, Gold 4x100m medley, Gold 4x200m freestyle.
I saw from Spitz that you could make a living being an athlete. Everything just added up after I saw him make $1million after he finished competing.
P.S SPECIAL MENTION…
British sports administrator Sir Denis Follows was told not to take a British team to the Moscow Games in 1980 as Margaret Thatcher’s government wanted us to boycott those Olympics. Sir Denis, chairman of the BOA, refused which was certainly good news for Seb and me.