When it comes to sports, inspiration figures are truly sights to behold. When riding solo, they emulate brave knights, talismanic in battle. When part of a team or squad they resemble army generals, victorious due to their war conduct. Here is a celebration of sport’s most inspirational figures over the years.
The first sportsman to coin the quote ‘I am the greatest’, Muhammad Ali owns this phrase because he simply is the greatest ever boxer to had lived. In fact it wouldn’t even be possible to begrudge Ali claiming he meant the greatest ever ‘sportsman’, when he uttered what was to become his infamous catchphrase.
His speed was incredible, precision tremendous and power mind boggling. Ali was a man of extraordinary talent and charisma. The most entertaining in and out of the ring, Ali’s title as ‘the king’ is hard to dispute.
Sportsmen are often appreciated for their worth away from the actual sports cameras and in front of the interview cameras. Ali also excelled tremendously in this aspect, giving viewers limericks, poems, banter and some truly memorable quotes.
Three Cheltenham Gold Cups, Two Hennessy Gold Cups, the Whitbread Gold Cup, Irish Grand National, King George VI and Gallagher Gold Cup speak for themselves. In fact, if I’d just put these accolades as the justification behind this fine horse’s inclusion on our list, it would have sufficed. But that would have been unjustifiable to Arkle, as his praise transcends justification.
As demonstrated in his career defining race in the 1965 Gallagher Gold Cup at Kempton (www.kempton.co.uk) which saw the thoroughbred soar past the 16lb lighter Mill House in just a few strides, Arkle is truly something special.
A simple YouTube clip of him in action would be enough to understand my reasoning behind Arkle being included.
How can Steven Gerrard’s brilliance be put into words? Simply the greatest player to ever grace the Premier League, Gerrard has it all. A leader, an inspiration, a sportsman of exceptional ability and the highest calibre, Gerrard possessed an almost supernatural knack to score the greatest goals in the most important circumstances.
From his screamer against United and Fabien Barthez, to his dream strike against Olympiakos (and we all know how important that goal went on to be), to his magnificent performance in Instanbul that saw him converted as a right back while the match went on, to his super goal against West Ham in the final of the FA Cup, and many more ridiculously superb instances – Gerrard is simply the best.
Tahar Rajab is a British sports freelance writer