This week is Olympics Week!! A full week of all things Olympics. From posts about Olympic athletes to posts about personal reactions about the events to posts about the pageantry itself, this is your virtual one-stop-shopping center for the XXXI Olympiad. Why not dedicate two weeks? Well, I’ll run out of material. I’ll probably run out of material this week. Read on and let’s find out together….
10. Paavo Nurmi
The Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi is the first major track star of the modern Olympics era. He set 22 world records from 1921-1931, winning 9 gold medals through 3 Olympics, was undefeated in races 800m and higher for 121 races, and was undefeated in cross country events and 10,000m. Pretty amazing, huh? So why not higher? Well in this day and age everyone and his mother can beat his times. Oh evolution, a cruel bitch-goddess. Regardless, he was a true Olympic star and the main national hero of Finland to this very day.
9. Michael Johnson
The star of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Michael Johnson crushed all in his two events, the 200m and the 400m (only male to ever do that in history). But that alone is not what makes him special. Other than the fact he won the 400m by almost an entire second (a huge amount by track standards), his 200m time remains one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of the Olympics. 19.32s in the 200m topped the previous world record by more than .3s- the largest improvement ever in the 200m world record. Mathematical models projected this time to come about in the early 2010’s, not 1996. This just doesn’t happen in the sprinting world. If you watch his face at the end of that race, you will understand how amazing and shocking this time was:
8. Oiled-up Naked Guy from Ancient Greece
I am sure there was some guy from ancient Greece who was just simply better than everyone and won all the laurels that were being awarded. He probably dominated wrestling, track, throwing events, jumping, boxing, and equestrian. I am not sure who this guy was; Google can only give me so much, but we all know this guy existed and just dominated everything. I bet Hercules was based on this guy. I also bet he did all of this oiled up and naked.
7. Nadie Comanchi
Not only is she the first woman ever to receive a perfect 10 in an event (uneven bars), not only did she do this at 14, but she is really the main reason why gymnastics became a big thing around the world. Sure there are others than won more medals (Larisa Latynina won the most), but that was at time when gymnastics for women was more about style and prancing around like a ballerina. Nadia made it an athletic event more than anyone, and little girls in 1976 took to that idea. Sort of cool in a way. What is not cool is you have to be a midget to even want to compete at the highest level.
6. Michael Phelps
The only thing more douchy than an Olympic swimmer is an American Olympic swimmer. These guys strut around without a shirt more than Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse. With these guys on the loose, a single guy like myself has no shot. Michael Phelps is the epitome of this.
I know he has a ton of medals, but the Spew does not recognize over half of them. Swimming has waaaaay too many events. Backstroke? Breaststroke? Butterfly? Medleys? So stupid. I know swimmers always say ‘it uses other muscles and skill sets’. Well so does the 100m skip, the 150m running-backwards, the 50m handstand running. Yet none of those are events and you know why? It’s stupid! And so are all non-freestyle events.
That being said, he still has a ton of medals, dominated his sport over 3 Olympics, and definitely deserves to be on this list. I just hope he can cash in some of those 200m Medley golds for a personality or at least a designated driver.
5. Usain Bolt
The fastest man who ever lived. When he broke the 100m record in Beijing running a 9.63 (which he has since lower to an untouchable 9.58), there was actual discussions about how fast a human can physically run. He is a different sprinter. He 6’5, has long strides, yet has the same turnover rate as all other world-class sprinters. He is a physical oddity. His faster split in the 100m clocks him at 32 MPH; faster than all the speed limits in my area. Oh yeah, he broke the ‘unbreakable’ Michael Johnson record in Beijing (19.30, which has since been lower by him to 19.19. 19.19??? Say what?). There is nothing normal about this guy. He is a jump in the evolutionary chain, a new species, a ‘homo-supremous’.
So why not higher? Because he only sprints. No jumps, no 400m, no nothing. Just sprints. And I don’t think he even tries all that hard. I am sure he would be a great 400m or long jumper if he cared. But he doesn’t. So I don’t care to put him above 5. So there!
4. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
The greatest female athlete in history, Jackie Joyner-Kersee was dominant in the heptathlon (arguably the greatest test of athletic ability for women) and competed in every Olympics from 1984-1996, winning 2 golds in the heptathlon and a few more medals in the long jump. What makes this even more remarkable is that the shelf-life of a track athlete, especially a female one, is very short. Yet Jackie was still the clear cut best female athlete for around 10 years. Although she tried to make comebacks later in life that didn’t quite work out (bottomed out trying to play basketball and failed to make the 2000 Olympics), her excellence in her prime should never be forgotten.
3. Carl Lewis
During the Cold War, the US and USSR didn’t like each other much. Even though there was never any true calling to arms during this time, these two countries fought their battles through other means; mostly through other countries but sometimes through athletics. The fact we boycotted their Olympics in 1980 was a real shame, and in turn they boycotted ours in 1984 which was a real shame as well. I would have loved to see Carl Lewis just wipe the floor with everyone in the world, Soviets included.
Carl Lewis was a sort of second-coming of Jesse Owens; 100m, 200m, relay, and long jump guy who was just simply better than anyone. Although seeing Carl dominate was not as poetic as Jesse Owens doing it in front of Hitler, there was a true source of national pride during all of this. It is a different political climate now so a guy like Carl Lewis can’t inspire a nation like you could in the 1980’s, so maybe I have him too high…..
Ten medals. Nine golds. Even winning one in the long jump circa 1996 at the age of 35. 35!! That is ancient by track standards. All of this without an Olympics in 1980, where he definitely would have won a few more medals.
But I think what I like most about him is his singing:
Born from titans, Zeus was the youngest of all the siblings. Being the youngest really helped him out because his mother was getting tired of her man eating all the previous kids. So Mother Rhea hid Zeus and made arrangements for him to be raised by a goat. When Zeus came of age, he paid a visit to his dad Cronus, cut open his belly freeing all of his siblings (none of them fully digested), released all of Cronus’s enemies, married his sister, organized a ‘Justice League’ of sorts stationed at Mount Olympus, and became the ruler of all.
Pretty bad-ass huh? Zeus is truly the O^2: Original Olympian.
Zeus was sort of a jerk at times; raping various mortals, never paying child support, always wanting to be admired by the masses. But there is no doubt that Zeus is one powerful dude.
1. Jesse Owens
All hail the king. We all know the story behind the 1936 Olympics in Berlin; Hitler was using the Olympics as a stage to show the world of Aryan superiority…..well until Jesse Owens decided to make the trip, ran and jumped better than anyone, and finally slapped Hitler’s face with the back of his hand before going back to the US. It was pretty much the greatest moment in the history of Olympics. Yes I know his times or distances don’t stand the test of time, but his cultural impact far exceeds anyone else on this list, including Zeus.
For as great of an athlete and an icon of the sports world as he was, he led a very tragic life post 1936. He always landed on the wrong side of politics (endorsing Alf Landon over FDR, saying FDR snubbed him and not Hitler, belittling the black power salute in 1968), tried to get into sports promoting but failed, and even raced a horse for some money. He finally died of lung cancer (big time smoker for over 35 years) in Tucson, Arizona in 1980. This is not a proper finale for this man.
So I will rewrite the epilogue of his tale and make all of this better….by awarding him #1 spot on the Spew’s greatest Olympians ever!!! A much more fitting ending for this man, don’t you think?