Five game changers

Five game changers

SIMONE BILES

No gymnast in history has performed an array of skills as challenging as the American. The 23-year-old has four eponymous skills – on vault, balance beam, and floor exercise (two) – in the code of points.

Her triple-double – two flips followed by three complete mid-air twists – on the floor has not been successfully completed by another woman in competition.

Not only has Biles redefined what is possible in gymnastics, but she has also forced the competition to change their approach as they had to add more difficulty to their routines in a bid to keep up.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA

The Czech-born American won a record 59 Major titles – 18 in singles – on the back of an aggressive brand of tennis.

Her serve-and-volley approach was unprecedented in the women’s game and prompted the likes of Jana Novotna, Serena Williams and Amelie Mauresmo to come to the net more often.

She also took athleticism to new heights with her training techniques, especially cross-training, instilling the notion that one could hit the gym or play basketball to boost physical conditioning.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

The Los Angeles Lakers are the kings of the National Basketball Association but the epochal shift in the league can be attributed to Stephen Curry (left) and his franchise. The formula for success for decades had been physicality, utilising the size and strength of big forwards and centres to score in the paint. That all changed as Curry and the Warriors instead relied upon their three-point shooting to win three championships (2015, 2017, 2018) in four years.

Everyone does it now. The average number of three-pointers made per game this season before the pandemic was 24.3, more than double (11.5) in 2005-06.

JEAN VUARNET

The Frenchman was not among the favourites when he arrived for the 1960 Winter Olympics in California but departed with the gold medal in the downhill event.

The secret to his success was twofold: he opted to use metal skis, which were delivered to him days before his race, instead of the traditional wooden ones used by all his competitors.

Even more significant was the revolutionary aerodynamic “egg position” – squatting with his knees bent and arms outstretched to reduce the drag on his frame from the wind – he used while the rest of the skiers raced in an upright position.

NIKE VAPORFLY SHOES

The footwear that has changed long-distance running forever. The US company claims it can improve performance by 4 per cent and have the numbers to back them up.

The five fastest marathons of all time have come in the last 16 months by athletes using varying models of this shoe.

The most famous were the “Alphafly” prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who in October last year became the first man to run the 42.195km marathon in under two hours. That model has since been banned by World Athletics.