Who are the Best Athletes in The World?

May 5, 2017

Who is the best athlete in the world? What are the metrics is second question one must ask?  CrossFit games, Tough Mudder, the Decathlon, the Highland Games and the list goes on for events that have their own version of who is the best athlete.   The first thing to look at is to separate all of the contest and come to an agreement on the criteria.

Let’s say we start with basic categories; Speed, endurance, strength, power and hand eye coordination. Then you might want to add flexibility, stamina, balance, quickness and skill.

Let’s start with speed.   Fairly simple?  Who runs the fastest?  The 100-meter dash gives us a clear winner.   Unfortunately, those are track stars that perform that race all year.   Let’s say you put all of candidates on a starting line without those starting blocks and they race 200 meters or 150 meters.  I think that gives all of the non- track athletes a chance.

Endurance is a huge test. Endurance is a solid test for how well conditioned an athlete is.  I think a 1600 or one mile test is too short.   A 5k race is just short and long enough to see how well a runner can pace themselves.    If you start out too quickly you will crash and burn before you get to the last kick of the race.

Strength is wide open because it can be measured in many ways. Most think that weightlifting is fairly obvious as the test that can be accurately measured. If you have ever seen the World’s Strongest Man competition, you see that they have a good cross section of events that display strength. I always thought that athletes pulling trucks and heavy objects showed how much lower body and core strength one person could muster.  

Another strength test I see that blows me away is the gymnast that fully extends their arms in midair using the rings. That’s some crazy strength that also requires balance, endurance and mental toughness.

Power is the combination of speed and strength. In the decathlon this appears in the discus throw and shot put. Any event that combines ability to generate a burst of energy at the same time while moving heavy objects is a good barometer of power. Football defensive lineman are measured on power. They use their ability to use speed, power and technique to blast past the offensive lineman to force their will against the opponent.

The elite athletes can have great speed, power and endurance but its hand eye coordination that can separate the good from the average. What is hand eye coordination? The definition says it is the coordinated control of eye movement with hand movement and the processing of visual input to guide reaching and grasping along with the use of proprioception of the hands to guide the eyes.   In short, athletes with very good eyesight have an advantage in having better eye hand coordination. If you mix that with power and strength, then you have an advanced package of skills. The decathlon comes close to mixing all of the attributes, but it would need some fine tuning to find the best athlete.

In part 2, I will analyze the events such as CrossFit and Tough Mudder. There appears to be new types of events appearing every week. A lot of these events are extreme in nature and are focused on endurance. Stay tuned.