IT’S HARD TO BE the best! And it’s also hard to define “the best,” but allow us to take a shot at identifying the best performers of our 75 years in business.
There were no hard & fast criteria, just our subjective opinion on who made the biggest impact during the window in question, keeping in mind that the opportunity for long careers generally didn’t exist for our first 40 years.
Carl Lewis was chosen as the best of our first 50 years, an honor he repeated at 60 years. In between he was also selected as our Men’s Athlete Of The Century (T&FN, March ’00).
It was hard not to go with Lewis again at 75, but ’08 brought the full-blown emergence of Usain Bolt as a force and in an ultra-close split decision we went with the Jamaican, who was rewarded with this issue’s cover, although he still remains behind Lewis on cover count (see Last Lap).
Women’s Athlete Of The Century Jackie Joyner-Kersee was also our 60-year choice. She hasn’t quite been surpassed yet, so remains the No. 1 woman.
Here are our choices for the bests in overall groupings (see sidebar for our by-event all-star team):
Best World Man: Usain Bolt
Alpha-order Honorable Mentions to Sergey Bubka, Ryan Crouser, Mondo Duplantis, Haile Gebrselassie, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Parry O’Brien, Al Oerter, David Rudisha.
Best World Woman: JJK
HM: Iolanda Balaş, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Gail Devers, Heike Drechsler, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Marita Koch, Irena Szewińska, Anita Włodarczyk.
Best U.S. Man: Carl Lewis
HM: Ryan Crouser, Bob Hayes, Michael Johnson, Edwin Moses, Parry O’Brien, Al Oerter, Jim Ryun.
Best U.S. Woman: JJK
HM: Evelyn Ashford, Mary Decker-Slaney, Gail Devers, Allyson Felix, Madeline Manning, Sanya Richards-Ross, Wilma Rudolph, Kate Schmidt, Jenn Suhr.
Best College Man: Jim Ryun
HM: Edward Cheserek, Gerry Lindgren, Randy Matson, Bobby Morrow, Renaldo Nehemiah, Henry Rono, Tommie Smith.
Best College Woman: Seilala Sua
HM: Amy Acuff, Julie Brown, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Sheila Hudson, JJK, Sally Kipyego, Merlene Ottey.
Best HS Boy: Jim Ryun
HM: Michael Carter, Mondo Duplantis, Gerry Lindgren, Dallas Long, Bob Mathias, Houston McTear, Alan Webb.
Best HS Girl: Mary Decker
HM: Mary Cain, Allyson Felix, Cathy Hammond, Sydney McLaughlin, Kathy McMillan Patty van Wolvelaere, Willye White.