In the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Ole Einar Bjorndalen became the new leader for most Winter Olympics medals in history. In addition, Bjorndalen is tied for the most gold medals in Winter Olympics history. His 13 medals overall, including eight gold, make him among the greatest all-time athletes. So how does Bjorndalen rank among the greatest athletes of other sports?
Determining who is the greatest athlete in a single sport is tricky. While a general consensus can often be reached, there are always people who disagree. Deciding on the greatest athlete overall is even more complicated. It is almost entirely subjective and depends mostly on which sports take precedence over others.
Bjorndalen is one of the greatest all-time athletes overall, but in biathlon he is the undisputed leader in terms of medals. The problem is, biathlon does not get the attention of some other sports such as basketball, football, and baseball. It certainly does not get much publicity in the United States except during the Olympics.
Biathlon might not have the highlight factor that some other sports have, but it is by no means an easy competition. What makes this sport hard is that it combines several different factors. The sport involves both long-distance skiing and marksmanship. It takes a special sort of athlete to be able to master such differing skills.
So what about some of the great athletes of other sports? In basketball, Michael Jordan is the name most often mentioned when the topic of greatest athletes comes up. Certainly, Jordan is a strong candidate for the greatest athlete ever. He was the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game with 30.1. He was third in terms of total points with 32,292. Jordan’s overall numbers were also very good, as he averaged 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game.
One of the things that made Jordan such a great player in his sport was that he combined great statistics with many accomplishments. A whole lot of athletes perform well statistically, but have little to show for it. Jordan managed to win six championships and six NBA Finals’ Most Valuable Player awards.
One of the problems in judging the greatest player in basketball is the subjectivity of it all. Statistics, championships, and overall skill and athleticism all factor in, but which category holds the most weight? This is where Bjorndalen has an advantage when compared to athletes of sports like basketball. He might be better at certain aspects of biathlon than others, but his 13 overall Olympic medals clearly give him a leg up.
In the NFL, wide receiver Jerry Rice is a strong candidate for the greatest ever. He was number one in career catches with 1,549 and in receiving yards with 22,895. He was also number one in total career touchdowns with 208. Rice was also the 1989 Super Bowl Most valuable player.
As with basketball, it is very difficult to determine the greatest player in the NFL. Many of the positions are very different from one another. For example, Jerry Rice might well be the greatest receiver ever, but he would obviously not stack up well as a lineman. Again, Bjorndalen has an advantage with a little less subjectivity in his sport.
The topic of greatest overall athlete is up for debate. However Bjorndalen deserves to be in the discussion. Bjorndalen is definitely among the greatest athletes of all time.
Editorial By Zach Kirkman
Mammoth Winter Biathlon