Freak Streaks: Unbelievable streaks in individual sports!

Yoshida after unprecedented win : News Photo
Yoshida is arguably the best wrestler of all time

Much of sporting legacy and laurels are based on those incredible runs and streaks some individuals had, ranging anywhere from a few years to a decade or two. The most remembered sportspersons didn’t just hit that purple patch, they hit those timeless purple blocks which seem unreal, unbelievable and so good to be true, that people sometimes breathed a sigh of relief when those streaks ended; some of them to rivals, some to injuries, and some to retirement.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 such streaks from modern history, some of which will make you travel time, and some which would seem so audacious, you’d think they are probably works of fantasy fiction and not feats of superhuman talent that walked our sporting arenas.

#10 Saori Yoshida, Wrestling

Freak Feat: 3 straight Olympic Golds, 4 straight Asian Games Golds, 13 straights World Championship Golds

Yoshida is probably one of the two most decorated Freestyle wrestlers ever to have hit the mat. In a career spanning nearly two decades, she’s had only three losses. All of her Olympic and Asian Games Gold Medals have come in the 55 kg category, and 11 of her 13 World Championships have also come in the same.

Her last 2 World Championship wins came in the 53 kg category, owing to the change from the traditional 48–55–63–75 kg scheme to the 48–53–58–63–69–75 kg scheme in the World Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Yoshida took silver in the 53 kg category in the Rio Olympics, her first loss at the biggest stage in the world.

The one to eventually stop her was Olympic Debutante American Helen Maroulis. Yoshida apologized to her supporters after the loss. Whether we see her 4 years later in her home Olympics, Tokyo 2020, or not, Saori Yoshida will always be remembered as a fierce fighter, a dominant champion, and the face of the sport for many years to come.

#9 Floyd Mayweather Jr., Boxing

Argentina v United States - USA Basketball Showcase : News Photo
Mayweather had an unbeaten professional record

Freak Feat: Undefeated as a professional, retired with a 49-0 record

Many may debate the inclusion of Mayweather over Rocky Marciano, despite both of them ending their professional careers with the same record. I give it in favour of Mayweather for three reasons: a) Longer career span, 1996-2015 v/s 1947-1955, b) a better amateur record, 84-6 v/s 8-4 and c) Mayweather beat Manny Pacquiao!

Mayweather was an Olympic Bronze Medalist at Atlanta 1996 before he turned professional in the same year. Having fought in multiple weight categories and having emerged victorious in all, many regard Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather the greatest pound for pound boxer of all time.

Also read: MMA News: McGregor says Floyd Mayweather is 'afraid' to fight him!

His tactically won bout over Manny Pacquiao, his penultimate win en-route to 49-0 solidified, those claims earned him a lot of respect in the boxing community and helped garner a lot of support all over the globe. Mayweather is one of the richest athletes across the sporting universe, having generated the largest pay-per-view buys and revenues through his career.

Given the fact that he has already retired and made a comeback twice, many people are hopeful and/or confident of a return by the ‘Pretty Boy’, so one can’t be sure that his 49-0 record is safely packed in the bag already!

#8 Valentina Vezzali, Fencing

Torino, European Capital of Sport 2015 : News Photo
Vezzalli won 5 straight medals in the Olympics

Freak Feat: Medals in Individual Foil in 5 straight Olympics

Vezzali is probably to Fencing, what Sachin Tendulkar is to cricket, if not bigger. She won 5 straight medals at the Olympic Games in individual foil (Silver in 1996, Golds in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and a Bronze in 2012).

She became the first fencer to win three consecutive Gold medals in individual foil, with her win in 2008. She has also won 3 team Golds and 1 team Bronze in the same period.

Between 1994 and 2016, she has won 35 Golds, 11 Silvers, and 9 Bronze Medals in individual and team events across the Olympics, World Championships and European Championships. Vezzali is one of only 4 sporting personalities to have won 5 medals at the same individual event in Olympic history.

