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The Most Dominant Athletes of All-Time

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This hub highlights some of the most dominant athletes in individualized sports. It does not claim to be exhaustive. If you know of an athlete from an individualized sport who should be included in this review, please feel free to nominate them.

American Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps


Without a doubt, Michael Phelps has been the most dominant Olympic champion in his respective sport. As a swimmer the American Phelps won a record 14 gold medals, including 8 in Beijing in 2008. Moreover, Phelps is poised to add to that total in the upcoming 2012 Games in London. Born June 30, 1985, Phelps excelled in the world championships with 25 gold medals over the span of five world championship efforts.

NASCAR Champion Jimmy Johnson


This past weekend NASCAR race driver Jimmy Johnson won a record fourth consecutive NASCAR championship making him one of the most dominant athletes in his respective sport or event. This hub highlights some of the other athletes from individual events who dominated their sport. They are not presented in any particular order and the list is not meant to be exhaustive.

Steffi Graf, Tennis, 1987-1999


This well deserved nomination comes by way of Edward. During her career, Graf won 22 Slams, the most by any female or male in the sport, recording seven championships at Wimbledon, six at the French Open, five at the U.S. Open and four at the Australian. In 56 Grand Slam events, her record was 282–34 (an amazing 89 percent).

Ivan Mauger, Motorcycle Speedway

Ivan Mauger 15-Time World Champion Motorcycle Speedway Rider

Ivan Mauger 15-Time World Champion Motorcycle Speedway Rider

Born 1939, Ivan Mauger of Christchurch, New Zealand won 15 motorcycle speedway world championships. His career spanned from 1957-1985 during which he won six short-track world championships, three long-track world championships, two world pairs championships, and four world team championships.

Tennis Champion Roger Federer


 Swiss tennis professional Roger Federer has won 61 singles titles including a record 15 Grand Slam events.

Jesse Owens - 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany


Despite severe prejudice by his German hosts, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics.

American Hurdler Edwin Moses


 Edwin Moses was an American 400 meter hurdler who won two Olympic Gold Medals in 1976 and 1984. From 1977 to 1987 Moses won 122 consecutive races including 107 consecutive finals.

American Track Star Carl Lewis


 Carl Lewis won a total of 10 Olympic medals including 9 gold; and 10 World Championships, including 8 gold. His individual events included the 100 and 200 meter dash and the long jump.

NASCAR Champion Richard Petty


The NASCAR legend Richard Petty won seven Winston Cup championships and a record 200 races in all.

NASCAR Driver Dale Earnhardt

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Dale Earnhardt won seven NASCAR championships to tie the King Richard Petty for the most championships ever.

Michael Schumacher


Michael Schumacher, Formula One

Michael Schumacher promoted to Formula One racing in 1991 and raced until he retired in 2012. During his tenure, Schumacher dominated the Formula racing circuit from 1994 to 2004 winning 7 World Championships and 91 races in all.

Giacomo Agostini, World Champion Grand Prix Motorcycles

Born June 16, 1942, Giacomo Agostini was an Italian world champion Grand Prix motorcycle road racer. Born in Brescia, Lombardy, Agostini remains the most prolific Grand Prix champion with a record 122 victories. His racing career spanned from 1964 to 1977 wherein he claimed seven 350cc and eight 500cc world championships.

Valentino Rossi, 7-time MotoGP Champion

Born February 16, 1979 in Urbino, Italy, Valentino Rossi dominated MotoGP racing in the first decade of the 21st Century. Riding his signature Number 46 Bike, Rossi seven MotoGP World Championships from 2001-2009. In all, Rossi is first all-time in the 500cc classification of MotoGP racing with 79 victories and second all-time over all classifications with 105 race wins.

Professional Golf Champion Jack Nicklaus


PGA Champion Jack Nicklaus, also known as the Golden Bear, won 18 Major golf championships (1st all-time) and 73 tournaments in all (2nd all-time to Byron Nelson).

Tiger Woods


Not yet even 35 years old, American professional golfer Tiger Woods is quickly gaining on the all-time greats. Dominant in the world of professional golf since 1996, Woods has won 71 total PGA tour events (3rd all-time); 38 total European events (3rd all-time); and 14 major championships.

American Swimmer Mark Spitz


 In the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, American swimmer Mark Spitz won a record seven gold medals, not surpassed until 2008 by Michael Phelps in Beijing, China.

