30 Amazing Athletes With Natural Physical Advantages
Some of the best athletes of all time owe their success to rigorous training, but there are other athletes who have the upper hand thanks to natural physical advantages.
Famous athletes like Kawhi Leonard and Usain Bolt are insanely talented. However, what you may not know is that they also have big assets to help them obliterate the competition.
From genetic defects to massive lungs, these are 30 amazing athletes with natural physical advantages.
Michael Phelps, Swimming
Is that a flying fish speeding through the water? Yes. It’s 23-time gold medal Olympian Michael Phelps, aka the “Flying Fish.” With giant arms and hands, Phelps is able to propel himself through the water faster than his competitors. His swimming speed tops off at 6 mph, while the average swimmer can only move at 2 mph.
Simone Biles, Gymnastics
At 4 feet 8 inches tall and 106 pounds, Simone Biles can’t stop winning. She swept through the Olympics and World Championship, winning 25 medals. Her small size allows her to breeze through difficult jumps and tricks since her body can easily rotate while in the air.
Boban Marjanovic, Basketball
With the biggest hands in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Boban Marjanovic is a powerful force with a basketball. His hands are 10.75 inches long and 12 inches wide. Standing at 7 feet and 3.5 inches, Marjanovic is also one of the tallest players in the NBA.
Miguel Induráin, Cycling
Dominant cyclist Miguel "Big Mig" Induráin rides faster and longer than his rivals with an average speed of 28.3 mph. Induráin has an extraordinary lung capacity of 7.8 liters, while an average person’s lung capacity is just 6 liters.
Joey Chestnut, Competitve Eating
Joey Chestnut’s powerful jaws allow him to scarf down enormous amounts of food. Chestnut consumed 71 hot dogs in 10 minutes on July 4, 2019, winning Nathan's Annual Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest for the 12th time. He also devoured 126 tacos in eight minutes at the World Taco Eating Championship in 2017.
Rafael Nadal, Tennis
Rafael Nadal is an 18-time Grand Slam champion from Spain. He plays tennis with his left hand, which many tennis players believe is a major benefit. His left arm is visibly much bigger than his right, but Nadal is naturally right-handed.
Eero Mäntyranta, Skiing
Eero Mäntyranta was a cross country skiing legend from Finland. Between 1960 and 1972, Mäntyranta snagged seven medals at four Winter Olympic games. What set Mäntyranta apart from his competitors is a mutation in his erythropoietin receptor (EPOR) gene.
Usain Bolt, Running
The sports world doesn’t call Usain Bolt “Lightning Bolt” just because of his fitting last name. Hailing from Jamaica, Bolt is the fastest person on the planet. Bolt finished the 100-meter sprint in 9.58 seconds and the 200-meter sprint in 19.19 seconds, clinching the world record for both races.
Ekaterina Lisina, Basketball
At 6 feet 9 inches tall, Ekaterina Lisina holds the Guinness World Record for the woman with the longest legs at 52 inches. She also has a shoe size of 14. Her unusual dimensions greatly benefited her eight-year basketball career. In 2008, her team was honored with a bronze medal in Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympics.
Matthias Schlitte, Arm Wrestling
If you think Popeye the sailor has huge arms, you should see Matthias Schlitte’s right arm. Schlitte is an arm wrestling champion from Germany. His left arm is average-sized, but his right arm measures 18.1 inches around his forearm.
Yao Ming, Basketball
Originally from Shanghai, China, Yao Ming was one of the tallest basketball players in the NBA. Ming measures in at a whopping 7 feet 6 inches tall with a shoe size of 18, making his competitors look tiny.
André the Giant, Wrestling
Born André Roussimoff in Grenoble, France, he was nicknamed "The 8th Wonder of the World" and "André the Giant." Standing at 7 feet tall and weighing over 500 pounds, André the Giant was most famous as a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler. He was also an international wrestling star, selling out arenas everywhere he went.
Caster Semenya, Running
Caster Semenya is the South African middle-distance running queen and a 2016 Olympic gold medalist. For 10 years, she’s been scrutinized by people questioning her gender. A leaked report revealed that Semenya has XY chromosomes. According to The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), having a Y-chromosome is a genetic advantage.
LeBron James, Basketball
LeBron James stands at 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 250 pounds. As a large human, James is a powerful force on the basketball court. His massive legs allow him to make 700 pounds of pressure per leap. He also makes huge strides and he’s faster than many point guards.
Tom Sietas, Free Diving
If you think holding your breath underwater is hard, imagine trying to hold it for 22 minutes and 22 seconds. That’s exactly what Tom Sietas did. Sietas is a freediver from Germany, specializing in static apnea events and smashing world records since 2000.
