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Greatest American track & field athlete ever

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  • Greatest American track & field athlete ever

    In the spirit of having more directed track talk, here's a good debate. Who is the greatest American track & field athlete ever? Qualifications to consider are Olympic medals, U.S. championships, World Championships (even though they only go back 20 years), world records, and maybe other intangible qualities. A few nominees:

    Michael Johnson
    Carl Lewis
    Frank Shorter (if you want to include the marathon)


    Others?

  • #2
    Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

    Shorter ??

    As good as Frank was, I don't think he qualifies as one of the best ever. How 'bout Oerter?

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    • #3
      Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

      Al Oerter's 4 consecutive Olympic golds are better than Carl, Jesse, etc, because he was NOT the favorite in at least 3 of the 4.

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      • #4
        Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

        Yeah, but Carl has 9 gold spread over 3 different events (4 if you include the relay) !!

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        • #5
          Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

          It is not even close. It's Carl.

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          • #6
            Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

            Since it is impossible to have any relevant discussion without guidelines and other parameters, may I recommend that the moderator of this chatroom eliminate this and all other 'greatest' topics or at least move them to the 'historical' list.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

              >Since it is impossible to have any relevant
              >discussion without guidelines and other
              >parameters, may I recommend that the moderator of
              >this chatroom eliminate this and all other
              >'greatest' topics or at least move them to the
              >'historical' list.

              People complain about the food threads and other non-sense, so I try to start a thread with reasonable debate about track. Well, someone gripes about that, too. Yeah, it may be hard to establish guidelines and parameters for such discussion. That's what makes debating them so great. You state your case, I state mine, we debate about it, and neither of us is undisputably correct. That's what makes for great sports discussions. If we have to have parameters, what are we suppossed to do? Debate the world leader lists? That might go something like this: I think XYZ has the best mark in event ABC. No, you're wrong! Such debate would be silly because world lists are in black and white. It's the undefinable that makes sports debates fun.

              I thought we wanted more track threads. If not, bring on the food guy.

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              • #8
                Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

                >Since it is impossible to have any relevant
                >discussion without guidelines and other
                >parameters, may I recommend that the moderator of
                >this chatroom eliminate this and all other
                >'greatest' topics or at least move them to the
                >'historical' list.


                errrr...this is the historical site....has to be Carl (unfortunately)...

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                • #9
                  Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

                  Apologies...just noticed gh just moved it here.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

                    My vote for Greatest T&F American Athlete is

                    1) Carl Lewis (noone even close in my book, he dominated the world for over a decade in several events, at top speed he may be the fastest man God has ever created)

                    But MJ's 200 might be the greatest single performance of all-time (maybe Beamon's LJ was close)

                    But the greatest american athlete ever was Jim Thorpe, he just didn't compete in track very long.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

                      This is old news, but given the conditions, Bob Hayes' Oly anchor was the fastest anyone has ever run.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

                        Carl Lewis and Al Oerter were both incredible competitors, both winning Oly Gold in the same event four times. That's incredible when you factor in all the things that can go wrong, whether it's injuries, age, etc. Amazing. Carl jumped his best when Powell broke the LJ record in that epic battle in Tokyo. He didn't win, but he came through with his best ever. Oerter pulled the same thing out of a hat time and time again.

                        Carl gets the nod because of his versatility, with big Al in second. And I'm a middle/long distance fan!

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                        • #13
                          Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

                          What's this "unfortunately" Carl Lewis crap?

                          I know people think I get hung up on World Rankings, but they're a great way to boil complex seasonal records down to a single number. So consider this:

                          The only athletes that ranked ahead of Lewis in the 100m between 1981 and 1988 served suspension time for doping offenses.

                          No one has scored more rankings points in a single running event than Carl Lewis has in the 100m.

                          No one has scored more rankings points in a single event that Carl Lewis has in the LJ (not even Bubka).

                          Between 1984 and 1991, Lewis was five-for-five in the OG and WC 100m.

                          Lewis held low-altitude (i.e., real) WRs for 100m, 200m, and LJ -- at one point, he held all three.

                          Lewis had Mike Powell so psyched out that when Powell set the WR, he didn't celebrate until Lewis was done -- he still says to this day he was convinced he'd have to break it again in order to beat Carl. Even in losing, Lewis put up four of history's seven longest jumps (up to that point).

                          And then, of course, there are those 4 OG wins in the LJ (plus two WC) and a really long winning streak.

                          If your definition of "greatest" is to be at the top in multiple events for an unreasonably long time, then it can't be anyone but Lewis. If you're looking at simple dominance of a single event, then it's probably Bubka or Moses (and Bubka had too many OG failures).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

                            >>Lewis had Mike
                            >Powell so psyched out that when Powell set the
                            >WR, he didn't celebrate until Lewis was done --
                            >he still says to this day he was convinced he'd
                            >have to break it again in order to beat Carl.>

                            Terrific stats, backing up what's a slam-dunk conclusion: Carl is so clearly the best that you can't even see 2nd-place behind him.

                            But the Powell-no-celebrate thing didn't happen. As one who was there, I can tell you that he--like everybody else in the stadium not named Carl Lewis--went beserko. Not as beserko as he did after Lewis's last jump, bearhugging the judge, but he was massively demonstrative. How could he not have been?

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                            • #15
                              Re: Greatest American track & field athlete ever

                              Reread your T&FN from November 1991. He was happy, but he was reserved. He was quoted there, as well as in subsequent interviews, as immediately thinking it wouldn't hold up.

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