Is Andy Murray the greatest British sportsman in history? It’s a valid question to ask a day after he secured a second Wimbledon men’s title. After all, it took long enough for a British man to win it again after Fred Perry in the 1930’s. Once is impressive, twice stellar. Then again, it is a subject that is bound to create much debate. How do you rate the greatest? What is the criteria? How can you compare sports?
In the spirit of sporting debate, something we Brits (indeed, we humans), spend a great deal of time over, here is my list of contenders from strictly the last 50 years only.
Andy Murray – twice men’s Wimbledon champion during an era dominated by three of the greatest of all time, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal.
Lewis Hamilton – honing in on a 4th F1 world title. If he succeeds he will have won more world titles than any other British F1 star and only two other, non-British drivers would have secured more world titles.
Sir Nick Faldo: Only a matter of time before Rory overtakes the English knight but, right now, it is Faldo’s 6 majors (3 Masters, 3 Opens) that makes him the greatest British (and indeed European) golfer.
Lennox Lewis: Ignore the Canadian links, he was born an Eastender and for ten years (bar for one blip quickly rectified) he was the undisputed world heavyweightr champion at a time of Tyson, Holyfield et al. 41 wins, just 2 losses.
Jonny Wilkinson: Points-wise the greatest British rugby player ever, and of course won a world cup alongside every other honour possible. Some may argue Gareth Edwards.
Sir Ian Botham: Many contenders for the greatest British cricketer in the last 50 years but impossible to ignore Beefy, primarily with the ball, but often with the bat too. Almost single-handedly won an Ashes series and many individual test matches too.
Bobby Moore: How do you single out one British footballer? Easy. The man who lifted the world cup and who gained the respect of every international footballer. Greatest British defender and captain.
Sir Steve Redgrave: 5 Olympic rowing gold medals in 5 Games spanning 20 years, whilst suffering from all kinds of ailments. If not the greatest British sportsperson then quite possibly the greatest Olympian.
Sir Chris Hoy: Unless it is Hoy, who statistically beats Redgrave with 6 Olympic gold medals achieved over 3 Games.
Sir Bradley Wiggins: Or it could be Wiggo for being the supreme all-rounder in a bike saddle. Four time Olympic gold medallist, world road race champion and the first British cyclist ever to win the Tour de France.
Mo Farah: Two time Olympic gold medallist doubling up in the 5K-10KM and five time world champion. Perhaps an Olympic double double could swing it?
Sir Ben Ainslie: 1 silver then 4 Olympic golds in 5 successive Games, then plays major role in winning America’s Cup for America. If he wins it for Britain his claim will be very strong.
Honourable mentions must be made to Sebastian Coe and Daley Thompson.
Who then is the Greatest British Sportswoman? Here is my list of contenders. Take your pick.
Katherine Grainger: 4 time Olympian, 1 gold, 3 silvers.
Jess Ennis-Hill: Olympic champ, double World champ in the hardest track and field event of them all for women – heptathlon. Gold in Rio will strengthen her claim.
Rebecca Adlington: Britain’s current greatest Olympian courtesy of her 2 goldfs and 2 bronzes, but will probably be overtaken by either Laura Trott or Charlotte Dujardin – or both – in Rio.
Sally Gunnell: Former Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth 400m champ all at the same time, plus numerous other gold medals.
Dame Kelly Holmes: Amazing middle-distance double gold at the Athens Olympics.
Victoria Pendleton: Two golds and an Olympic silver, plus 9 World champs golds.
Dame Sarah Storey: 11 Paralympic golds in first swimming then rowing.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson: 11 Paralympic golds on the track and the first superstar Paralympian.