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.

Jim ThorpeJim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympic Games

The Greatest Male Track and Field Athletes

name notes
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 His 1968 Olympic Games long jump record is regarded as the most exceptional single performance in the history of athletics
Bruce Jenner Decathlete from from the USA.
Carl Lewis 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.
Haile Gebrselassie

Jesse Owens

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.
Lasse Viren Finland
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
Paavo Nurmi 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.
Ray Ewry USA
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

name notes
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.

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Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

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