||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
A sportsperson (North America: athlete), (gendered as sportsman or sportswoman) is a person trained to compete in a sport involving physical strength, speed or endurance. Sports people may be professional or amateur.
Most professional sports people have particularly well-developed physiques obtained by extensive physical training and strict exercise accompanied by a strict dietary regimen.
The word "athlete" is a romanization of the Greek: άθλητὴς, athlētēs, one who participates in a contest; from ἂθλος, áthlos, or ἂθλον, áthlon, a contest or feat. The term may be used as a synonym for sportspeople in general, but it also has stronger connotations of people who compete in athletic sports, as opposed to other sporting types such as horse riding and driving. In British English (as well as other variants in the Commonwealth) athlete can also have a more specific meaning of people who compete in the sport of athletics.
An "all-around athlete" is a person who competes in multiple sports at a high level, for instance, Alex Bauman. Examples of people who played numerous sports professionally include Jim Thorpe, Lionel Conacher, Deion Sanders (male), Danny Ainge (male) and Babe Zaharias (female). Others include Ricky Williams, Bo Jackson, and Damon Allen, each of whom was drafted both by Major League Baseball and by professional gridiron football leagues such as the NFL and the CFL. Kazushi Sakuraba, a Japanese athlete, competed in both professional wrestling and mixed martial arts and succeeded in both sports. (Many Japanese martial artists compete in both wrestling and MMA due to their strong promotions[clarification needed] and similarities.)
"World's Greatest Athlete"
The title of "World's Greatest Athlete" traditionally belongs to the world's top competitor in the decathlon (males) and heptathlon (females) in track and field. The decathlon consists of 10 events: 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meters, 110 m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 m. The heptathlon consists of seven events: the 100 m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin, and 800 meters. These competitions require an athlete to possess the whole spectrum of athletic ability in order to be successful including speed, strength, coordination, jumping ability, and endurance.
Although the title "World's Greatest Athlete" seems a natural fit for these two events, its traditional association with the decathlon/heptathlon officially began with Jim Thorpe. During the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe won the gold medal in the Decathlon (among others). Thorpe notably also competed professionally in soccer, baseball, American Football, and basketball; and competed collegiately in track and field, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and did ballroom dancing. King Gustav V of Sweden, while awarding Thorpe the decathlon gold said: "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." That title has become associated with the decathlon event ever since. Compare and contest between sports and sportsman.
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- Collins English Dictionary, Millennium Ed. - 'athlete'