Tennis Among Pro Sports Requiring The Most Athleticism

The world’s greatest athlete reveals which major pro sport requires the most athleticism

When an American Indian named Jim Thorpe won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, legend has it that King Gustav V of Sweden presented him the medal and said, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

“Thanks, king,” Thorpe is rumored to have responded.

Ashton Eaton

Ashton Eaton

Exactly 100 years later, at the 2012 Olympics in London, Oregon-native Ashton Eaton became the latest in a long line of American Olympians to win the gold medal in the decathlon.

He had previously set the world record in the event at the US Olympic trials, but as with every decathlete since Thorpe’s win in 1912, it was winning the Olympic gold that earned Eaton the formidable title of the world’s greatest athlete.

Queen Elizabeth II was not, unfortunately, in attendance to present Eaton with his medal.

Spanning two days and 10 events, the decathlon is, and has always been, sports’ best objective measurement of sheer athleticism. And Eaton is so convincingly great at the 10-sport contest that his times and scores in certain single events are comparable, and often better, than those of track-and-field athletes competing exclusively in that one event.

“The decathlon is the only standardized test that covers a broad range of athleticism that is absolutely measurable, which I feel is great,” Eaton told Business Insider this week while promoting his campaign with Chobani. “You run the 100, you get a time. You do the long jump, you get a distance. You do the high jump, you get a height. You do a throw, you get a distance.”

Yet as the world’s greatest athlete, Eaton is not, of course, competing against every other great athlete in the world.

Some of them are off dunking basketballs, or fighting in a ring, or doing whatever it is one does on an American Ninja Warrior course.

Which brings us to the ageless water-cooler debate about the nature of athleticism: Of the A-list athletes playing major sports — the superstars we see splayed across billboards and magazine covers; the ones we hear TV commentators call “athletic freaks” — who, really, is the most athletic?

We posed this question to Eaton, expecting to hear him praise the likes of LeBron James, or Mike Trout, or Russell Westbrook. Instead, he gave a surprising answer.

“I personally believe tennis is the next most athletic sport next to the decathlon,” Eaton said. “Just because of certain things required. Those matches are three or four hours long. There’s the technical aspect, the agility, the mind-body awareness. Not to mention the game itself is a little bit like a chess match.”

Watch Serena Williams approach the net for a swinging volley sometime and you can see where Eaton is coming from. But it’s still hard to believe that Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray, athletic as they undoubtedly are, really compare with the top NFL or NBA players.

Read the full story at Business Insider

By Emmett Knowlton

Photo by babbo1957

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