Every athlete dreams of becoming the world’s number one in their respective field. Naturally, by the very nature of the beast, most do not make it to the top. However, some athletes seem to have an almost unnatural ability to excel. A mixture of genetics, unrivalled dedication, and a sheer will to win drives them to the summit of their sport and keeps them there for years on end.
Over the years, some athletes have not only become world beaters but have dominated their sport. Some of them have been unbeatable, literally, essentially guaranteed a gold medal at the Olympics or World Championships. Here are three such dominant superstars.
Finland was once known as the producer of elite middle-distance and long-distance runners during the 1920s, thanks to one man, Paavo Nurmi. Had the online sports betting site BetNow been active during Nurmi’s career, he would undoubtedly be an overwhelming favourite in every race he ran because he was that good. Born in Turku, Finland, in June 1897, Nurmi became interested in running aged 15 following the Olympic success of fellow Finn Hanes Kolehmainen. Nurmi embarked on a strict training regime, and by the age of 23, Nurmi was ready to compete in his first Summer Olympics.
Nurmi returned home from Antwerp with three gold medals in the 10,000m, team cross-country, and individual cross-country events. It was over 10,000m that Nurmi was unbeatable. Indeed, he went his entire career never losing a race over 10,000m!
During the peak of his career, Nurmi won 121 consecutive races from 800m upwards and ended his career with nine Olympic gold and three silver medals, in addition to 21 official world records. To this day, Nurmi is the only athlete to hold the world record for the mile, 5000m and 10,000m simultaneously.
There was a time when you may as well have handed the 400m hurdles victory to American Edwin Moses because nobody could beat him over that distance. The Ohio native developed a unique running style that saw him take only 13 steps between hurdles, with rivals usually taking 15. It was a technique that worked wonders because Moses made the 400m hurdles his own, winning an astonishing 122 consecutive races.
Moses had already broken the world record twice when he lost to West Germany’s Harald Schmid on August 26, 1977; he did not lose another race for precisely nine years, nine months, and nine days. Fellow American Danny Harris beat Moses in Madrid in June 1987, by which time Moses had set two world records and won a hatful of medals. He finished his career with eight golds and one bronze medal; he even won bronze in a World Cup bobsled race in 1990!
Carl Lewis is one of the most decorated athletes of all time, with a total medal haul of 22 golds, three silvers, and three bronzes, with nine of those golds coming at the Olympic Games. Lewis found he had a penchant for the long jump when he was a teenager, and he broke the high school long jump record with an 8.13m leap. He graduated from high school in 1979 and was ranked fifth in the world for the long jump by the end of that year. Lewis went undefeated in 65 consecutive long jump competitions and his world record indoor 8.79m leap set in 1984 is still the world record today.
On top of dominating the men’s long jump, Lewis was an incredible sprinter, too. He set world records in the 100m, the 4x100m, and the 4x200m relays. Lewis is one of only six Olympic athletes to win a gold medal in the same individual event in four straight Olympic Games, the others being Paul Elvstrom, Al Oerter, Kaori Icho, Michael Phelps and Mijain Lopez.