This week's Ten on Tuesday theme is favorite Olympians of all time. Let me first say that this list has my favorite Olympic athletes of all time. Gotta root for the Old Blues! Athletes like Michele Granger (softball), Joy Fawcett (soccer), Chris Huffins (decathlon), and Mary T. Meagher (swimming) reached the very top level but won't ever make the "world's best" lists. Beyond that, here are the ten Olympians that struck me as I was thinking about this question. In no particular order:
- Jesse Owens
With four gold medals in 1936, Owens showed the world that Hitler's idea of a "master race" was truly full of shit.
- Bruce Jenner
The definitive Wheaties box icon, Jenner was magic in 1976. What bigger accomplishment than gold in the decathlon, in our bicentennial year? Wikipedia credits him with starting the "victory lap with flag" trend. And who could forget the hair? I was nine that year, and the Olympics were everything magical about sports.
- Carl Lewis
What an athlete. Had a reputation for being self centered and egotistical, but nine gold medals is an incredible achievement. (Maybe not for you kids whose only Olympic memory is watching Michael Phelps' mom in the Water Cube. She's probably the only woman to get more TV time from NBC than Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor.)
- Dorothy Hamill
Another 1976 Olympian, Hamill is the icon for me from the winter Olympics that year. I don't remember much about her or the competition, to be honest.
- Mia Hamm
Gorgeous and unstoppable, a remarkable soccer player who owned the world of women's soccer for years. She deserves to be named among the sport's greatest of all time.
- Matt Biondi
A Cal grad who lived just up the street from me in Berkeley while I was in school there, Biondi had this amazing wingspan and was genuinely liked across campus. I didn't know him, but his reputation was as a good guy. He has eight gold medals from 1984 to 1992.
- Natalie Coughlin
Another Cal swimmer, we all know Natalie from this year's relentless swimming TV coverage. A charmer who seems genuinely thrilled with any medal she achieves, she's also a local girl who went to high school a mile away from here.
- Nadia Comaneci
Three years before Bo Derek's famous movie, Nadia was the first ever perfect 10. She is now a huge philanthropist and volunteer advocate.
- The 1984 US hockey team
We all know the story. Coached by Kurt Russell, this team achieved a "miracle" by winning gold at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1984. UPDATE: Uh, duh. Make that "we all know the story except me, because the real year was 1980. Doofus."
One of the original Olympians, Artemis was not allowed to compete in the original all-male competitions. She would surely have won gold in all the archery events if she had, however.