Top athletes? Tough to beat Paralympians for all seasons

Allison Jones (Credit: USOC/Long Photography, Inc.)

Michael Phelps’ medal tally is impressive. But can he ski?

Somewhere in our ranking of great athletes, we have to set aside a place for those who manage Olympic medals in two different sports. And beyond that, we have to have another place for those who win gold medals in winter and summer Games.

That’s why this Tweet stands out today:

@Jonezyrocks is Allison Jones, who won a road cycling time trial gold today to go with her Alpine skiing medals, including gold in Torino.

Alana Nichols won gold in wheelchair basketball in 2008 and added a skiing gold in 2010.

Can any athlete match that in the Olympics or Paralympics?

The Olympics have had a few multisport athletes. This incomplete list (swimmer/triathlete/modern pentathlete Sheila Taormina was missing until I added her, so I don’t fully trust it) includes a lot of cyclists doubling up on winter sports that also require massive thighs. We also have a few combined-event athletes competing in a subset of those events (modern pentathletes in fencing, etc.) and a few track and field/bobsled folks.

Then we get some unusual combos. Bobsled and sailing. Bobsled and judo. Ice hockey and softball (add that to “things I’d forgotten about Hayley Wickenheiser.”)

The most accomplished dual-season Olympian is surely Canada’s Clara Hughes. She won two medals in cycling in 1996, tried again in 2000 and then shifted to speedskating. She claimed four medals in three Winter Olympics, then made another run in cycling just a few weeks ago in London. At age 39, she finished fifth in the time trial.

Paralympic records aren’t as widely tracked, but the Paralympic Hall of Fame includes one Jouko Grip, who doubled up on track and field plus cross-country skiing. He managed five gold medals in 1984, back in the days in which Winter and Summer Games were held in the same year.

Bo knows? Jouko knows.