Tag Archives: Denis

Physical Phenomenons: athletes who excelled in more than one sport

Ken Irons returns with the second part of his feature on that rarest breed of athlete who enjoyed success at the highest level of more than one sport – part two focuses on the Compton brothers, Herschel Walker and Rebecca Romero.

Denis Compton (left) starred for England at cricket and Arsenal at football.
Denis Compton (left) starred for England at cricket and Arsenal at football.

A man who arguably set the bench mark for multi-sport participation more than any other was Denis Compton (1918 – 1997).

He played cricket for Middlesex and England as a right hand batsman and left arm spinner. He was an attacking batsman with a swashbuckling approach and his post war exploits, which included scoring over 3,000 runs in the 1947 season, and playing outside left for Arsenal, ensured that he was as big a sporting hero as England has ever seen.

A pleasant, genuine personality added to his appeal and he was the first English sportsman to attract substantial advertising revenue. His face could be seen all over the country smiling down from billboards, earning him the affectionate nickname ‘Brylcream Boy’.

Denis’ brother, Leslie (1912-1984), also played football for Arsenal, as a centre half, and cricket for Middlesex as wicket keeper. He won two international caps at football, late in his career, and remains the oldest player to debut for England.

Although, perhaps, a slightly superior footballer, he could not hope to match his brother cricket-wise and always stood in Denis’ sporting shadow.

Herschel Walker has never been a man to bow to convention. An ex-American football star (1982 Heisman trophy winner), Olympic bobsledder, track and field runner and taekwondo black belt, he started a new career, aged 48, in martial arts.

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The great Herschel Walker

Walker won his first Strikeforce MMA fight, defeating a man barely half his age. His martial arts trainer can scarcely believe his dietary regime – he eats only one meal a day and as a vegetarian eschews meats as well as, amazingly, other proteins, reasoning that his forbears, from South Georgia, worked excessively hard, long hours without the need for such nourishment, so why shouldn’t he?

He will also, if in the mood, abstain from food altogether for 3 or 4 days at a time, this habit not appearing to detract from his heavy training program. For example he is always up at 5.30am for his 750/1500 push ups and 2000 sit ups, preparatory to a long, hard day.

Interestingly, like Bo Jackson (the subject of the first part of this article), Walker suffered with a stutter in childhood, which led to his being bullied, similarly finding confidence and self belief via his sporting prowess, although his obsessive outlook has led to occasional problems with personality disorder in later years.

Rebecca Romero: one of only two women to win gold in two separate Olympic sports.
Rebecca Romero: one of only two women to win gold in two separate Olympic sports.

Rebecca Romero (born 24/1/1980 in Surrey), has been an outstanding athlete who has accomplished fame both as a rower and cyclist. She was the first British woman to compete in two different sports at the Olympic Games and when she won gold in the individual pursuit at Bejing in 2008, she became just the second woman from any country to win medals in more than one sport.

Rebecca took up rowing at 17 and, startlingly, progressed from novice to under 23 international in a mere 8 months. Her career (favoured position – stroke) lasted from 1998 to 2005. She forsook oars for handlebars thereafter when her cycling career took off (2006 to 2011). She won the world championship individual pursuit in 2008.

There are others who have competed among the upper echelons of more than one sport of course, with the likes of the legendary Michael Jordan (basketball and baseball) and gargantuan  Brock Lesnar (wrestling and American football), whose failures provide evidence of just how difficult a feat it is.

For that reason alone fans should celebrate the smattering who have achieved glory in more than one sporting field. Against all the odds their desire and talent have raised them far beyond the norm and placed them within the sanctuary of an elite club with a heavily compressed guest list.

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much - I can remember it if it's in the last century or so!

50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: Top 10

So here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for; the top ten British sports stars of all-time! To view the rest of the countdown simply click on the links below the picture. 10

50-41 / 40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11

10: Joe Calzaghe

A two-weight boxing champion with a perfect professional record, Welshman Calzaghe defeated virtually all of the notable names in his weight divisions over the course of a 15-year career.

His final pair of victories against Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. were arguably the most notable scalps on Calzaghe’s CV, albeit both were admittedly past their best. A 2007 BBC Sports Personality of the year award and 2014 induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame were testament to his in-ring excellence and enduring popularity.

9: Sir Ian Botham

One of the greatest  all-rounders the cricket world has ever seen, Botham was England’s talismanic, fearless match winner who overcame an unsuccessful spell as captain to destroy the Australians in 1981 during what came to be known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’.