British Decathlete Daley Thompson


Daley Thompson from the United Kingdom won two Olympic Decathlons in 1980 and 1984.

American Sprinter Michael Johnson


American track star Michael Johnson won four Olympic Gold Medals in two different Olympic Games and is the only person in Olympic history to win two consecutive Oylmpic 400 meter events.

Eddy Merckx, Belgian Cyclist


Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Merckx, better known as Eddy Merckx, was a Belgian former professional cyclist. Cycling magazines such as Vélo and VeloNews regarded him as the most cyclist of all time. He won the famed Tour de France 5 times and each of the most important races in the world at least twice. In all, he posted 19 monument victories. He also won the world championship once as an amateur and three times as a professional.

Czech Javelin Thrower Jan Zelezny


Czech javelin thrower Jan Zelezny won three consecutive gold medals in 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics.

Ukranian Pole Vaulter Sergey Bubka


Sergey Bubka was an Olympic class pole vaulter from the Ukraine. He competed in international pole vault competitions from 1981 to 2001 and broke the world record in the pole vault event 35 times. He won the Olympic Gold medal once, the World Outdoor Championship six times, and the World Indoor Championship four times.

Russian Greco-Roman Wrestler Aleksandr Karelin


Aleksandr Karelin was a Russian Greco-Roman wrestler who dominated his sporting event by going undefeated from 1987 to 2000. In all he won three Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver medal, and nine World Championships.

Ole Einar Bjorndalen, Biathlon


Ole Binar Bjorndalen, Norway

This entry was nominated by Ellie. Dubbed "The King of Biathlon," Ole Binar Bjorndalen has dominated the winter event in which he specializes. During his career, Bjorndalen of Norway has won 13 Olympic medals (including eight gold); 6 overall world cup titles; and 96 world cup events. The biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.


Mithil Ajgaonkar on August 28, 2017:

How about Lin Dan of China? He's 5 time World Champion and 2 time Olympic Champion in Badminton. He's also known as 'Super Dan'

sajjad haider on May 29, 2015:

how about a guy who during 50 years of his career, was never defeated. Ghulam Muhammad aka Gama Pehalwaan.

Also, you may want to see the dominance of Jahangir Khan - squash

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on April 16, 2015:

Thank you Edward for this nomination. Steffi Graf definitely deserves to be included in this list.

Edward on April 10, 2015:

Steffi Graf. From 1987-1999 Graf won 22 Slams, the most by any female or male in the sport, recording seven championships at Wimbledon, six at the French Open, five at the U.S. Open and four at the Australian. In 56 Grand Slam events, her record was 282–34 (an amazing 89 percent)

srab on August 18, 2014:

Jan and Jiri Pospisil have 20 titles in Cycle Ball.....

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on July 31, 2014:

Thank you Anon...sounds like an excellent add to this list.

anon on July 30, 2014:

Nicol David world No.1 women's squash player for last 8 years. Won.every.single.title.available.

Papi on May 29, 2014:

John brzenk dominated armwrestling for 25 years destroying much bigger guys.....he has to be on this list

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on March 11, 2014:

Thank you Ellie, for your excellent ideas and suggestions. I will remove Armstrong and look into the others. I appreciate your thoughts on this subject.

Ellie on March 10, 2014:

I' m sorry, but I think Lance Armstrong can leave this list now.

And so, you remembered Rossi, what about Schumacher??? Has anyone ever been more dominant than him in F1?!?

And what about winter sports? What about biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, with 13 Olympic medals and 96 world cup victories?!?!?!

What about Bjoern Daehli and Marit Bjoergen in country?!?!?!

isufan on November 02, 2012:

Cael Sanderson NCAA wrestling (159-0 career record)

Straight up perfection in college wrestling

Matt on September 15, 2012:

Anderson Silva - the greatest fighter the world has ever seen.

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on August 27, 2012:

Tb, Thank you for the suggestions. All three of your recommendations sound like fine candidates for this hub.

Tb on August 26, 2012:

What about Kelly Slater, 11 times surfing world champion?

And Sebastien Loeb, 8 consecutive times Rally World Champion, holds virtually every record.

And Michael Schumacher, 7 times Formula One World Champion? Also holds pretty much every record.

John Darby on May 02, 2012:

I've just watched that guy David Foster. what a machine.

John Darby on May 02, 2012:

We have a program called Sportsman of the year and Phil Taylor never made the short list because the BBC only broadcast the BDO world championship who are an inferior Darts league. although many complained. Darts is hand eye coordination, as is golf, archery and fencing. not the most strenuous of sports but still sports.

