The second in my occasional series trying to decide who were the greatest sports people of their time. The years from 1000 to 1700 saw very little organised sport where great individuals can be identified. Most of my choices aren’t really sportsmen as such, but explorers who can be seen as having achieved something which can be seen in a sports context. So really this is just a bit of fun.
My shortlist consists of:
Leif Erikson (Norse/Icelandic – Sailing) – regarded as the first European to land in North America when he sailed there around the year 1000.
Bartolomeu Diaz (Portugal – Sailing) the first European known to have sailed round the southern tip of Africa (in 1488)
Vasco da Gama (Portugal – Sailing) – the first European to reach India by sea (1498)
Juan Sebastian Elcano (Spain/Basque – Sailing) – following the death of Magellan he took command of the ship (Victoria) that made the first circumnavigation of the earth (1519 to 1522)
Sir Francis Drake (England – Sailing) – commander of the Golden Hind which completed a circumnavigation of the earth in 1580, taking 33 months.
Sir William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (England – tournaments) – possibly the greatest knight of the middle ages. He was renowned across Europe and is believed to have won more than 500 contests. He also gave distinguished service to four English kings in the 12th and early 13th centuries.
As I said, most of these can only loosely be described as sportsmen. For that reason my choice as the greatest sportsman of the period is Sir William Marshal who appears to have achieved great renown in what could be termed “sports”.
If I treat the voyages of discovery as more of a team effort then my greatest “Team” of the era goes to crew of the Victoria under captain Juan Sebastian Elcano for their circumnavigation of the earth. Others paved the way but completing the entire journey around the earth first won’t be beaten.