Who is the All-Time Greatest from Track & Field?
We are compiling a list of the greatest athletes from the sport of track and field, which will then be voted on and the winner placed on the shortlist of the all time greatest athlete ever (all sports). The first stage is to get nominations for track and field before the vote is started.
See the current list below of top athletes, compiled using other published lists and visitor feedback. See the IAAF Hall of Fame for another list of greatest athletes of all time. If you believe that there is someone missing from this list, please place a comment below, including any relevant details about the person.
Athletics (Track & Field) Greatest
The athletes below are listed alphabetical order - once the shortlist is complete then you will be able to vote for who you think is the greatest of all. We have separate lists for male and female athletes. These lists are not complete - if you know of someone who should be listed here, let us know using the comment form below.
The Greatest Male Track and Field Athletes
|Abebe Bikila||Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame. From Ethiopia|
|Adhemar da Silva||Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame. From Brazil|
|Al Oerter||Discus thrower. Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame. From the USA.|
|Bob Beamon||long jumper|
|Bruce Jenner||Decathlete, from the USA.|
US Long Jump and 100m specialist from the '80s and '90s. He won nine Olympic gold medals in the long jump and sprints. Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame.
|Edwin Moses||400m Hurdler. Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame. From the USA|
|Emil Zatopek||A long distance runner from Czechoslovakia. Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame.|
ground breaking USA sprinter and long jumper who competed at the Olympics just once, in 1936, winning 4 gold medals. Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame.
|Jim Thorpe||In the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon.|
|Michael Johnson||USA sprinter. Held world record in 200m for 12 years from 1996 to 2008, and is still the current world-record holder in 400m (set in 1999). First man to win gold medal in 200m and 400m in the same Olympics|
Finnish middle-distance runner from the 1920s, winner of 12 Olympic medals in track and field (9 of them gold). Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame.
|Sergei Bubka||Russian Pole Vaulter|
|Usian Bolt||Current world record holder in the 100m|
|Ville Ritola||A Finnish long-distance runner, he won eight Olympic medals in the 1920s.|
The Greatest Female Track and Field Athletes
|Babe Didrikson-Zaharias||At the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, she won gold in both the 80-meter hurdles and javelin, and took silver in the high jump.|
|Betty Cuthbert||Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame. From Australia|
|Fanny Blankers-Koen||In 1999 the IAAF voted her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century. From the Netherlands. Sprinter and hurdler who won 4 gold medals in the 1948 London Olympics.|
|Florence Griffith-Joyner ("Flo-Jo")||Won three gold mdeals at the 1988 Olympic Games. Still holds the world records she set in 1988 for both the 100 meters and 200 meters|
|Irena Szewinska||Polish sprinter who won seven Olympic medals (three of them gold). She participated in five Olympic games, broke 10 world records, and is the only athlete, male or female, to have held a world record in the 100m, 200m, and the 400m.|
|Jackie Joyner-Kersee||4-time Olympian and 6-time Olympic medalist from the USA who twice won gold in the Heptathlon. Sports Illustrated voted her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century. Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame.|
|Shirley Strickland||Female sprinter from Australia|
|Wang Junxia||Named in the IAAF Hall of Fame. Long distance runner from China|
|Wilma Rudolph||In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games.|
- See the IAAF Hall of Fame for another list of greatest athletes of all time.
- more about track and field
- all time greatest index of sports
- other sport specific lists
- more about the World of Sport
- Jan Zelezny - 3 Olympic titles, 3 world titles, total of 9 medals from major championships (Olympic and world). He is world record holders for more than 18 years and he holds the 5 best javelin throws in the history
- Kenenisa Bekele - currently the biggest long distance runs star. He is world record holder since 2004 in both 5000 and 10000m. Bekele is the only athlete with doubles 5000-10000m at Olympic Games and World championship. With 8 major track titles and more than 10 cross country gold medals, the Ethiopean is the most dominant long distance runner of XXI century.
- Yuriy Sedikh - Olympic champion in 1976 and 1980 plus bronze medal 1988, additionally world champ gold medal in 1991 in hammer throw. In 1984 he missed the Los Angeled Olympics due to the politial boycott, however in the same year he set one of his 6 world records. Sedikh is world record holder since then.
- Hicham El Guerrouj - between 1997 and 2004, he lost only one major championship at 1500m - in 2000 Sydeny Olympics. However he took his revenge 4 years later in Athens when he won double 1500-5000m,achievemnt not accomplished since 1924. World record holder at 1500m and a mile for more than a decade, and his records might stay at least one more decade.
- Javier Sotomayor - his high jump world record is unbeatable for more than 23 years.Definetely the best high jumper of all times. He is Olympic champion and two time world champion plus 3 more silver medalist at Olympic and World championships.
- Jonathan Edwards - the first man over 18m in triple jump. His records stays since 1995. Edwards won a total of 7 medals from Olympics and World champs, incl. Olympic gold medal in 2000 and two world gold medals in 1995 and 2001.