Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

8. Roman Sebrle

Czech Republic
Age: 33

A javelin plunged into Roman Sebrle's shoulder during a bizarre and horrible training session in 2007. The Czech decathlete feared that his career was over, and had the javelin hit a few inches farther left and punctured his throat, his life would have been over. But his opponents will have to come up with something better to defeat him. To the delight of his many admirers, Sebrle recovered and won a gold medal at the world championship that same year. Winning the title was the most dramatic event in a career of superlatives. He was the first ever to amass more than 9,000 points in the decathlon, one of the most physically demanding track disciplines, which involves competing in 10 different events over two days — from high jump to javelin to a 1,500-m race — and totaling points accrued in each. He is the only decathlete ever to have bettered 8,000 points in 40 competitions. He was named the Czech Republic's best athlete of the year for five years running, through 2006. He won silver in 2000 in Sydney and gold in Athens in 2004. Although 33, he managed one of his best results at the world championship in Osaka, Japan, last year. If he can avoid catching any more stray javelins, Sebrle is still very much in the running, jumping and throwing to retain the title of World's Greatest Athlete. "I am the type of guy that always looks into the future," he told the Prager Zeitung. "But, of course, you never completely forget a javelin in your shoulder. When I step onto the turf of a stadium today, I look around first."