The Most Famous

ATHLETES from France

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This page contains a list of the greatest French Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,055 Athletes, 88 of which were born in France. This makes France the birth place of the 6th most number of Athletes behind United Kingdom and Kenya.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary French Athletes of all time. This list of famous French 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 French Athletes.

Photo of Joseph Guillemot

1. Joseph Guillemot (1899 - 1975)

With an HPI of 63.19, Joseph Guillemot is the most famous French Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages on wikipedia.

Joseph Guillemot (1 October 1899 – 9 March 1975) was a French middle- and long-distance runner. He won the 5000 metres and was second in the 10,000 metres at the 1920 Summer Olympics.

Photo of Micheline Ostermeyer

2. Micheline Ostermeyer (1922 - 2001)

With an HPI of 61.63, Micheline Ostermeyer is the 2nd most famous French Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Micheline Ostermeyer (23 December 1922 – 17 October 2001) was a French athlete and concert pianist. She won three medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics in shot put, discus throw, and high jump. After retiring from sports in 1950, she became a full-time pianist for fifteen years and then turned to teaching afterwards.

Photo of Géo André

3. Géo André (1889 - 1943)

With an HPI of 61.30, Géo André is the 3rd most famous French Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Georges Yvan "Géo" André (13 August 1889 – 4 May 1943) was a French track and field athlete and rugby union player. As an athlete he competed at the 1908, 1912, 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics in various events, including long jump, high jump, 400 m sprint, 110 and 400 m hurdles, pentathlon and decathlon. He won a silver medal in the high jump in 1908 and a bronze in the 4 × 400 m relay in 1920, finishing fourth in the 400 m hurdles in 1920 and 1924 and fifth in the standing high jump in 1908. At the 1924 Olympics he took the Olympic Oath and served as the flag bearer for the French delegation.André won French titles in 110 m hurdles (1908, 1914, 1919, 1922), 400 m hurdles (1913–14, 1919–20, 1922), high jump (1907–1909, 1911, 1914, 1919), standing high jump (1909, 1911–12, 1914, 1919–20). He held national records in the 110 m hurdles (1908 – 15.8; 1922 – 15.4), 400 m hurdles (1913 – 57.0; 1920 – 57.0/56.0/55.6), high jump (1907 – 1.79; 1908 – 1.80/1.885), and 4 × 400 m relay (1922 – 3:24.0). In 1913–1914 he played for the national rugby team.André was wounded while serving as a fighter pilot in World War I. After retiring from competitions he worked as a sports journalist for several prominent French newspapers. During World War II he joined the infantry and was killed by German forces in 1943 in Tunis, aged 53. His son Jacques (1919–1988) competed as a hurdler at the 1948 Olympics.

Photo of Albin Lermusiaux

4. Albin Lermusiaux (1874 - 1940)

With an HPI of 61.23, Albin Lermusiaux is the 4th most famous French Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Albin Georges Lermusiaux (9 August 1874 – 20 January 1940) was a French athlete and sport shooter who competed at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Photo of Christian d'Oriola

5. Christian d'Oriola (1928 - 2007)

With an HPI of 61.06, Christian d'Oriola is the 5th most famous French Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Christian d'Oriola (3 October 1928 – 29 October 2007) was a French fencer. He was a cousin of the Olympic equestrian Pierre Jonquères d'Oriola. D'Oriola took part in the 1948, 1952, 1956 and 1960 Olympics, serving as the Olympic flag bearer for France in 1960. Between 1947 and 1958 he won four gold and two silver medals at Summer Olympics and eight world titles in the foil. At the 1960 Olympics he also competed in the team épée, and in 1970, aged 42, won the French national title in this event. In 1972, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor. After retiring from competitions he acted as a fencing judge and served as vice-president of the French Fencing Federation.

