For most of us, being vaguely competent at one game will do. Not so for these athletes, who excelled in a number of different sports.
Decathlon, Pentathlon, Baseball, American Football and Basketball
At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, Thorpe captured golds in the pentathlon and decathlon. Soon after, he set a new decathlon world record points score of 7,476. The previous record holder, Martin Sheridan, hailed Thorpe as “the greatest athlete that ever lived.” But Jim wasn’t done there. He played professional baseball and football for the New York Giants and Canton Bulldogs respectively, helping them both to titles. He also played professional basketball and even won the Ballroom Dancing Championship. It’s no wonder he’s considered by many as the planet’s best ever sportsman.
Cricket and Football
English cricket’s finest all-rounder amassed 14 centuries and 383 Test wickets. He also managed time to turn out for Scunthorpe United as a no-nonsense centre half in the 1980s. Asked if he was worried about incurring the wrath of England cricket’s hierarchy, ‘Beefy’ replied: “The authorities didn’t really appreciate me playing against Hull on Boxing Day then flying to the West Indies 24 hours later to captain England. But there were no central contracts back then and I didn’t really care what the authorities thought.”
Football and Boxing
Playing across the Football League, including the Premier League with Birmingham City, Woodhouse turned his attention to professional boxing after falling out of love with the beautiful game. Despite no previous experience, and having to juggle both sports, he won the British light-welterweight title in 2014. After retiring, his fight record stood at a very respectable 22 wins and 7 losses.
Cricket, Football, Athletics and Rugby
Not content with playing 26 Test matches for his country, Fry tried his hand at football where he played in and FA Cup final with Southampton and was capped internationally. He also played rugby for Oxford University and jointly held the long jump world record. Upon his death in 1956, he was described as “probably the most variously gifted Englishman of any age” and “the ultimate all-rounder”.
Sonny Bill Williams
Rugby Union, Rugby League, Rugby Sevens and Boxing
Only the second person to represent New Zealand in rugby union after first playing in rugby league, Sonny Bill Williams has switched between the codes with prolific results. One of only 20 dual Rugby World Cup winners, he’s also represented his country in rugby sevens – going on to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games. Away from all this egg chasing, he also finds time to box professionally. Currently undefeated, Williams has been the New Zealand heavyweight title holder and WBA International Heavyweight Champion.
Motorsport and Handcycling
The Italian raced in several motorports, including Formula One and Touring Car, and won the CART championship in 1997 and 1998. But in 2001, a collision during a race resulted in him losing both his legs. Not only that, his heart stopped seven times, he lost all but a litre of blood and he was read the last rites. But Zanardi pulled through and, undeterred, returned to motor racing and won a world series race in 2005. Not done there he took up handcycling, winning four golds and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games. Praised for his attitude to disability, Zanardi has said: “I feel very lucky that my life is a never-ending privilege.”
Who are your favourite multi-sports starts? Let us know below.