A series of back issues latterly removed the zip from Beefy’s bowling, but for the first half of his career he was the most exciting cricketer on the planet. Aged 37 Botham found one final burst of form and fitness during the 1992 World Cup, with England making it to the final . A long overdue Knighthood arrived in 2007.

8: Linford Christie

After years of being the bridesmaid, Jamaican born Christie was officially crowned the fastest man on the planet when he blew away the competition to win the 100m Olympic title in Barcelona in 1992.

The following year he added World Championship gold to that, running a time of 9.87 seconds to set a British record that still stands today. That these feats were achieved when well into his 30’s makes them all the more remarkable.

7: Sir Nick Faldo

Faldo’s painstakingly measured approach to each hole made him one of the less exciting golfers during an era of big personalities, but his process brought six major titles, including a hat-trick of Masters green jackets.

His ill-fated captaincy of Britain’s Ryder Cup team in 2008 bore out what many had already suspected, Faldo’s huge ego making him a poor selection for the role. The single-mindedness and unrelenting self-belief that hindered him there were pivotal cogs during his run on top in the 1980’s and 90’s.

6: Sir Denis Compton

Kevin Pietersen has nothing on Compton, the most exciting and innovative batsman England has ever produced.

An average of more than 50 could have been even higher had Compton not been quite as flamboyant, his best Test score of 278 was achieved whilst seemingly attempting to devise as many new shots as possible. Not only was he an outstanding cricketer, he also represented Arsenal FC as a left winger, and even got a dozen caps for the English football team during wartime.

5: Fred Perry

Fred Perry is more than just a clothing line, despite what those adorned in the over-priced garments bearing his name may think; 70 years after his heyday Perry remains the most successful tennis player that Britain has ever produced (sorry Andy.)

Fred Perry statue

A bona fide celebrity, Perry secured eight Grand Slam singles titles in the space of four seasons from 1933-36. He also won every doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam title available, as well as two US Pro championships. His Davis Cup pairing with Bunny Austin ensured that Great Britain retained the title for four consecutive years.

4: Sir Bradley Wiggins

Born in Belgium, Wiggins moved to England as a child and by the age of 12 had discovered an aptitude for road cycling, progressing through the amateur ranks before turning professional nine years later.

In 2012 he enjoyed his annus mirabilis, winning time trial gold at the Olympics and becoming the first Brit to gain the Tour de France title, both of which resulted in dozens of awards. Wiggins’ attempt to break the hour record this month was unsuccessful, proving that he is human after all.

3: Lennox Lewis

It wasn’t until the final few years of Lewis’ boxing career that he indisputably earned his position among the greats, this despite a constant stream of success for more than a decade – a flash knock-out suffered at the hands of the under rated Oliver McCall giving sceptics fuel for the fire.

Representing Canada on his way to Olympic gold in 1988, Lewis had switched allegiances to Britain when he turned pro (he was born in London.) He went on to beat every opponent he faced in the ring, avenging the only three blemishes on his record by convincingly winning the resultant rematches. ‘The Lion’ remains the most recent undisputed world heavyweight champion, as well as being recognised as the possessor of one of the most effective jabs the sport has ever seen.

2: Sir Steven Redgrave

“If anyone sees me in a boat again I give them permission to shoot me!” So stated Steve Redgrave after winning coxless pair gold for a fourth successive Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

Yet return he did, and at the 2000 Sydney Olympics a 38-year old Redgrave made it five in a row. His place in Olympic and British sporting folklore assured, the veteran rower did this time stroll into the sunset, focusing his energy on becoming an ambassador for British athletics instead.

1: Sir Bobby Moore

The greatest captain England have ever had, and arguably the finest central defender that the world of football has ever seen. Moore usually reserved his best performances for his country, although he proudly represented his boyhood club, West Ham United, for more than 16 years.

Moore and Pele

His life after football was less successful, with a mediocre stint in management followed by poor business decisions, and a disgraceful shunning by the Football Association. Moore died of liver and bowel Cancer at the age of just 51 in 1993. In death his legacy shines brightly; his incredible tackle that stopped Brazil’s Jairzinho at the 1970 World Cup immortalized by the song ‘Three Lions’ during Euro ’96.

Do you agree with Kureen’s top 50? Let us know in the comment section below, and please remember to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.