Photo of Joanni Perronet

6. Joanni Perronet (1877 - 1950)

With an HPI of 60.85, Joanni Perronet is the 6th most famous French Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Joanni Maurice Perronnet (19 October 1877 – 1 April 1950) was a French painter and fencer. He was son of music composer Joanni Perronnet and Blanche Guérard, as well as grandson of the playwright and lyricist Amélie Perronnet. He was a fencing master, the only professional allowed to compete in the Olympic Games at the time. Two such masters, Perronet and Leonidas Pyrgos of Greece, competed in a special foil fencing event at the first modern Olympics. The two faced each other in an event that consisted of a single bout to three touches. Perronet lost the bout, 3-1. He competed at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, winning a silver medal and 3 goats.He had close links to Sarah Bernhardt, she was his godmother. In 1908, he became secretary-general of the Sarah-Bernhardt Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt. He is known as a painter, most of his paintings are seascapes. He also designed many posters for French railway companies and painted several portraits of Sarah Bernhardt.

Photo of Émile Champion

7. Émile Champion (1879 - 1921)

With an HPI of 59.44, Émile Champion is the 7th most famous French Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Emile Champion (August 7, 1879 – 1921) was a French track and field athlete, born in Paris, who competed in the early 20th century. He was a long-distance runner but specialized in the marathon and won a silver medal in Athletics at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Photo of Jean Bouin

8. Jean Bouin (1888 - 1914)

With an HPI of 59.36, Jean Bouin is the 8th most famous French Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Alexandre François Étienne Jean Bouin (French: [bwɛ̃]; 21 December 1888 – 29 September 1914) was a French middle-distance runner. He competed in the 1500m at the 1908 Olympics and the 5000m at the 1912 Olympics. He won a silver medal in the 5000m in 1912, behind Hannes Kolehmainen. His race against Kolehmainen has long been regarded as one of the most memorable moments in running. Kolehmainen and Bouin quickly pulled away from the others, with Bouin leading and Kolehmainen repeatedly trying to pass him. Kolehmainen succeeded only 20 metres from the finish, winning by 0.1 seconds. Both contenders broke the world record.Bouin set three more world records: two in 1911, in the 3,000 m and 10,000 metres, and one in 1913, in the one-hour run (19,021 metres). The next year, he was killed in action during World War I. After that the Stade Jean-Bouin in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, home of the Stade Français rugby union club, was named after him. The French government made a stamp with his picture on it and many games have been held in his honor. A 10 km race under the name of Jean Bouin has taken place every year through the streets of Barcelona since 1920.

Photo of Colette Besson

9. Colette Besson (1946 - 2005)

With an HPI of 59.15, Colette Besson is the 9th most famous French Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Colette Besson (7 April 1946 – 9 August 2005) was a French athlete, the surprise winner of the 400 m at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Photo of Martin Fourcade

10. Martin Fourcade (1988 - )

With an HPI of 58.77, Martin Fourcade is the 10th most famous French Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.

Martin Fourcade (French pronunciation: ​[maʁtɛ̃ fuʁkad]; born 14 September 1988) is a French former biathlete and sous-lieutenant. He is a five-time Olympic champion, a thirteen-time World Champion and a seven-time winner of the Overall World Cup. As of February 2018, he is the most successful French Olympian of all time. Fourcade is the all-time biathlon record holder of overall World Cup titles with seven big crystal globes and he's also the all-time record holder of the most consecutive Major Championships titles with at least one non-team gold medal in every major championship from 2011-2018.On 13 March 2020, he announced his retirement following the 2019–2020 season. Since April 2018, he serves as president of the Athletes’ Commission of the organising committee for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, France. In February 2022 Fourcade was elected to serve eight-year terms as a member of both the International Olympic Committee and the IOC Athletes' Commission.

Pantheon has 88 people classified as athletes born between 1871 and 1996. Of these 88, 66 (75.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Martin Fourcade, Michel Jazy, and Guy Drut. The most famous deceased athletes include Joseph Guillemot, Micheline Ostermeyer, and Géo André. As of October 2020, 24 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Émile Champion, Maurice Schilles, and Anni Steuer.

Living Athletes

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Deceased Athletes

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Newly Added Athletes (2020)

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Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 19 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.