Here's what you need to know...
- Love or hate CrossFit, you can't deny that Rich Froning is a total beast.
- Fear these fists. Gennady Golovkin is one of the hardest hitting middleweight boxers in history with a 90% knockout rate.
- Antonio Valencia's run in a match versus Liverpool was the fastest ever recorded, a blazing 22 mph.
- Andrey Malanichev set a new world record in powerlifting with a 2469-pound total. What's more impressive is that this was done with only knee wraps in the raw category.
- Houston Texan Jadeveon Clowney may produce the most locomotive force of any human on the planet.
- Usain Bolt is undoubtedly the real life version of the Flash.
With fitness all the rage these days, ranking athletes across their respective sports has become a hot trend. The trouble is, it's difficult ranking attributes that play very differently from one sport to the next. Is the speed possessed by a soccer player anything like that of a boxer? Is the power in Giancarlo Stanton's swing comparable to that of Lu Xiaojun's clean and jerk?
Using a report card to grade attributes across different sports feels misguided. Maybe open eyes and intuition can guide us better. Who generates the most buzz over his feats of athleticism, strength, and speed? Who winds up on SportsCenter day in and day out for his most recent "Wow!" moment? Who repeatedly increases the standards of performance in their respective sport?
Rather than simply create another list of the world's fittest athletes, this is a ranking of outliers among the incredibly fit. This list is comprised of the dozen top "freaks," the most powerful athletes in the world.
12 – Antonio Valencia
FIFA claims that Valencia's run in a match versus Liverpool was the fastest ever recorded, at a blazing 22mph.
An athlete leaks a lot of his top speed while playing a sport. It's miraculous for Valencia to exhibit that kind of speed on grass while making decisions that leak speed – chasing the ball, fleeing defenders, and planning his next tactical move. It'd be mind-blowing to see what kind of raw speed he'd display on a synthetic track.
11 – Giancarlo Stanton
This guy can smash baseballs. It's pretty much undisputed that he has the most power of any hitter on the planet.
Listed at 6' 6" and 240 pounds, Stanton isn't a big, soft, teddy bear like many MLB power hitters. He's lean, muscular, and could pass for an NFL tight end. The ball has left his bat at 120mph, which explains his 500+ foot homeruns and the growing outcry for pitchers' head protection.
10 – Rich Froning
Froning has won the CrossFit Games four years running, amid fiercely growing competition. In 2014, he won five of the 13 events to retain his title.
And, just as impressively, Froning has been grinding out titles without any major setbacks in a sport with an infamously high injury rate. It's safe to say that he has one of the most bulletproof physiques in all of sports and an incredible motor. He's got more "fourth quarter" power than anyone around.
9 – Gennady Golovkin
If you've never heard of Golovkin, either start listening or run for cover. The middleweight is one of the hardest hitting boxers in history with a 90% knockout rate. And he's the current middleweight champion in both the WBA and IBO with a 30-0 record.
Twenty-seven knockouts in 30 fights means his opponents must dodge his haymaker at all costs... or it's goodnight.
8 – Andrey Malanichev
Malanichev set a new world record in powerlifting with a 2469-pound total – 573 pound bench press, 1014-pound squat, and an 881-pound deadlift. What's more impressive is that this was done with only knee wraps in the raw category.
You don't think of huge men as being explosive, but Malanichev is the epitome of explosiveness. It's actually frightening to see such big weights move so quickly. His 1014-pound squat goes up like the plates are made of Styrofoam.
7 – Kohei Uchimura
Male gymnasts display perhaps the most freakish strength of any athlete. They use whole body tension to defy gravity and accelerate and decelerate their bodies at incredible rates of speed. Many regard Kohei Uchimura to be the best ever, winning gold at the 2012 Olympics and six gold medals in recent world championships.
6 – Kevin Durant
If you haven't watched Kevin Durant play in person, you need to. I'd heard the hype but didn't get it until I sat in the arena.
Durant literally ran circles around every other player. He was faster, more athletic, more agile, and more graceful than every other athlete on the court. When high-speed, explosive movements become fluid and graceful; that's when you know you're in the presence of greatness. His 2014 NBA MVP trophy and five all-star selections only reinforce what I saw.
5 – Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney may produce the most locomotive force of any human on the planet, running a 4.53 40-yard dash at a bodyweight of 266 pounds. He's the human version of Juggernaut from X-Men.
The average person who merely watches sports on TV loses sight of just how terrifyingly fast a 4.5 40-yard dash is. It's really, really fast for a man of 180 pounds, let alone one who weighs 266 pounds. Couple that with a 37" vertical jump and it's clear he can move his mass more explosively than just about anyone on the planet.
4 – Ashton Eaton
Eaton, at 26 years old, holds the world record in both the heptathlon and decathlon. The decathlon's 10 events showcase all-around speed, skill, and power. He blew his competition out of the water en route to a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics by posting a 10.35 100-yard sprint and an 8.03-meter long jump. Eaton is the complete package.
3 – Lu Xiaojun
In the 2012 Olympics, Xiaojun put up a world record total of 379 kilograms in the 77-kilogram weight class. The silver medalist only put up a comparatively paltry 360 kilograms.
On the world's biggest stage, he absolutely destroyed everyone else with a victory margin of 19 kilograms. Consider, too, that the winner of the 85-kilogram class only put up 6 kilos more than Xiaojun. He's as lean, muscular, and powerful as one gets.
2 – Calvin Johnson
Given the nickname "Megatron" by his teammates, the 6' 5", 235-pound Johnson is about as gifted an athlete as there is. His NFL combine stats included a 4.35 40-yard dash, an 11' 7" broad jump, and a 42-inch vertical jump. He's gone on to be a dominant NFL wide receiver, and for good reason – he can burn just about anyone on the field and out-jump Lebron James if the occasion presented itself.
1 – Usain Bolt
If you haven't watched Usain Bolt: The Fastest Man Alive, check it out on Netflix. The documentary on Bolt gives a good look into the work ethic of a man whose name is synonymous with speed.
In 1968, the world record 100-meter sprint was 9.95 seconds. In 2007, Asafa Powell lowered the world record to 9.74 – a drop of 0.21 seconds that had ticked incrementally lower over a span of 40 years. In 2009, Usain Bolt lowered that number to 9.58 – a drop of 0.16 seconds just two years later. Bolt exceeded the natural pace of record breaking by a breath-taking margin. He's the real-life version of the Flash.
Who else should have cracked this list? Leave your nominations in the comments section.