Where do gymnasts rank among the greatest athletes in history?
One list of the top 100 athletes has no women gymnasts
Nadia made a few other lists, but that’s about it
Deluxe wrote a comment recently, replying to my question, which was something like, Is Nadia still popular in Romania in the sense that just about everybody knows who she is? Deluxe said she was voted among the 10 greatest Romanians. He then guessed (wrongly, but he’s not from America, so that’s fine) that Nadia in Romania might be similar to Carly Patterson in America.
I seriously doubt that if I asked 50 random people on the street if they know who Carly Patterson is, I would get ONE who did. I was alive and well in 2004 and, no, I didn’t watch the Athens Olympics, but I NEVER heard the name Carly Patterson during that summer or any time after it until I started paying attention to gymnastics.
So that got me to thinking: Who are considered America’s top athletes? We have magazines and websites and TV shows that do rankings like this all the time. I wondered if, say, in the top 100 athletes, would any female gymnasts make the list? Because I am POSITIVE that if Romania put a list like that together, several gymnasts, definitely including Nadia, would be on it.
Top 100 U.S. athletes
ESPN did a series called Sport Century, where they began with the top 50 U.S. athletes then later expanded it to 100. I got the list from Wikipedia, just because the format is easier to read.
Not only are there no female gymnasts on the list, there are very few female anythings. The only female Olympians I could find (and it’s possible I missed somebody, because I’m brain dead) were Olympic skater Bonnie Blair, who was number 69, and Babe Zaharias, who did various sports and was in the Olympics and came in at number 10.
I wasn’t surprised that Carly wasn’t on that list, because there are only two types of people in America (that count, anyway): non-gymnastics fans who knew she won the gold medal and stopped giving a shit before the closing ceremonies started; and gymnastics fans who believe Khorkina should have won.
(There is a sub-group of genuine Carly fans, but the numbers are small – far too small to have any influence on Sport Century’s rankings.)
I was a little surprised that Mary Lou Retton didn’t make the list, because from what I have heard (I wasn’t born in 1984), America had Mary Lou fever for quite some time after that. Part of the reason for that was 1984 was the first time the U.S. had done much of value in Olympic women’s gymnastics, so it was a high-level novelty.
Nasty Liukin wasn’t on the list, either. Or dimwit Shawn.
At least Nadia isn’t being completely forgotten
Confirming Deluxe’s point about Nadia, here’s the 100 Greatest Romanians list, again as posted on Wikipedia and originating from a 2006 poll on Televiziunea Română, TVR. Nadia was number 10. Keep in mind, this isn’t just the 100 greatest Romanian athletes, this is the greatest Romanians, period. And America couldn’t even get a gymnast in the athletes list.
Needless to say, Bela Karolyi didn’t make the list.
Another list Nadia made an appearance on as the sole female gymnast was the Laureus World Sports Awards, as a member of their “Academy.”
On Answers.Yahoo.com, the question “Who is the best gymnast in the world?” was posed. While this is just an opinion board, it’s interesting to see Nadia mentioned quite often in the answers. An answer I liked was:
“At present after Svetlana Khorkina, I don’t see anyone.”
I’m tired of looking at lists.