What you need to know:
- The Kenyan superstar has indicated he will be going for an unprecedented trifecta of marathon golds at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
- If he also adds the one global title he has never claimed – a World Athletics Championships marathon crown, then, why, he will become more than just the greatest marathon runner in history.
Who is the greatest sportsperson of all time?
I ask again, this time using the widely used acronym, who is the GOAT in sports?
It is impossible to pick one particular individual and bestow on them such a sweeping and definitive title for the simple reason that there are many different sports, with diverse followers, located in varied geographical regions, all possessing particular preferences and prejudices.
But even in this diverse mix, from archery to XC mountain biking , basketball to yachting, and cross country running to zorb football, there are a specially selected sportspersons, invariably male, who have broken all boundaries of choice with their near superhuman achievement to appeal to our mass affection, do demand the title of GOAT.
American boxer, the late Mohammed Ali, is often regarded as the greatest of them all.
Ali fought in some of the most famous and hugely anticipated heavyweight bouts the world has ever seen including the “Fight of the Century” vs Joe Frazier , “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman, and “Thrilla in Manila” versus Joe Frazier.
The outspoken, mouthful Ali, even famously declared, “I am the greatest” on February 25, 1964, after thumping the heavily favoured Sonny Liston in six rounds to become the world heavyweight champion.
According to a fan poll site TheTopTens in July this year, former NBA superstar Michael Jordan was voted the greatest sportsperson of all time.
Jordan is widely regarded as the best basketball player ever born, even though LeBrone James fans, and the man himself, may think otherwise.
Jordan won six NBA titles with Chicago Bull and five NBA Most Valuable Player awards and appealed beyond America, where he primarily plied his trade.
Pele as the world’s greatest would resonate well with Kenyans, and many worldwide as football is easily the most followed sport in the globe.
Unlike usurpers to his throne – Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Brazilian football legend won a record three Fifa World Cups – in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
Aptly, Fifa labelled him simply, “The Greatest”.
Jamaican speed merchant Usain Bolt would be another obvious GOAT with his unmatched feats in track and field that transcends all sports.
Bolt, an athletics star like no other, is the fastest human being in history with a stupendous time over 100m of 9.58 seconds set in 2009.
He is also the 200m world record holder with a time of 19.19 seconds, also set in 2009.
The Jamaican, at the same time, holds the world record in the 4x100 metres.
Winning treble gold medals – 100m, 200m, 4x100m, at the 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics, and double gold – 100m, 200m, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics puts Bolt at the pedestal of greatness.
For good measure, he also won 11 World Athletic Championships gold medals.
To the GOAT list, you could consider: tennis star Serena Williams of the USA with the most Grand Slam titles -- 23, of the modern era, English ace driver Lewis Hamilton, with a record equalling seven Formula One GP drivers’ championships titles, American Jack Nicklaus, who has won an unparalleled 18 major golf championships titles.
However, in my book, there is one man that is well on his way to surpassing all other great sportspersons alive, and those that may have lived: Eliud Kipchoge.
On Sunday, the 37-year-old Kenyan long distance running legend broke his own world record with an incredible time of 2 hours 1 minute and 9 seconds.
This was 30 seconds inside his previous record of 2:01:39 set in Berlin four years ago on the same course.
Incredibly, that time was one minute 20 seconds inside fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto's 2014 record of 2:02.57, also set in Berlin.
Indeed, as was predicted, Kipchoge virtually raced against the clock after dropping all his pacesetters by the 25km mark and then saw off the brave but ultimately doomed challenge of Ethiopia’s Andamlak Belihu after 27 km.
Amazingly, Kipchoge has won 15 of the 17 marathons he has raced in since his debut over the distance in 2013.
He is the only human being to have run under the mystic two hours, scorching the roads of Vienna in Australia during the “Ineos 1:59 Challenge” with a time of 1:59.40.
However, the time is not officially recognized because World Athletics competition rules were not observed.
Only the third man
Kipchoge won the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games marathon to become only the third man to win back-to-back Olympic marathon gold medals, after Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila (1960, 1964) and East Germany’s Waldemar Cierpinski (1976, 1980).
I do not see Kipchoge’s road running achievements surpassed by another human being anytime soon.
The Kenyan superstar has indicated he will be going for an unprecedented trifecta of marathon golds at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
If he also adds the one global title he has never claimed – a World Athletics Championships marathon crown, then, why, he will become more than just the greatest marathon runner in history.
Kipchoge of the “no man is limited” fame will truly soar to become THE greatest sportsperson of all time.
Kip, you GOAT!