What sort of competition determines the greatest athletes on the planet? Surely, it would be the most grueling contest, one that tests strength, speed, and endurance? When reflecting on this criteria, three finalists immediately come to mind: the Ironman triathlon, the decathlon, and the Crossfit games (hold your screams, we’ll get to this).
The ultimate in testing cardiovascular endurance, this triathlon is (obviously) composed of three parts:
2.4mi (3.86km) swim
112mi (180.25km) bike ride
26.2mi (42.2km) run
Yes, a full marathon is only a PORTION of this competition, such is its insanity. It should be noted that although this triathlon involves significant bodyweight locomotion, like the upper-body-intensive swim and leg-firing cycling, it also commands quite a bit of muscular endurance. However, you’ll notice that the appearance of the athletes is much more wiry, as is fitting for the endurance activities, so the competitors that are actually winning aren’t typically as strong as many other athletes, like gridiron or basketball players.
One of the ancient traditions brought back to modern times with the Olympics, the gold medalist is also awarded the title of “The World’s Greatest Athlete.” High praise, indeed. Over two days, athletes compete in ten track and field events (women compete in seven for the heptathlon, shown in the right column):
•100m run •200m run
•High jump •High jump
•Shot put •Shot put
•Long jump •100m hurdles
•Javelin throw •Javelin throw
•Pole vault •Long jump
•1500m run •800m run
• Discus throw
Pretty solid roundup. But is it really the best that can be done? There’s no endurance component, not even a 5k run. And then the throwing events lack substantial weight. While hurling a small bowling ball is nothing to scoff at, it’s much more of a power use, rather than strength.
The Crossfit Games
Now, this one might get some laughs, but as far as individual sports, there’s no denying that those Crossfitters are exceptionally fit, and it has a much wider range of events to round out overall fitness, compared to other strength-based competitions, like Olympic and powerlifting. That’s where this one really focuses: muscular strength. Although it also hinges quite a bit on muscular endurance.
On the other hand, it’s really missing a significant cardio component, normally a single run early in the competition. I say “normally,” because the Games are unique in that they do not have a set event list. However, they usually break down as follows:
•Calisthenics (glute/hamstring developer, muscle-ups)
•Weightlifting (variations of cleans and squats)
•Run (trail or flat, approximately 3-5km)
•WOD (“workouts of the day,” generally a combination of the proceeding three)
A More Perfect Competition?
Since we’ve determined that each of the proceeding is lacking in someway to crown the greatest athlete on the planet, is there a way to devise a contest to measure that? I’ve created one such idea below, composed of events and the aptitude they test:
13.1mi (21.1km) run— cardiovascular endurance
1km swim— muscular endurance
Clean and press— full-body strength
300m hurdles— agility, coordination
100m run— speed
High jump— coordination, lower-body power
Shot put— upper-body power