High jumper Dick Fosbury is considered one of the all-time greatest track and field athletes after developing what is now known as the “Fosbury Flop.” Fosbury first started high jumping when he was in high school. At that time there were only three specific styles being used in the event: the scissors, the straddle, and the belly roll. However, when Fosbury started going over the bar headfirst and backwards while positioning his body parallel with the ground, his jump height improved by nearly a foot. In 1968, Fosbury set an Olympic record using his new technique. To the surprise of many, Fosbury reached a jaw-dropping height of 2.24 meters. Fosbury’s “Flop” technique became increasingly popular and is now the approach of choice around the world.

 

Bruce Jenner

In high school, Bruce Jenner was a sports all-star. He played football, basketball, and track; however he truly proved his proficiency in athletics when he won the New York State championships in two events and received a football scholarship to Graceland College in Iowa that same year. Despite injuring his knee on the gridiron, Jenner would not give up until he made it to the Olympic Games. In 1972 and 1976, Jenner did just that. Competing in the decathlon both years, Jenner took 10th place in 1972 and first place in 1976. His accomplishments even landed him a spot on the cover of a Wheaties cereal box. Today, Bruce Jenner poses as a television personality, motivational speaker, actor, and an author.

 

Carl Lewis

Track and field star Carl Lewis has a remarkable number of achievements in both jumping and running. His talents are unsurpassed, as he is just one of two athletes to win nine Olympic medals. Lewis first got into athletics when he was in high school. By his senior year, his long jumping skills earned him the rank of No. 5 in the world. The next year, he qualified for his first Olympic Games. Although the Games were not held until 1984, Lewis did not stop working hard. For three years he held the title of No. 1 in the world in both the long jump and the 100-meter relay. When it was finally time for the Games to begin, Lewis showcased his talents yet again. In 1984, he won gold medals in the long jump, the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay. When he competed again in 1988 he placed first in the long jump and 4x100m relay. He also placed second in the 200m relay. His third time at the Games, he placed first in the long jump yet again, and took home the gold in the 400m relay. At the age of 35, Lewis competed in the Games one more time. There he won the long jump for his fourth and final time.  

 

Florence Griffith-Joyner

Known for her long, flashy nails and her one-legged running outfits, Florence Griffith Joyner, or “Flo-Jo,” is easily considered one of the all-time greatest track and field athletes. “Flo-Jo” has achieved greatness both on and off of the track. During her first Olympic Games, she placed second in the 200m relay. When she competed again in 1988, she placed second in the 1,600m relay, and took home gold medals in three events: the 100m, 200m, and 400m. Outside of the Games, Griffith- Joyner served as the co-chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. She was a spokeswoman for the board who shared her love for athletics with people all around the nation.

 

Gail Devers

Track and field athlete Gail Devers had more hurdles to overcome then just those on the track. In 1991, Devers was diagnosed with Graves disease, an autoimmune system disorder where one’s thyroid is overactive. Her illness even put her at risk of having both of her feet amputated. After radiation treatment, Devers recovered and was finally able to get back on the track. At the 1992 Olympic Games, Devers placed fourth in the 100m hurdles and first in the 100m relay. When she competed again in 1996, she placed first in both of her events, the 100m hurdles and the 100m relay.

 

Michael Johnson

Before competing in the 1996 Olympic Games, Michael Johnson was primarily recognized as just a 200m sprinter. However, Johnson showed the world he was more than that. In 1996, Johnson became the only male in history to win Olympic gold medals in not only the 200m, but the 400m as well. Today, Johnson is named the best 200m and 400m sprinter in the history of track and field. In 2000, Johnson competed in the Games a second time, placing first in both the 200m and 4x400m.

 

Jackie Joyner Kersee

Four-time Olympian, Jackie Joyner Kersee, has achieved more than just awards and medals; she also holds five world, and three American, records. At her first Olympics in 1984, she placed second in the heptathlon. In 1988, she place first in both the heptathlon and the long jump. In 1992, she placed third in the long jump and first in the heptathlon. At her final Games in 1996, she placed third in the long jump, coming in at 7.00m. Joyner Kersee’s world records are all held in the heptathlon, and her American records are in both the long jump and the 50m hurdles.