The long game: the legacy and successes of sporting legends

At the upcoming ATP finals Roger Federer will play Sascha Zverev, who was literally a baby when Federer turned professional. We take a look at sporting careers that have just gone on and on

Egle Vaitekenaite
6th November 2017

At the upcoming ATP finals Roger Federer will play Sascha Zverev, who was literally a baby when Federer turned professional. We take a look at sporting careers that have just gone on and on.

Roger Federer (tennis)

One great athlete is a true professional and one of the greatest players in the history of tennis is Roger Federer.

The Swiss star began playing tennis at the age of 8 in his hometown, Basel, back in Switzerland. The talented youngster started to play professionally at the age of 17.

After becoming a professional in 1998, he was continuously ranked between the top 10 best players in the world according to ATP rating between 2002-16. Moreover, the player saved the number one position in the ATP rankings for the longest time in the history- 302 weeks in total.

At the moment, at the age of 36 years, he is currently in second position. The talented Federer still continues a very long and successful career, but is a father of four children, is married to another tennis player- Mirka Federer and is fluent in four different languages.

Egle Vaitekenaite



Wladimir Klitschko (boxing)

From professional debut in 1996 after a gold medal win at the Atlanta Olympics to retirement in 2017, Klitschko took to the ring 69 times, winning 65 times and becoming the second longest reigning heavyweight champion in history, his 9 years and 7 months just behind Joe Louis’ 11 years.

Despite unifying the heavyweight titles and exercising his dominance over the division, he is sometimes criticised for dominating a weak division compared to earlier decades.

However, Klitschko has faced adversity, relinquishing his WBO title in 2003 and losing 2 consecutive fights before forcing his way back into world title contention and winning the IBF/IBO World Championships in 2006.

More recently, having lost his titles in a shock 2015 defeat to Tyson Fury, he challenged Anthony Joshua, and despite being 14 years his senior, sent Joshua to the canvas in the 6th before being dropped twice in the 11th and enduring brutal combinations until the referee’s stoppage.

Nonetheless, he showed real endeavour, and proved that his dedication to gruelling training camps even at the age of 41 was second to none, and in defeat still exuded the perseverance that allowed him to box at the highest level for such an impressive period.

Tom Hardwick



Cristiano Ronaldo (football)

One of the greatest players of all times in the world, the Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo still leads his professional career, which has been lasting for more than 15 years. The talented player was born in small city- Funchal in Madeira’s island in Portugal.

A headstrong and determined child from as soon as started to walk, he became interested in football, often kicking the ball in and around the local neighbourhoods. Quickly, he was discovered by Sporting Lisbon scouts and at the age of 17, made his debut in Portuguese league SuperLiga.

One year later, he was noticed by the British football legend, the main manager of Manchester United, Alex Ferguson. The young athlete was bought for the price of £12.24 millions by Manchester United team.

At the young age, and without good knowledge of the English language, he was a bit confused in this foreign country, but also very determined to conquer the Premier League. At the age of 23, the Portuguese player won his first Ballon D’or award, the first of four. Then in 2009, Ronaldo was bought by Real Madrid for the sum of £80 million.

Even today, he continues to be one of the best players in Spanish La Liga and is the highest paid footballer in the world. He also does a lot of philanthropy work and owns various funds to help the children back home in Madeira.

Egle Vaitekenaite



Francesco Totti (football)

When considering long sporting careers, it would be impossible to overlook the footballing career of Italian Francesco Totti.

Although he played for Roma’s youth team since 1989, he started playing in the senior team from 1992 right up until his retirement in May this year.

Including his time in the Roma youth side, Totti’s football career lasted 28 years. What makes this achievement even more remarkable though, is the fact that he was a one-club man and stayed at Roma for his entire career.

Totti’s special career has firmly cemented him in the Roma history books as the “Emperor of Rome”. His positions shifted over time, playing as a typical number ten as a playmaker and later on in his career as a striker. Throughout his career, Totti was famed for his technique on the ball; being able to pick out passes and crosses as well as scoring from set pieces. He is also remembered for his cheeky lobbed goals, this is best seen in the Rome derby against Lazio in 2002. Totti’s remarkable career is evidenced by the amount of records he has broken. He has been Serie A’s youngest captain, the Champions League’s oldest goalscorer as well as Roma’s all-time leading goalscorer and appearance maker. Although Totti has stopped playing for his beloved Roma, he still continues to work for them as a director and continues to make an impact behind the scenes.

