Paying tribute to the unsung heroes of sport
In just about every sport there is a man, or woman, who have simply been a cut above the rest. That one special player who personifies everything that their sport represents.
Boxing had “The Greatest”, Muhammad Ali. He would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, viciously and tactically taking apart challenger upon challenger. Soccer had the masterful Pele, who still brings a smile to the faces of Brazilian fans, when they relive his exquisite skills. Sir Don Bradman dominated the game of cricket with brutal efficiency, finishing his career averaging practically a century every time he went out to bat (99.94avg).
These superstars cemented an undying legacy during their magical careers. They are simply names that will never be forgotten, the world over.
What I find interesting is, recognition of greatness in the sporting world is very much determined by the profile of the chosen trade. There is no doubt that the names I previously mentioned are amazingly gifted sportsmen, and brilliant at what they did. They are household names that receive both respect and praise in all four corners.
Today I would like to share with you just a few names that have helped shape their sport, and inspire people to achieve greatness. I don’t expect them to be well known, but their legacy will leave you in applause.
Jahangir Khan (Pakistan) – Squash
The undisputed king of squash! This man dominated the sport convincingly for many years. Winner of the World Open six times, he also won the British Open an unprecedented 10 times in a row. Despite these achievements, his most impressive statistic was his incomprehensible winning streak. This magnificent unbeaten run stretched for over five years and yielded 555 wins. 555 wins in a row! If that is not complete and utter dominance, then I don’t know what is.
Heather McKay (Australia) – Squash
If Jahangir Khan is the king of squash, then Heather McKay is most certainly the queen. McKay’s career is quite similar to Khan’s in the fact she ruled the court for a very long period of time. Quite possibly the most well known of this list of people, she boasts a playing record to match anybody the world over.
Just imagine playing a sport professionally for 21 years, and losing just two measly matches. For Heather McKay this is reality. After just two losses in her first two years, McKay went the remaining 19 years straight without losing a single match! Winner of 16 straight British Open titles (thats right, 16 straight) she even won an Open final match without dropping a single point. Enough said.
Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno (Philippines) – Ten Pin Bowling
Paeng’s list of achievements reads like a short novel. A superstar of the sport for many years, he received his first accolade in 1972, as the junior masters champion. He is still accumulating awards to this day. Nepomuceno’s main achievements in bowling are; four-time World Cup champion, being the youngest World Cup champion, at 19, and having the most number of bowling tournament titles.
Each of these feats are Guinness World Records. Just last year, at the ripe age of 57, Paeng created a new national record with an average of 280.75 over four games. This included a rare perfect game of 300, and one game just shy, with 299.
Stephen Hendry (Scotland) – Snooker
In 1990, Hendry became the youngest ever snooker World Champion, at the age of 21. Since then he has not looked back, holding the world number one ranking for an incredible eight consecutive years! Hendry also holds the record for the most world ranking titles in history (36). He is also second on the list of professional title wins, with 72. Across his career, Hendry has accrued approximately $16 million in prize money, also a record. He was certainly the biggest shark in the pool world.
These stars are just four of many unsung sporting heroes that do not get the deserved recognition. I understand that naturally they will not get as much exposure as their more high profile counterparts, but it would be nice to get to know their names, and their legacy just a little better.