#7 Usain Bolt, Athletics

ATHLETICS-OLY-2016-RIO : News Photo
Bolt is the fastest ever human being

Freak Feat: Triple-triple, 3 straight Golds in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay at the Olympics

Lightning bolt needs no introductions. He is the fastest human ever timed and currently holds the World record in the 100m and 200m, and is part of the Jamaican team that holds the record in the 4x100m relay.

He is also the defending Olympic and World Champion in all three of these events. He has won three straight Gold medals in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay at the Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016), and 4 straight Gold medals in the 200m and 4x100m relay at the World Championships (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015).

The only Gold he has missed in this period is the 2011 World Championship 100m, due to a false start. Bolt is usually not the fastest man off the blocks, but his acceleration and length have made him ever so unbeatable in the shorter sprint formats.

Usain Bolt intends to retire after the 2017 World Championships, but until then, we all know who the fastest active sprinter is. It’ll also be interesting to see if Bolt actively pursues his love for cricket and decides to play a game or two once his sprinting days are behind him.

#6 Michael Phelps, Swimming

Phelps is the greatest United States swimmer of all time

Freak Feat: 4 straight Olympic Golds in 200m Individual Medley

Michael Phelps is a freak of nature and you might wonder what he’s already doing in this list at Number 6, but it just gets you prepared for what’s going to follow. Also, this is a list of streaks and not entire careers.

With his resounding victory and Gold Medal in the 200m Individual Medley at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Phelps became the first swimmer to have won 4 consecutive Golds in the same event, and only one of three Olympians to have done it across all sports and events.

The most decorated Olympian of all time, with 23 Golds, 3 Silvers, and 2 Bronze Medals, Phelps has won 9 Golds, and 2 Silver Medals across competitions in the 200m Individual Medley.

In terms of his individual medal tally, this would be his second most favored event after the 200m butterfly. Despite the 200m IM being an event he has been so successful at, at the Olympic Games and otherwise, surprisingly the world record holder for the event is countryman and perceived ‘bad boy’ Ryan Lochte.

#5 Kaori Icho, Wrestling

Gold Medalist Kaori Icho Parade Her Hometown : News Photo
Icho won 4 straight Olympic Golds

Freak Feat: 4 straight Olympic Golds, 10 straight World Championship Golds

If Saori Yoshida would ever be surpassed as the face of female wrestling, the most likely person to do it would be compatriot Kaori Icho. Icho participated in the 63 kg weight category until the 2013 World Championships after which she moved to the lower 58 kg weight category.

She is the only female athlete in Olympic history to win an individual Gold in 4 consecutive Olympic Games. She has enjoyed one of the longest streaks of winning in modern sporting history and she was undefeated from 2003 to January 2016, when she eventually lost to Mongolian Orkhon Purevdorzh, although she rebounded well after that loss to take the Olympic Gold a few months later.

Spectators of that match would remember how she snatched victory from the jaws of defeat despite trailing with 5 seconds left in the match. Indian fans would remember this weight category as it’s the same one in which Sakshi Malik won a Bronze.

#4 Carl Lewis, Athletics

Carl Lewis Participating in Olympic Long Jump Trials : News Photo
Lewis could do nothing wrong on the track

Freak Feat: 4 straight Golds, 65 consecutive victories over a 10-year period in the Long Jump

There was very little Carl Lewis could not do on the track and field. He could zip past opponents in the 100m and 200m, but this feat is not about that. This is about his abilities as a Long Jumper.

Carl Lewis is the most dominant Long Jumper in the history of the sport and his indoor record has stood the test of time since 1984. Lewis won 65 consecutive Long Jump events from the 1980’s to the 1990’s, over a 10-year period and this is widely considered one of the incredible undefeated streaks of all time. Lewis won the Olympic Gold in the Long Jump event at the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics and is one of only three athletes along with Michael Phelps and Al Oerter to have won 4 consecutive Gold Medals at the same event in Olympic history.

