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||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.|
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
Commenting is closed on this page, though you can read some previous comments below which may answer some of your questions.
- Mitchell (2013)
Usain Bolt all the way he is the worlds best of all time :D
- Ozzie gunn (2013)
usian is the fastest and the best runner on the planit he can proboly catch a car up
- Mac Davis (2017)
Suspected drug cheats shouldn't be in the conversation....Kersee and Griffith-Joyner.
- SLMeyer (2014)
How can the female list possibly leave off Helen Stephens, who won two golds In the 1936 Olympics, then was denied competing in the '40 and '44 years because of WWII. Her 11.5 seconds in the 100 meters wasn't beaten until Wilma Rudolph beat it in 1960.
- Izzard Clips SLMeyer (2019)
It was a wind-aided time.
- John W Jackson Jr. (2018)
Maybe it should be mentioned that Wilma Rudolph contracted polio when she was 4 years old and was told she would never walk again. Her nickname is the Tennessee Tornado.
As for Edwin Moses, the fact that he won 122 consecutive matches should be noted.
- Big E (2018)
Paavo Nurmi, nough said!
- James Klampe (2017)
How do you leave off STEVE PREFONTAINE- arguably the greatest distance runner in American track history????? He owned every distance record from the 2000 to the 10000 meters for a good long time???
- Thomas (2016)
Ashton Eaton from the USA. Best overall athlete of all time as he holds the men's decathlon World Record
- Amanda Nemaric (2016)
Bolt, Great. Cuthbert the only female (or male ) athlete to win Olympic gold in 100 200 and 400. Apologies to Blankers-Koen, world record holder in SEVEN different events.
- Horatio1313 (2015)
Why do Americans keep overlooking Michael Johnson as one of the greatest athletes ever? And how can you include suspected drug users in any list? Fanny Blankers-Koen was inducted as the greatest female athlete of the 20th century - surely she still ranks as contender for best female athlete ever?
- Professorpat (2015)
- John (2015)
Glenn "jeep" Davis?
How can he be left off of this?
- 45piston (2015)
so what about Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce?She has been dominant since 2008
- [email protected] (2014)
I respect Jackie Joyner Kersee and Flo Jo a great deal.
- Tyreece Williams (2013)
blake is going to be the next world fastsest
- Hammond Hitane Tyreece Williams (2019)
Said Aouita from Morocco the first athlete in Track and field history did run under 13:00 in 5000 M,and the only one did run from 400 m to 10:000 m +cross country. How can not be in list of Legends of all time.
- HERB MC'KENLEY. ONLY MAN TO REACH THE 100 200 400 FINALS IN THE OLYMPICS
- Herb Elliot (from Frank, Feb 2013)
- Peter Snell is the only man to win both the 800m and 1500m at the same Olympics (Tokyo 1964) (from oman, Jan 2013)
- Your list is the worst i have seen ... complete joke
- How could you leave my uncle bullet Bob Hayes, the only man in history to win a gold medal and an Olympic gold medal, not to mention being inducted into the pro football hall of fame. (from Booker Redmond, Nov 2012)
- Hahaha!! Saïd Aouita completely forgotten?? He domiated for almost 15 years with a range of distances only a demigod could begin to dream of. Oh wait a minute! He was just an Arab and a Muslim. Forget what I said! (from Pim, Sept 2012)
- Daley Thompson? Undefeated in the Decathon for 9 years including two Olympic golds and the world european and commonwealth titles. Holder of 4 world records? (from Lee, Aug 2012)
- One of the greatest athlets of all time, must be Wilson Kipketer (DEN). The man was undefeated in 33, 800 meter runs, in a row ... Undefeated in a tree year-period. And still holds the 800 and 1000 meter indoor record. (from Christoffer Hansen, Aug 2012)
- Hi, I think you missed some great names of male T&F athletes (from Pesho, Dec 2011). I suggest these athletes should be surely included in your list. Moreover you could think about Sebastien Coe, Wilson Kipketer, Jeremy Wariner, Juergen Schult, Virgilijus Alekna, Randy Barnes, Sergey Litvinov, Viktor Saneyev, Roman Sebrle, Mike Powell:
- 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.