A sportsperson (British and American English) or athlete (principally American English) is any person who participates regularly in a sport.

Athletes can be professional (paid) or amateur (unpaid). A superior athlete is one who has above average physical skills (strength, agility, and endurance) and is thus more suited for physical competition. An Ancient Greek word for "contest" was athlos, and those competing in early Greek games were called athletes.

Most professional athletes have particularly well-developed physiques obtained by extensive physical training and strict exercise accompanied by a strict dietary regimen. Athletes may also be known as jocks.


Athlete and sportsperson can be used to refer to athletes of either sex, while sportsman and sportswoman refer to men and women, respectively.

All-around athlete

An all-around athlete is a person who competes in multiple sports at a high level, for instance someone who plays both basketball and baseball professionally. Examples of people who played numerous sports professionally are Deion Sanders (male) and Babe Zaharias (female)as well as Ricky Williams, Bo Jackson, and Damon Allen (all of whom were drafted by both the Major League Baseball and professional football leagues - NFL and CFL).

World's Greatest Athlete

The title of "World's Greatest Athlete" traditionally belongs to the world's top competitor in the Decathlon (males) and Heptathlon (females) in Track and Field. The decathlon (for males) consists of 10 events: 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meters, 110 m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 m. The heptathlon (for females) consists of 7 events: the 100 m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin, and 800 meters. These competitions require an athlete to possess the whole spectrum of athletic ability in order to be successful including speed, strength, coordination, jumping ability, and endurance.

Although the title "World's Greatest Athlete" seems a natural fit for these two events, its traditional association with the decathlon/heptathlon officially began with Jim Thorpe, arguably the greatest all-around athlete in history. During the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe won the gold medal in the Decathlon (among others). Thorpe notably also competed professionally in football, baseball, and basketball; and competed collegiately in track and field, football, baseball, lacrosse, and did ballroom dancing. King Gustav V of Sweden, while awarding Thorpe the Decathlon Gold said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." That title has become associated with the decathlon event ever since. Another American great, and decathlon champion, was the athlete and Olympic gold medalist, Bruce Jenner.

High school sports

Many students in high schools participate in intramural and varsity sports. Many sports have practices after school lasting for roughly two hours. Weights, calisthenics and other forms of conditioning are used for physical training.

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