During his 19-year long career, spanning from 1979 to 1996, Carl Lewis won 10 Olympic Medals (9 Golds, 1 Silver) and 10 World Championship Medals (8 Golds, 1 Silver) in sprint and long jump events. Considered by many as the Olympian of the Century, Lewis is the only athlete to have successfully defended his long jump title, and he did it not once, not twice, but thrice!

#3 Sergey Bubka, Pole Vault

Ukranian Pole Vaulter Sergey Bubka : News Photo
Bubka has set an astonishing 35 world records

Freak Feat: 6 consecutive IAAF World Championship titles from 1983 to 1997, 35 World Records

If the Olympics Games ever had a cursed child, you’re looking at him right here. Sergey Bubka has only one Olympic Gold to show for a sporting event, he clearly dominated for a decade and a half.

Bubka won 6 straight Gold Medals in the Pole Vault at the IAAF Championships all the way from 1983 to 1997, but that’s not what makes his story great. Sergey Bubka has probably set the world record for breaking world records.

He has set the world record for men’s pole vault an astonishing 35 times (17 outdoor and 18 indoor records). He was the first pole-vaulter in history to clear 6 meters and 6.10 meters. His indoor record set in 1993 stood for 21 years when it was finally bettered by Frenchman Lavillenie in 2014 at the same competition and arena as the original record.

The outdoor world record he set in 1994 still belongs to him. What is also interesting is that he broke his own record 14 times. For the current generation of sports enthusiasts who would have seen a lot of Yelena Isinbayeva, we now probably understand where the inspiration was coming from all these years.

#2 Edwin Moses, Athletics

Edwin Moses in the 400m Hurdles : News Photo
Moses was unbeatable in the hurdles

Freak Feat: Won 107 consecutive 400m hurdles Finals between 1977 and 1987

If Johan Cruyff invented ‘Total Football’, Edwin Moses probably invented ‘Total Domination’. Moses, a two-time Olympic Gold medalist in the 400m hurdles at the 1976 and 1984 Games (The US had boycotted Moscow 1980), won an unprecedented 122 races including 107 Finals between 1977 and 1987.

He set the world record 4 times in the event and exited the world stage as a Bronze medalist at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. His streak lasted just short of 10 years, and if you look up the sports section of the newspapers of those times, one would realize how big a deal it really was.

When it ended, some believed the streak was so good to be true, that it was a good thing it ended and took off pressure from Moses, who didn’t just need to win, he had to cater to the expectations of a frenzied crowd who wanted the streak to go on and on.

His wife said in an interview after he lost the streak-ending-race, "You know what his horoscope said that day? It said, 'This is not a day to pursue your desires. The planets are not favorable now.' In other words, don't do it. I was going to try to get in touch with him. But there's no way I could have done so. What were they going to say? Moses is not running because his wife told him not to after reading his horoscope?"

Whether otherworldly spirits were involved in Moses’ streak ending or not, one thing is for sure, it was the rage of the day while it lasted!

#1 Jahangir Khan, Squash

Jahangir Khan - Squash Champion : News Photo
Jahangir won 555 matches on the trot

Freak Feat: Won a staggering 555 matches on the trot, from 1981 to 1986

We’re all familiar with racquet sports, be it tennis, badminton, table tennis or squash. We also know one more thing about their circuits, they play a lot of matches. The likes of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei, the best of the lot, they all lose matches every year.

Whether it’s against their close rivals, or completely unheard of players causing earth-shattering upsets, there are a few losses every now and then. In that context now, Jahangir Khan’s streak is not just superhuman, it’s probably at the behest of some divine intervention.

Khan was undefeated in competitive play for 5 years and 8 months from 1981 to 1986, an insane run of 555 consecutive matches. What’s even more fascinating is the fact that the run began when he was just 17 years old. That’s not all though, he went on another run of 9 months after that defeat.

Jahangir Khan has won the World Open 6 times and the British Open a record 10 times. His rivalry with compatriot Jansher Khan is considered one of the most competitive and utterly dominating rivalries in professional sport.

The next time someone discusses crazy streaks with you now, keep your repertoire ready. These are as crazy as they get!

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Edited by Staff Editor
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