The ancient Olympic Games began in Greece in 776BC, and have been very popular since the inception of the modern Olympics in 1896 and are considered to be the biggest draw. Little wonder then, that it is the track and field contests that see the most intense and powerful performances, the most excitement and the biggest stars.
Carl Lewis (USA)
Frederick Carlton Lewis, the American track and field athlete won nine gold medals in the last two decades of the twentieth century. He first competed in the Olympics in 1984, winning gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter races, as well as in long jump. He was also part of the United States relay team, which finished first in the contest. In his career, Carl Lewis won ten medals -- nine golds and one silver. In 1999, Lewis was chosen one of the century's greatest athletes at a ceremony held by Sports Illustrated. In 2001, he was elected to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Michael Johnson (USA)
Johnson is arguable one of the most popular track athletes of all time. 'The Man with the Golden Shoes' is the first athlete to win both the 200-meter and 400-meter titles at a World Championship, and is still the holder of the 400-meter Olympic records -- he finished the sprint in 43.49 seconds during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He won a total of five Olympic medals -- two at Atlanta in 1996 (200-meter and 400-meter), two at Sydney in 2000 (400-meter, 4 x 400-meter), and one in Barcelona, 1994 (4 x 400-meter). He is the only male athlete to win Olympic gold medals in both the 200-meter and 400-meter races, and the only male athlete to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 400-meter race.
Usain Bolt (Jamaica)
The latest record-breaking Olympic Sprinter, 'Lightning Bolt' has participated in just two Olympic Games so far -- in the years 2004 and 2008. He was the undisputed star of the 2008 Olympics, where he broke the Olympic records for both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, also becoming the first male athlete since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win both titles. As part of the Jamaican relay team, he set the record for the 4 x 400-meter run, becoming the first athlete to break all three records in a single Olympic Games. Bolt, who has many years of competition left in him, is sure to entertain spectators, win more medals and break a few more records along the way.
Florence Griffith Joyner (USA)
Florence Griffith Joyner, or Flo-Jo as she was called, was one of the most colourful and talented athletes to have represented the United States of America. Astonishingly fast, bold and colourful -- Flo-Jo captivated spectators worldwide. In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, she won three gold medals (100-meter, 200-meter, 4 x 100-meter) and one silver medal (4 x 400-meter). She had also won a silver medal at the 200-meter sprint in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. However, Ben Jonson's testing for drug abuse in the Seoul Olympics cast a shadow of doubt on her performances, with many suspecting that her performance and physique both were a result of illegal substances. In 1998, she died of a heart attack at the relatively young age of 38.
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