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This section contains information, facts, and worksheets on famous sporting athletes through history.
Sports are popular the world over and draw us in for many reasons – there’s community, drama, suspense, triumph and loss and a shared story. Athletes, those that compete in sports, whether for fun or profession, represent many of the noble qualities of the human spirit: competitiveness, striving for the highest level and personal best, overcoming challenges, fair play, cooperation, teamwork and humility in the face of both victory and defeat all while transcending language, economic and cultural barriers.
Athletes are the epitome of what people are capable of with the right combination of talent, training, mindset, hard work and discipline, yet they also play an important role in society, often teaching us that the things we accept as a given aren’t always right and need addressing.
Throughout history, there have been notable sportsmen and women that have challenged the status quo. Jessie Owens entered the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany, and despite the German’s belief in ‘Aryan superiority and dominance’, he became the first African-American to win four gold medals in track and field events. Babe Ruth, a baseball player for the Yankees, was both the world’s greatest hitter, but also saved the game of baseball for generations of fans to come. Muhammad Ali was both a world-famous boxer and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1954, Roger Bannister broke the ‘impossible’ feat of running a sub-four-minute mile. With that mental barrier removed, his record stood for just 46 days before being broken by a new wave of athletes who now believed they could achieve more. Similarly, in modern athletics, tennis star Serena Williams is a role model for women and girls by challenging gender stereotypes and discrimination both in sport and the world at large.
But being the best at what you do can come with perils. Unchecked ego has led to a fall from grace for many an athlete, including Tiger Woods, O.J. Simpson, Oscar Pistorius and Tonya Harding. Whether it’s cheating, crime or unscrupulous behavior, the saying “the higher you climb, the harder you fall” rings particularly true for professional athletes because of their position as role models in society.
Learn more about famous athletes and how they’ve shaped our world through their achievements both on and off the field with our worksheet collections. If there’s a topic you’re interested in that we don’t have, contact us!