I couldn't say who the greatest living athlete is. But I would put for contention that the greatest athlete was a runner.
Many people don't know this runner, but in Canada this athlete is a household name.
He is born in Winnipeg, but raised in Vancouver.
From a young age he loved sports. He was a soccer, rugby, and baseball player. But, his best sport was Basketball as a child. He was small, only five feet tall, but that did not stop him from playing his favourite sport. He was only an average player, but everyday after school he praticed his basketball skills, showing his determination. In his senior year he was one of the best guards in the country. He also won numerous medals in diving and swimming competitions.
He showed no interest in running at this time.
He went on to study kinesiology at university in order to become a gym teacher.
But in 1977 he was diganosed with osteosarcoma (a type of cancer) in his right knee. His goal from here on was to run across Canada, from the Atlantic to Pacific to raise one million for cancer research, then eventually his goal became to raise one dollar from every Canadian.
But, he had to have his right leg amputated, but he got an artificial leg, keeping his dream of running a marathon a live.
Before his marathon across Canada, which he called the "Marathon of Hope" a doctor told him he suffered from a heart condition called Left Ventricular Hypertrophy, and he was warned that he could die if he ran the marathon.
But, he was determined to run the marathon.
In case you haven't clued in yet, the greatest athlete ever is Terry Fox.
Fox began the Marathon of Hope on April 12th, 1980, with his artificial leg dipped into the Atlantic Ocean. His goal was to finish the marathon with his left leg in the Pacific Ocean. The Marathon began.
He ran through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, and most of Ontario before traigc news came in.
X-Rays revealed that Fox's right lung had a lump the size of a golf ball and his left lung had another lump the size of a lemon. He was forced to stop the run on September 1, 1980, just past Thunder Bay. He was half done the marathon, the hardest part done, as he just had the last half, all downhill left.
On June 27th 1981, he went into a coma. He died the next day, on the 28th at 4:35 a.m. exactly one month away from his 23rd birthday.
An entire nation was heart broken. His funeral was broadcasted on National Television.
At the time Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre-Elliott Trudeau said:
"It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death....We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity."
He didn't break any speed records.
He had one race; one challenge, and he couldn't even finish that.
He did manage to run consecutive marathons in consecutive days more than anyone else, 5,373 km in 143 days.
That is an average of 23. 3 miles per day, which is just short of the typical length of a normal marathon.
On one leg.
is in any course of human endeavor--be it art, invention or sport where
some times, on a very rare occassion, one person elevates something
simple, beyond its simplicity and shows us not only what one person can
achieve if motivated, but rather what all of us might if we harnassed
the barest echo of that resolve.
I have noticed that frequently, your country loves the winner to the exclusion of all else.
Terry Fox could not complete his race. He was competing not just agaisnt the miles, but against his own body turned traitor. In the end that cancer stopped him from finishing his race.
It weakened him to the point that he couldn't breathe.
It eventually killed him, at the age of 22.
But it did not beat him.
And so I am always confused why when the question goes out for the greatest athlete, his name never seems to make the list.
Terry Fox raised nearly $25 million by the time of his death. Since, every year nearly every city in Canada, and every school has a Terry Fox Run. To this date, Terry Fox has raised over $425.5 million to cancer research.