The quest to attain Olympic glory is one of the longest running traditions in all of sport, and the spectacle provided by the games is one of the few events that can claim to appeal to a genuinely global audience.
However, despite being the most sought after prize around, many athletes, who have otherwise reigned supreme in their field, have found that coveted gold medal elusive.
Here’s a look at three of the best athletes who’ve never stood atop an Olympic podium;
Roy Jones Junior
From the title of this article, you’re probably expecting a list comprising entirely of athletes who, despite having vast amounts of talent, for one reason or another, never quite performed on the biggest stage of all.
However, when it comes to the boxer, Roy Jones Junior, this simply isn’t the case. He only competed in one Olympics, Seoul 1988, and, simply put, he blew the competition away.
He made his way to the final without conceding a single round en route. In his last opponent he faced a competitor from the home nation, Park Si-Hun, an athlete many commentators considered very lucky to have reached such an advanced stage in the tournament, having benefitted from some highly dubious judge’s calls in previous bouts. Nobody with any real knowledge of the sport gave the native fighter a prayer.
In the event Jones duly asserted his dominance and didn’t let up for the whole contest. As far as anyone watching was concerned, it was an almost embarrassingly one sided affair, with Jones landing 86 punches, to Park’s paltry 32.
This however, did not stop the judges voting 3-2 in favour of Park, who, when the result was announced, looked completely shocked. In a moment of brave honesty, as the two men stood on the podium, Park raised Jones’ hand into the air, suggesting to all watching that he knew who was to true winner and was himself unhappy with the result.
Though the decision was never overturned, in the light of various pieces of evidence, it is now widely accepted that the three judges who voted for Park had been bribed by South Korean officials, and the incident is usually ranked as the most shameful injustice in Olympic history.
Colin Jackson, who was also a force to be reckoned with in sprint events, has to be ranked as one of the all time great hurdlers.
During his illustrious career the Welshman won 3 World Championships, 2 Commonwealth Championships, went undefeated in the European Championships for 3 consecutive tournaments (constituting a 12 year unbeaten streak) and, at his peak, between 1993-1995, won 44 races in a row.
Unsurprisingly, in the course of notching up all these feats, he set a fair few records. His world record for the 110m hurdles stood for more than a decade, and the record he set for the 60m hurdles, way back in 1994, has still never been bettered.
Despite, all of this, Jackson only has a single Olympic medal to his name, a silver which he earned in his favoured event, the 110m hurdles, in his first Olympic games at Seoul in 1988.
At the 1992 games in Barcelona he was contending with an injury and only managed a 7th place finish. In 1996 he narrowly missed the podium, coming in 4th and by 2000 he was past his best, coming in 5th.
Whilst Jackson’s timing on the track was impeccable (he was said to start “on the B of the BANG”) he timed his athletic peak less well, with his major spells of dominance sadly falling between Olympic years.
We end the list with another British athlete whose dominance of their sport has never been reflected in their Olympic performances, the female marathoner, Paula Radcliffe.
Before even going into her track record at the Olympics, it has to be stated that Paula is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest female marathon runner the world has ever seen. Despite suffering from both anaemia and asthma, both of which are usually a hindrance to distance running, Paula holds the women’s marathon world record time by quite some distance. In fact, 4 of the 5 fastest marathon times ever achieved by a woman are Radcliffe’s.
Unfortunately, she’s never been able to shine at an Olympic games (as of yet, anyway). She was blighted by injury in both the races she’s taken part in, suffering a leg injury ahead of the 2004 Olympics that prevented her from even finishing (the only time she’s ever failed to cross the line) and picking up a stress fracture just before the Beijing Games which confined her to a 23rd place finish.
Will Kerr is a sports writer with a diverse pallet, commentating on everything from athletics to motorsports. You can read more of his work on UK Net Guide.