The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Athletes of all time. This list of famous Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Athletes.
With an HPI of 53.47, Eric Liddell is the most famous Athlete. His biography has been translated into 28 different languages on wikipedia.
Eric Henry Liddell (; 16 January 1902 – 21 February 1945) was a Scottish sprinter, rugby player, and Christian missionary. Born in Qing China to Scottish missionary parents, he attended boarding school near London, spending time when possible with his family in Edinburgh, and afterwards attended the University of Edinburgh. At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Liddell refused to run in the heats for his favoured 100 metres because they were held on a Sunday. Instead he competed in the 400 metres held on a weekday, a race that he won. He returned to China in 1925 to serve as a missionary teacher. Aside from two furloughs in Scotland, he remained in China until his death in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945. Liddell's Olympic training and racing, and the religious convictions that influenced him, are depicted in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire, in which he is portrayed by fellow Scot and University of Edinburgh alumnus Ian Charleson.
With an HPI of 44.12, Karen Lachmann is the 2nd most famous Athlete. Her biography has been translated into 15 different languages.
Karen Vilhelmine Lachmann (30 May 1916 – 30 September 1962) was a Danish fencer. She won a silver medal in the women's individual foil event at the 1948 Summer Olympics and a bronze in the same event at the 1952 Summer Olympics.
With an HPI of 42.99, Liu Xiang is the 3rd most famous Athlete. His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.
Liu Xiang (simplified Chinese: 刘翔; traditional Chinese: 劉翔; pinyin: Liú Xiáng; born July 13, 1983) is a Chinese former 110 meter hurdler. Liu is an Olympic Gold medalist and World Champion. His 2004 Olympic gold medal was the first in a men's track and field event for China. Liu is one of China's most successful athletes and has emerged as a cultural icon. On top of being the only male athlete in history to be all of 110-metre hurdles World Record Holder, World Champion and Olympic Champion—Liu remains the Olympic record holder for the men's 110-metre hurdles with a time of 12.91 seconds he set back at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He was the favorite to win another gold in the 110 metre hurdles at the Beijing Olympics, but he had to withdraw from competition at the last moment after a false start and aggravation to a previously unrevealed injury. Again a gold medal favourite in the 110 metre hurdles at the London Olympics he pulled his Achilles tendon attempting to clear the first hurdle in the heats. On April 7, 2015, he announced his retirement on Sina Weibo.
With an HPI of 42.62, Wang Junxia is the 4th most famous Athlete. Her biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Wang Junxia (simplified Chinese: 王军霞; traditional Chinese: 王軍霞; pinyin: Wáng Jūnxiá; born January 19, 1973) is a Chinese former long-distance runner who is the current world record holder at 3,000 meters. She also held the world record for the 10,000 meters for 23 years, between 1993 and 2016. Her best years lay between 1991 and 1996. Wang was coached by Ma Junren until 1995 and by Mao Dezhen from 1995 to her retirement after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
With an HPI of 41.21, Zhu Jianhua is the 5th most famous Athlete. His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.
Zhu Jianhua (simplified Chinese: 朱建华; traditional Chinese: 朱建華; pinyin: Zhū Jiànhuá; born 29 May 1963) is a retired Chinese high jumper. His personal best of 2.39 metres is a former world record for the event, and is still the Chinese record. In Helsinki 1983, Zhu became China's first man to win a medal in the IAAF World Championships. In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, he became the first male from the People's Republic of China to win an athletics medal in the history of the Olympic Games (Yang Chuan-kwang won a silver medal representing the Republic of China in the 1960 Rome Olympics). He is a two-time gold medallist at both the Asian Games and the Asian Athletics Championships.
With an HPI of 40.46, Su Bingtian is the 6th most famous Athlete. His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.
Su Bingtian (Chinese: 苏炳添; pinyin: Sū Bǐngtiān; born 29 August 1989) is a Chinese sprinter. He was the first ever Asian-born sprinter to break the 10-second barrier of the 100 metres event in track and field. Su's personal best of 9.83 seconds in the 100 metres makes him the current holder of the 100 m Asian record. In 2018, his personal best in the 60 metres of 6.42 seconds made him the holder of the 60 m Asian record and placed him within the top five all-time in the event. En route to his 100 metre personal best at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Su ran the fastest recorded 60 metre split of all time with a time of 6.29 seconds.