Rebecca Johnson



Merlene Ottey (athletics)

2012’s European Athletics Championships came just a few weeks before the London Olympics, and saw medals won by the likes of Mo Farah, Robbie Grabarz and Jo Pavey. The 1980 Olympics, complete with the Cold War and US-led boycott of the Games, played host to Nadia Comaneci, Seb Coe and Daley Thompson. Incredibly, Merlene Ottey was part of both these eras; her nearly-40-year career making her one of track and field’s most successful athletes.

The Jamaican sprinter has broken numerous world records, won enough medals to fill a bank vault and was Jamaica’s Sportswoman of the Year 13 times in a 17-year period.

A failed drugs test and allegations that she bullied her way onto the Jamaican relay team for the 2000 Olympics threatened to end her already-illustrious career at the turn of the millennium, but she was awarded Slovenian citizenship in 2002, having lived there for four years, and represented the Eastern European nation for the next decade. The 57-year-old recently congratulated Usain Bolt on his retirement after seeing the whippersnapper equal her record of 14 World Championship medals.

Mark Sleightholm



Katherine Grainger (rowing)

Katherine Grainger began to develop her rowing prowess at the University of Edinburgh in 1993, where she was studying a bachelor degree in law alongside representing the university’s boat club.

She certainly wasted no time in snatching up titles, and won silver at the Sydney Olympic games in the women’s Quadruple Sculls event only seven years later

Little did she know aged 25 when she became an Olympic medal holder at the Sydney 2000 games that she would go on to become the most decorated female Olympic athlete in Britain boasting an incredible four silver Olympic medals, one gold Olympic medal and six World Championship titles.

Alongside her impressive collection of medals, she is also known for winning an unbelievable eight medals at World Championships in just 15 years, breaking the world record alongside Anna Watkins in 2012 when qualifying for the Double Sculls final and also being the first British woman to win medals at five successive Olympic games.

Following her unparalleled rowing career, she was appointed MBE in 2006, CBE in 2013 and now holds the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to sport and charity.

In the same year she was appointed DBE, she was also appointed chair of UK Sport and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen.

Emma Bancroft



Brian O’Driscoll (rugby)

“In BOD we trust”, an adage adopted by Irish rugby fans expressing support for their inspirational captain, Brian O’Driscoll. His career was hallmarked by success, winning three European Champions Cups with Leinster at club level, as well as winning the Six Nations with a Grand Slam in 2009 and the Six Nations again in 2014.

His career, which spanned from 1999 to 2014, also saw him earn 133 Ireland caps, and a further eight for the British and Irish Lions, making him Rugby’s second most capped player in history. O’Driscoll’s time as a player was one of great individual and collective success, establishing himself as a cult figure in his homeland. His talent as a player was coupled with an inherent ability to lead, and these qualities quickly cemented him as the talisman of Irish Rugby.

Furthermore, what allowed for such longevity is the commitment he showed to the game. Whereas others are content to wind down their careers and relax, O’Driscoll showed a real dedication to training and competition. This allowed him to maintain such a high level of ability and end his long and illustrious career with a final Six Nations triumph, and his status as a legend ensured.

Tom Hardwick



Sachin Tendulkar (cricket)

Although the Little Master stands at a mere 5 foot 5, his stature in the game of cricket is huge. Like a fine Roman Chianti Tendulkar became an even finer vintage as he grew older. His legs, similar to said wine, became richer and he is one for the purists. You’d never see him try a Jos Buttler scoop, but there was nothing unusual about the length of his stay at the top becoming India’s most revered player of all time.

Scoring the tiny sum of 16000 runs in test cricket, his was the golden age of Indian Cricket playing alongside the likes of Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and a young Mahindra Singh Dhoni. A special player on the pitch, he has also tried to use his influence to help develop the game off it. Tendulkar’s 14-a-side match idea has been implemented in areas of Mumbai, the size of the team making it difficult to simply just aim for the boundary and giving younger players the chance to develop the sometimes forgotten skills of placement and timing. Suffice to say, Tendulkar’s career may be over as a batsman but he remains a talismanic figure in the Indian game.

Josh Nicholson

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