Nice to see motorcyclist in your list. great site, Thanks

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on May 02, 2012:

Thank you John Darby for the additions. Rossi definitely deserves a mention. I am not sure that darts can be classified as an "athletic" event, but then I did include two golfers which some also exclude as an athletic event.

John Darby on May 02, 2012:

I forgot to mention that Ivan Mauger had won all his championships in a period of speedway at its high against some of the best the sport has ever see, includung Barry Briggs, Ove Fundin, Ole Olsen, Ronnie Moore and Peter Collins that's not including winning three Long Championships. Phil Taylor is playing the best darts players ever and breaking records all the way. Maybe Agostini or Rossi on tarmac with two wheels

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on March 17, 2012:

Richard, Thank you for let us know about the amazing record David Foster. His dominantion of his sport seems unprecedented.

Richard Boyton on March 17, 2012:

David "Big Dave" Foster OAM (born 20 March 1957, Devonport, Tasmania) is a world champion woodchopper, and Tasmanian community figure.

He started woodchopping with his father, George Foster, in 1978, and between them they won the World 600 mm Double-handed Sawing Championship eleven years straight. He and his brother Peter Foster continued competing and winning this event for another ten years, until 1999, making David a world champion 21 years straight. The pair lost in 2000, but re-gained the championship in 2001, after which David's son Stephen took over as his woodchopping partner.

His other achievements in woodchopping include winning the Australian Axeman of the Year award nine times in a row; winning every major woodchopping event in Australia and New Zealand; becoming the first person in sporting history to have won 1000 championships; and been the only axeman to have ever won six out of seven championships at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

acaffe on December 29, 2011:

So you mention Lance Armstrong but not Eddy Merckx????? Completely ridiculous - as Lance, to his credit, would be the first to acknowledge!

tomaroon on December 17, 2011:

Worthy as all these champions are, the most dominant in his sport was undoubtedly Donald Bradman, with a batting average I confidently predict will never be approached, let alone beaten.

I would also give Phil Taylor an honorable mention.

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on December 14, 2011:

anonymous, thank you for dropping by. The athletes featured in this article are all in individualized sports. The feats they accomplished were done without the aide of teammates. I agree that Gretzky and MJ were dominate players, but they could not have accomplished their feats alone. I have long admired Jordan as the best basketball player of any era. However, recently I have begun to question the overall talent of the NBA in the 1990s when Jordan seemed so unstoppable. The Magic-Bird-Dr. J era had ended. Houston had Olajuwon and Utah Malone and Stockton, but there really wasn't much competition for Jordan during his run of six championships and multiple league MVPs. Wayne Gretzky was certainly the Great One, but I'm not sure how much he would have done without Marty McSorley and other Edmonton players to protect his backside. Usain Bolt and the Horse Secretariat do deserve to be in this article.

anonymous on December 14, 2011:

Michael Johnson? Seriously?

Not Wayne Gretsky or Michael Jordan?

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on October 24, 2011:

John, Thank you for the encouraging comments. I looked up these suggestions you made and they do seem worthy of this list. Certainly Michael Schumacher of Formula One racing fame needed no introduction. I looked up Phil Taylor and Ivan Mauger who both seemed to dominate their competitions in darts and motorcycle racing as did John Surtees who is the only person to win racing championships on two wheels and four wheels. Some may object to a dart thrower as an athlet, but they would also object to golf pros being athletes as well.

John Darby on October 24, 2011:

Nice collection of sportstars.

Have you thought of Phil Taylor, Michael Schumacher, Ivan Mauger, Joe Davis and John Surtees. I think I have spelt them correctly.

John D

hlab on December 08, 2010:

Bubka is a true man!

ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on October 15, 2010:

vitalirostoff, thank you for pointing these two out. You are right they were both very dominant in their respective sports. I confess I had never heard of Alexander Karelin because I do not follow wrestling very much, but I have heard of Sergei Bubka and know that he was dominant in the pole vault event. I appreciate your input very much. I will add them to my hub. on October 15, 2010:

What about Sergei Bubka or Alexander Karelin?

Bubka owns every pole vaulting record and has hundreds of world titles under his belt.

Alexander Karelin had the longest undefeated streak in Greco-Roman wrestling. From 1988 to 2000 he didn't have single point scored on him and won every world class and olympic gold medal until his first loss in 2000 resulting in a silver medal at the olympics.

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