With an HPI of 37.63, Guo Jingjing is the 7th most famous Athlete. Her biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Guo Jingjing (Chinese: 郭晶晶; pinyin: Guō Jīngjīng; born October 15, 1981, in Baoding, Hebei) is a retired Chinese female diver, and multi-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion. Guo is tied with her partner Wu Minxia for winning the most Olympic medals (6) of any female diver and she won the 3m springboard event at five consecutive World Championships. She announced her retirement in 2011.
With an HPI of 37.03, Wang Yifu is the 8th most famous Athlete. Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.
Wang Yifu (simplified Chinese: 王义夫; traditional Chinese: 王義夫; pinyin: Wáng Yìfū, born December 4, 1960 in Liaoyang, Liaoning) is a male Chinese pistol shooter, and in terms of Olympic medals one of the most successful sport shooters of all times, and was the first shooter with six individual Olympic medals. He specializes in the 50 m Pistol and 10 m Air Pistol events. He is the only shooter to have won two gold medals in men's 10 metre air pistol. Wang won his first Olympic medal in the Los Angeles games at the age of 23. After this, the Air Pistol event was added to the program, and this is where he has achieved his greatest accomplishments. He won the 1992 gold medal only days after a new medal in the 50 m event. His three attempts to repeat the victory have provided impressive results and very tight duels: In 1996, Wang had a two-point pre-final lead over Roberto Di Donna (Italy), and seemed to be the clear winner until in the last shot he got only 6.5 (at a level where anything below 9.0 is considered a very bad shot), and lost the gold medal by the closest possible margin, 0.1 point. Related to this was a collapse due to medical issues coupled with the extreme heat in Atlanta that day. In 2000, both Wang and Franck Dumoulin (France) scored 590 points and tied for a new Olympic record. Wang lost by two points in the final. In the 2004 competition, Wang scored 590 once more, but lost the Olympic record to Mikhail Nestruev (Russia) who achieved 591. However, the Chinese managed to erase the small gap and eventually won by a margin of 0.2 points to get his second Olympic gold.Also in the ISSF World Shooting Championships, Wang has won both 50 m Pistol (in 1994) and 10 m Air Pistol (in 1998). Wang Yifu is married to sport shooter Zhang Qiuping.
With an HPI of 36.50, Xu Haifeng is the 9th most famous Athlete. His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.
Xu Haifeng (simplified Chinese: 许海峰; traditional Chinese: 許海峰; pinyin: Xǔ Hǎifēng; born August 1, 1957) is a male Chinese pistol shooter, and he is the first citizen of the People's Republic of China to win a gold medal at the Summer Olympics. He specializes in the 50 metre pistol event. He was born in Zhangzhou, Fujian and is a native of He County, Anhui. The first gold medal for China was won by Xu in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, while his teammate Wang Yifu won bronze. After retiring in 1995, he became a coach for the Chinese National Shooting Team. Xu was the torchbearer to bring the Olympic Torch into the Beijing National Stadium, near the end of the 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. Xu is married to Zhao Lei, the daughter of his coach in the Chinese National Shooting Team. They have a daughter, Xu Jia. Xu is the Deputy Director of Chinese Cycling and Fencing Administration Centre.
With an HPI of 35.50, Qu Yunxia is the 10th most famous Athlete. Her biography has been translated into 20 different languages.
Qu Yunxia (simplified Chinese: 曲云霞; traditional Chinese: 曲雲霞; pinyin: Qǔ Yúnxiá; born 25 December 1972 in Dalian) is a Chinese Olympic athlete who specialized in the 1500 metres. At the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona she won a bronze medal in 1500 m. On 9 November 1993 she set the world record in the 1500 metres at 3:50.46 minutes while running in the National Games of China in Beijing. The record stood 22 years, until broken on 17 July 2015, by Genzebe Dibaba who was the only non-Chinese athlete to seriously challenge the mark during that period. She won the 3000 metres at the 1993 World Championships in Athletics, setting what will likely be the permanent Championship Record in the event due to women switching to the 5,000 metres distance beginning in 1995.
Pantheon has 109 people classified as athletes born between 1902 and 2007. Of these 109, 107 (98.17%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Liu Xiang, Wang Junxia, and Zhu Jianhua. The most famous deceased athletes include Eric Liddell and Karen Lachmann. As of April 2022, 24 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Karen Lachmann, Wang Zheng, and Li Huifen.
1983 - Present
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1916 - 1962
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