21st Century: The Age of Athletic Legends

David WangAnalyst IAugust 16, 2009

BERLIN - AUGUST 16:  Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's 100 Metres Final during day two of the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on August 16, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. Bolt set a new World Record of 9.58.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Ever since sports were invented, great athletes have come and gone.

Some left their marks on the grandest stages, some left their marks on paper.  But one thing is sure: we have truly seen some fantastic athletes over the years.

In this 21st century, however, we have been given opportunity to witness some tremendous athletes and competitions from all kinds of sports.  Records have been broken, and championships have been won.

But what is truly amazing is the fact that there are several athletes in this world who have the capability of doing both. Consistently.

Who would have thought, 100 years ago, that a lanky 6-foot-5 sprinter would crack that 9.60-second barrier in 100-meter sprint?  Who would have even considered the fact that one person could achieve eight gold medals and break all the records along the way in one Olympics?

No I'm not just talking about Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.

Take a look at the other sports!

We saw Roger Federer recently beat out tennis legend Pete Sampras to become the record holder for most Grand Slam titles.

We saw Kobe Bryant lead what was once thought a depleted Los Angeles Lakers team all the way to the NBA championship and the Redeem Team to the gold medal in Olympics.

We saw Tiger Woods successfully come back from his injuries to dominate the PGA Championship once again.

These athletes are not just merely champions.  They are involved in discussions, if not already decided, in regards to their place in history.

Some of them are already considered legends or the best athlete in this sport ever before they even retired, like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer and even Barry Bonds (as the leader in home runs in history).

Other athletes are considered to be one of the legends in the game once his career is over, like Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and David Beckham.

As I do not follow American football, hockey and NASCAR very closely, I am not familiar with the players and the legends.  

However, I do know players like Michael Vick and Pavel Datsyuk to be extraordinary athletes in their own right, possessing skills and abilities that leaves the audience in oooohs and ahhs.

The question is then, how did the world of sports climb to such an extraordinary level these couple of years?  The answer, on the other hand, does not lie in the modern world, but in the years before.

As mentioned, great athletes have come and go, but as they leave their competitions, they passed the torches to the next generation, as Magic Johnson puts it (NBA Hall of Famer).  

Each generation watches and learns from those before them, and sees what is good and what is not.  As they join the sport, they already possess the basic knowledge of how to play the sport efficiently.

Take basketball, for example.  Basketball did not use to be very popular, but as the NBA expanded and the Dream Team showcased the art of basketball in Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the media began spreading the sport like wildfire.

As people watch their favorite players play on TV, they learn and imitate on the court. People began playing and learning from the stars on the streets, which gave birth to current superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Similarly in swimming, Michael Phelps had the privilege of watching and learning swimmers like Ian Thorpe, analyzing their each swim.  

So when he gets in the pool, he knows to take a breath every three to four strokes in freestyle than to take a breath every singe stroke.

All of this would not have been possible without the media.  Yet it cannot be denied that this century has produced some of the best athletes in a variety of sports ever.

I do hope that these athletes could pass on their torches to the next generation, so that we can be given the opportunity to witness more spectacular sporting moments.

To witness what men can really do.