Kawhi Leonard, Basketball
Kawhi Leonard’s size makes him a great defender, but his biggest advantage is his huge hands. What you’re seeing is not photoshopped. Believe it or not, Leonard really does have hulk-like hands, measuring 9.75 inches long and 11.5 inches wide. Thanks to his mitts, Leonard earned the nickname "The Klaw."
Brady Ellison, Archery
Katniss Everdeen has some serious competition due to Brady Ellison’s incredible archery skills. From more than 90 yards away, Ellison can hit targets that are only 4.8 inches large—or the size of a Samsung Galaxy S III phone. He also hunts with a bow, targeting deer, boar, elk, bears, mountain lions, bighorn and sheep.
Tony Gwynn, Baseball
The legendary batter, Tony Gwynn, hit almost everything. Known as an artisan with a bat, Gwynn rarely struck out or drew walks. One of the greatest pitchers of all time, Greg Maddux, played against Gwynn 107 times and couldn’t ever strike him out.
Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Running
The real Forrest Gump exists and his name is Dean Karnazes. Karnazes has unusually strong endurance, allowing him to run extremely long distances without getting fatigued. In fact, he ran 350 miles without stopping to find out his body’s limits in 2005. He doesn’t get tired thanks to a rare genetic condition that removes lactic acid from his body.
Shaquille O'Neal, Basketball
At 7 feet 1 inch tall and 325 pounds, Shaquille O'Neal is a massive human being with size 22 feet. O’Neal’s enormous body helped him become a 15-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA First Team pick and four-time NBA champion.
Daniel Browning Smith, Contortion
Daniel Browning Smith is an actor, television host, comedian, sports entertainer and stuntman. But he’s most famous for being a contortionist, an extremely flexible performer. Known as the world’s most flexible man and “The Rubberboy,” Smith holds seven Guinness World Records.
Wim Hof, Extreme Sports
Mr. Freeze has nothing on Wim Hof, aka The Iceman. Hof can withstand extreme cold exposure, such as hiking the world’s tallest mountains in shorts, swimming 188 feet under ice and running barefoot in the Arctic Circle. His body temperature even stayed the same while he sat in 1543.24 pounds of ice for hours.
Dwight Howard, Basketball
Many fans comment that Dwight Howard has some of the widest shoulders in the NBA. However, his elite wingspan of 7 feet 5 inches steals the spotlight. Standing at 6 feet 11 inches tall, Howard’s wingspan is longer than many players who are over 7 feet tall. It's his biggest advantage.
Sarah Robles, Weight Lifting
Sarah Robles’s major advantage is her naturally large dimensions. Measuring at 5 feet, 11 inches, Robles weighs a whopping 309 pounds. As a powerful lifter, she is a two-time Olympian. At the 2016 Olympic Games, Robles weighed 44 pounds more than all of her lifting competitors.
Martin Strel, Extreme Swimming
Martin Strel is a real-life Aquaman. He’s a Slovenian extreme swimmer, who can swim thousands of miles without stopping. He holds five Guinness World Records for conquering rivers in one go like the Danube (1,866 miles), Mississippi (2,360 miles), Yangtze (2,487 miles) and Amazon (3,273 miles).
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Basketball
Hailing from Greece, Giannis Antetokounmpo boasts huge hands, which measure 9.85 inches long and 12 inches wide. Thanks to his giant mitts, Antetokounmpo has extraordinary ball-handling skills. He’s also 6 feet 11 inches tall and has an enormous wingspan of 7 feet 3 inches.
Sonya Thomas, Competitive Eating
Just like Joey Chestnut, Sonya Thomas is a competitive eating rock star. Known as “The Black Widow” and “The Leader of the Four Horsemen of the Esophagus,” Thomas often beats men who are four to five times bigger than her. In 10 minutes, she devoured 46 hot dogs Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. She has also consumed 564 oysters in eight minutes and 8.4 pounds of baked beans in two minutes and 47 seconds.
Ted Williams, Baseball
Ted Williams had superhuman eyesight. As one of the greatest hitters in baseball, Williams had 20/10 vision. He hit the ball no matter how fast it went because he could clearly see and identify the ball's movement. Focusing on the ball helped Williams figure out how to bat each time he stepped up to the plate.
Dutee Chand, Running
Dutee Chand is a sprinting champion from India. In 2019, Chand left her rivals in the dust in a 100-meter race, clocking in at 11.32 seconds. Similar to Caster Semenya, people believe she has an advantage because she has high androgen levels.
Ian Thorpe, Swimming
Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe has enormous feet. He uses his size 17 flippers to paddle quickly through the water. Thorpe can speed through 200 meters in one minute and 44 seconds. Known for obliterating the competition, he earned the nickname “Thorpedo.”