>SI.com has a “thrill list”, the top ten most-thrilling athletes to watch in fifteen different sports. Tim Layden did a track list that was pretty good, but he dropped the baton by leaving out Bob Hayes.
My thrill list–some I’ve seen in person, some on TV, and some on film…
10. Wladislaw Kozakiewicz. You’re probably saying who? At the 1980 Olympics, the Soviets in the stands whistled loudly whenever he got up on the pole vault runway, trying to ruin his concentration. Not only did he win, he broke the world record, gave the crowd the one-armed salute, climbed into the stands with the Polish contingent and sang “Poland Is Not Beaten” with them, surrounded by 100,000 hostile Russkies. Probably the ballsiest act of defiance in track history.
9. Abebe Bikila. Tom Derderian wrote that when runners imagine their stride is light and fluid and beautiful, they imagine they are Bikila.
8. Jonathan Edwards. He rewrote the book on triple-jumping.
7. Kip Keino. A man who ran balls-out.
6. Carl Lewis. Not for sprinting, for the long jump. He always found a way to win. When, after ten years, he finally lost, it took a world record by Mike Powell–and Lewis had gotten so far inside Powell’s head, he thought he’d have to break it again to fight off King Carl.
5. Tommie Smith. Like Bolt, but a badass.
4. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Greatest. Woman. Ever.
3. Al Oerter. The ultimate clutch competitor.
2. Edwin Moses. ‘Nuff said.
1. “Bullet” Bob Hayes. SI’s John Underwood, in 1964: “Hayes does not run a race so much as he appears to beat it to death, or it him.”