Legends Of The Olympic Games - 1920 To 1952
Muhammad Rameez 1 month ago Tue 22nd June 2021 | 09:30 AM
Here is AFP Sport's first set of five legends of the Games: - Paavo Nurmi: Flying Finn - One of the Olympics' first superstars, Finland's Nurmi dominated the Games in the 1920s, winning nine gold medals and three silvers.
Two days later Nurmi defended his cross-country titles in temperatures in excess of 40C (104F) before the next day winning the 3,000m team race and becoming the first athlete to win five golds at a single Olympics.
It could have been six but Finnish team officials, fearing for his health, refused to allow Nurmi to line up for his 10,000m defence.
He successfully defended the 100m and relay titles four years later in Amsterdam.
In an era which saw only six men's events in the pool, Weissmuller bears comparison to modern greats such as Mark Spitz or Michael Phelps, such was his superiority after innovating the sport with the flutter kick and head-turning breathing.
Weissmuller went on to make even more of a splash in Hollywood, where he starred in 12 Tarzan films with his famous jungle yell.
- Jesse Owens: superstar snubbed - Owens exploded the Nazi-propagated myth of Aryan racial superiority when he won four athletics gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics under the nose of Adolf Hitler.
Just a year earlier the African-American had set five world records and equalled a sixth in the space of 45 minutes in Ann Arbor, including a long jump of 8.13m that would stand unsurpassed for 25 years.
In Berlin, he won the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump, setting three world records and reportedly prompting Hitler to storm out, though the "Buckeye Bullet" later said the Fuehrer had waved to him.
The grandson of slaves, Owens was snubbed by his own president when Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to greet him, a customary honour for returning Olympic champions.
"When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus," Owens said of the racial segregation that existed in the US at the time. "I couldn't live where I wanted." Owens, who died in 1980, has a street and a school named after him in Berlin.
- Fanny Blankers-Koen: athlete of the century - Blankers-Koen defied conventions and blazed a pathway for women's sport when she swept to four golds at the 1948 Olympics as a 30-year-old mother of two.
Any doubts about a mother's suitability to compete were erased when she won every event she entered -- the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4x100m relay.
"One newspaperman wrote that I was too old to run, that I should stay at home and take care of my children," she told the New York Times in 1982.
- Emil Zatopek: unmatched distance treble - Czech Emil Zatopek spoke six languages and "never shut up", according to one miffed rival.
A few days later in the 5,000m, an out-of-sorts Zatopek dropped 100m behind Belgian leader Gaston Reiff before fighting back to miss gold by a whisker.
But his most remarkable victory was in the marathon, which he had never run before but found so easy that he chatted with photographers along the route because, he said, it was "very boring".
Zatopek later fell out of favour with Czech authorities, was assigned to collect refuse in Prague and worked for seven years in a uranium mine.