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.
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.
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.
The Olympics have changed over time, with competitions coming and going, phenoms like Michael Phelps leaving indelible marks on the history of sports, and social issues coming into play. As the years have rolled on, competition has become stiffer, training more intense, and medals have been won on the smallest margins.
Bob Mathias, who competed in track and field for the United States, wasn't content with small margins. He won gold medals in both the 1948 and the 1952 Olympics, at the ages of eighteen and twenty-two respectively. For the 1952 decathlon, he won by 912 points, which, at the time, was the largest margin of victory ever achieved.
He's been called the greatest swordsman ever, and it isn't like we're going to argue. Aladar Gerevich hails from Hungary and competed in fencing, and he won gold medals in the six-straight Olympics – which is even more amazing when you think about the era. During the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, he won the gold as part of the Sabre team and took gold in 1936 for his individual Sabre work. No Olympics were held in 1940 or 1944, but Gerevich was back to his old tricks in 1948, winning gold in the individual and team Sabre competitions.
1952 netted him gold for the team and silver for individuals. He also picked up gold in the team in 1956, and then in 1960, the Hungarian Olympic committee told him he was too old. Risky. Gerevich defeated the entire Sabre team to prove he still had the spark and helped them win team gold.