The Active Times 50: World’s Best Athletes

Meet the top outdoor adventure and endurance athletes in the world

Since our first ranking of the world’s best athletes in 2013, there have been young athletes who have proven themselves, mature athletes pushing the bounds of what the world thought was possible and legendary athletes who continue to expand on their impressive careers. A lot has happened in the world of sport since 2013, so we’re ranking earth’s best athletes once again.

AT-50 Methodology: We began by reaching out to experts in their respective fields for nominations of the best athletes on earth. Once we had nominations in the sports of climbing, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, SUP, kayaking, swimming, cycling, running, triathlon and adventure, we began the process of ranking the athletes.

Athletes received points for high-profile competition wins (where applicable), innovation in their sport, versatility in their career body of work, inherent risk, notoriety and, if they appeared on our 2013 list, they received points for remaining a dominant figure in their sport.[slideshow:80982]

Although the sports we included are extremely different, the variety of metrics helped to level the playing field. For example, mountaineers have few competitions, but inherent risk is high—awarding points for risk helped us measure mountaineers against triathletes.

With those metrics we attempted the difficult process of determining the 50 best athletes on earth. There’s been a lot of change in the past two years, with 12 athletes returning to the list and 38 newcomers claiming spots. Not to mention the former first place athlete, Kelly Slater dropping several ranks.

Clearly, a ranking of this kind means that we’re comparing what’s typically considered incomparable—and there’s sure to be some heated debate—but with this list we’re recognizing athletes and adventurers at the very top of their field. Each of them, with an impressive career and monumental accomplishments, represents the very best of their sport. So who’s the best of the best? The Active Times 50 is our answer.

Meet Our 2015 Panelists

#50 Mark McMorris—Snowboarder

Scott Serfas / Red Bull Content Pool

(Photo Credit: Scott Serfas / Red Bull Content Pool)

Many professional athletes have had the good fortune of learning their sport soon after they started walking and the opportunity to start competing early on, but not Mark McMorris. He grew up in Saskachewan, a flat Canadian province and didn’t start competing professionally until 2009. Still McMorris, who is now only 21, has not only proven himself in major competitions and on film, but is a pioneer in the sport of snowboarding. Best known for being the first snowboarder to ever successfully land a backside 1440 triple cork, he’s no stranger to pushing the boundaries. In fact, after making his way to the 2014 Winter Olympics and competing with a cracked rib, he still managed to win bronze in slopestyle. It’s clear there’s a lot to come for this young and talented athlete, but his career thus far, his determination and his ability to push the sport forward have earned him a spot in the world’s top 50 athletes.
—Diana Gerstacker

#49 Chris Froome—Road Cyclist

(Photo Modified: Flickr / Jaguar MENA / CC BY 4.0)

In 2012 Froome was dubbed a “rising star of British cycling.” Today, a two-time Tour de France winner, he’s widely regarded as one of the most successful riders in the world. His rise to cycling stardom began in 2010 when he placed second at the 2011 Vuelta a España. From there, he went on to win stage seven in the 2012 Tour de France and a bronze medal in the time trial event at the 2012 Olympic Games. Following several more stage race wins he eventually went on to win the Tour de France in 2013 and then again in 2015. “I love the sacrifices, the training, the hard work,” Froome told Velo News of the rigorous training he put in leading up to his 2015 victory. “That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I love riding my bike. I love pushing my body to the limit. I love the freedom that cycling gives you.”
—Katie Rosenbrock

See the Top 48 Athletes in the World