Finnish distance runner, Paavo Nurmi, left his home due to life hardships. He was only 12 when he had to provide for his family, and later he enrolled in the military where he started to flourish as a runner. He is credited for his unique training style- the “even pace” strategy.
He was so fast and successful that he got the nickname “Flying Finn.” But he was also an elusive personality, and was later on referred to as the “Phantom Finn.” All in all, he set 22 world records, won nine gold medals, and three silvers in the Olympics, starting from his debut in the 1920 Summer Olympics. He was one of the richest people in Finland.
There are Olympians, and there are those who even raise themselves farther up the echelon as among the very few elites. Only ten athletes in the world have ever won eight or more gold medals in the Olympics, and Sawao Kato is one of them, as a retired Japanese gymnast. From his Olympic debut in 1968 to 1976, he has won 12 medals, making him one of the best, most successful Olympic athletes of all time.
Kato retired while still on top of his game, defending his title in the parallel bars. He aimed to win an unprecedented third gold medal in the all-around event during the 1976 Summer Olympics but failed, as he was defeated by Nikolai Andrianov. No Japanese Olympian up to this day has more Olympic golds than this legendary gymnast. Sawao Kato worked as a professor at the University of Tsukuba.
It may seem a world away when Caitlyn Jenner used to be known as Bruce Jenner; a period where she was hailed unofficially as the “World’s Greatest Athlete.” In the world of the decathlon, a sport played mainly by male athletes, Jenner won her first Olympic gold medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics.
She set a world record three times, which made her wildly popular, and this would lead to a wide array of offers and career opportunities including TV, film, business, and as a cover model for Playgirl. However, in 2017, she took a course no one had ever expected by undergoing a series of transformation procedures. Now Caitlyn Jenner is one of the most famous transgender women in the world.
At only sixteen years old, William Rudolph from the United States did something amazing: She won the bronze medal for the 400-meter relay. Young athletes are more common now, but in the 1950s, it was much more noteworthy – especially for a black woman. She didn't stop there. At the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, she won three gold medals: the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 400-meter relay.
The English press gave her the nickname “The Tornado,” but that wasn't the only one. The Italian press gave her the nickname La Gazzella Negra (The Black Gazelle) and the French papers called her La Perle Noire, or “The Black Pearl.” Keep an eye out for Jack Sparrow, Rudolph.
From Great Britain, Daley Thompson was a decathlete. The decathlon combines ten different track and field events (deca=ten). There are 100-meter sprints, long jumps, shot puts, javelin throws, hurdles, and long-distance runs as well. In both the 1980 and 1984 Olympic games, Daley Thompson won gold medals for this trial of a competition. This meant that he was the best all-around athlete at both of these worldwide competitions. No mean feat!
In 1988, he ended up finishing fourth, which is still a big accomplishment. There are a few footnotes to know about Thompson's amazing achievements, though: in 1980 the United States sat out, and in 1984 the Russian competitors sat out since both took place during the Cold War.