The Most Famous

ATHLETES from United Kingdom

Icon of occuation in country

This page contains a list of the greatest British Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,055 Athletes, 137 of which were born in United Kingdom. This makes United Kingdom the birth place of the 4th most number of Athletes behind Germany and Russia.

Top 10

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

Photo of Thomas Hicks

1. Thomas Hicks (1876 - 1952)

With an HPI of 66.08, Thomas Hicks is the most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages on wikipedia.

Thomas John Hicks (January 11, 1876 – January 28, 1952) was an American track and field athlete. He won the marathon at the Olympic Games in 1904.

Photo of Mark Phillips

2. Mark Phillips (1948 - )

With an HPI of 66.00, Mark Phillips is the 2nd most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Captain Mark Anthony Peter Phillips (born 22 September 1948) is an English Olympic gold medal-winning horseman for Great Britain and the first husband of Anne, Princess Royal, with whom he has two children. He remains a leading figure in British equestrian circles, a noted eventing course designer, and a columnist for Horse & Hound magazine.

Photo of Robert Hichens

3. Robert Hichens (1882 - 1940)

With an HPI of 64.58, Robert Hichens is the 3rd most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Robert Hichens (16 September 1882 – 23 September 1940) was a British sailor who was part of the deck crew on board the RMS Titanic when she sank on her maiden voyage on 15 April 1912. He was one of six quartermasters on board the vessel and was at the ship's wheel when the Titanic struck the iceberg. He was in charge of Lifeboat #6, where he refused to return to rescue people from the water according to several accounts of those on the boat, including Margaret Brown, who argued with him throughout the early morning. In 1906, he married Florence Mortimore in Devon, England; when he registered for duty aboard the Titanic, his listed address was in Southampton, where he lived with his wife and two children.

Photo of Sebastian Coe

4. Sebastian Coe (1956 - )

With an HPI of 63.87, Sebastian Coe is the 4th most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.

Sebastian Newbold Coe, Baron Coe (born 29 September 1956), often referred to as Seb Coe or Lord Coe, is a British politician and former track and field athlete. As a middle-distance runner, Coe won four Olympic medals, including the 1500 metres gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984. He set nine outdoor and three indoor world records in middle-distance track events – including, in 1979, setting three world records in the space of 41 days – and the world record he set in the 800 metres in 1981 remained unbroken until 1997. Coe's rivalries with fellow Britons Steve Ovett and Steve Cram dominated middle-distance racing for much of the 1980s.Following Coe's retirement from athletics, he was a member of parliament for the Conservative Party from 1992 to 1997 for Falmouth in Cornwall, and became a Life Peer on 16 May 2000. He headed the successful London bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics and became chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. In 2007, he was elected a vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and re-elected for another four-year term in 2011. In August 2015, he was elected president of the IAAF.In 2012, Coe was appointed Pro-Chancellor at Loughborough University where he had been an undergraduate, and is also a member of the University's governing body. He was of one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the IAAF Hall of Fame. In November 2012, he was appointed chairman of the British Olympic Association. Coe was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December 2012.

Photo of Harold Abrahams

5. Harold Abrahams (1899 - 1978)

With an HPI of 63.83, Harold Abrahams is the 5th most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Harold Maurice Abrahams (15 December 1899 – 14 January 1978) was an English track and field athlete. He was Olympic champion in 1924 in the 100 metres sprint, a feat depicted in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.

Photo of Roger Bannister

6. Roger Bannister (1929 - 2018)

With an HPI of 62.98, Roger Bannister is the 6th most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.

Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister (23 March 1929 – 3 March 2018) was a British middle-distance athlete and neurologist who ran the first sub-4-minute mile. At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Bannister set a British record in the 1500 metres and finished in fourth place. This achievement strengthened his resolve to become the first athlete to finish the mile run in under four minutes. He accomplished this feat on 6 May 1954 at Iffley Road track in Oxford, with Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher providing the pacing. When the announcer, Norris McWhirter, declared "The time was three...", the cheers of the crowd drowned out Bannister's exact time, which was 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. He had attained this record with minimal training, while practising as a junior doctor. Bannister's record lasted just 46 days. Bannister went on to become a neurologist and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, before retiring in 1993. As Master of Pembroke, he was on the governing body of Abingdon School from 1986 to 1993. When asked whether the 4-minute mile was his proudest achievement, he said he felt prouder of his contribution to academic medicine through research into the responses of the nervous system. Bannister was patron of the MSA Trust. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2011.

Photo of George S. Robertson

7. George S. Robertson (1872 - 1967)

With an HPI of 61.86, George S. Robertson is the 7th most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Sir George Stuart Robertson (25 May 1872 – 29 January 1967) was a British barrister, public servant, athlete, tennis player, and classical scholar. He competed at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Photo of Ken McArthur

8. Ken McArthur (1881 - 1960)

With an HPI of 61.75, Ken McArthur is the 8th most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Kennedy Kane "Ken" McArthur (February 10, 1881 – June 13, 1960) is most noted as a track and field athlete and winner of the marathon at the 1912 Summer Olympics.

Photo of Alfred Tysoe

9. Alfred Tysoe (1874 - 1901)

With an HPI of 61.13, Alfred Tysoe is the 9th most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Alfred Ernest Tysoe (21 March 1874 – 26 October 1901) was an English athlete, and winner of two gold medals at the 1900 Olympic Games representing Great Britain.

Photo of Robert Kerr

10. Robert Kerr (1882 - 1963)

With an HPI of 60.18, Robert Kerr is the 10th most famous British Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Robert Kerr (June 9, 1882 – May 12, 1963) was an Irish Canadian sprinter. He won the gold medal in the 200 metres and the bronze medal in the 100 metres at the 1908 Summer Olympics.

Pantheon has 137 people classified as athletes born between 1870 and 1996. Of these 137, 97 (70.80%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Mark Phillips, Sebastian Coe, and Dorian Yates. The most famous deceased athletes include Thomas Hicks, Robert Hichens, and Harold Abrahams. As of October 2020, 38 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Robert Hichens, Robert Lindsay, and George Goulding.

Living Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Deceased Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Newly Added Athletes (2020)

Go to all Rankings

Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.