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Wayne Gretzky Joined Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova To Share a


The 1980s was a hot and happening decade in the sporting world. It started with the ‘Miracle on Ice’ and Golf legend Jack Nicklaus making a comeback by winning the Masters at age 46 to Bjorn Borg beating his old foe John McEnroe in an epic Wimbledon final before falling to the grass. However, when it came to naming the two Best Athletes of that decade, one from each gender, there was a convincing winner for each. Let’s find out who they are.

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Associated Press (AP) started this tradition of naming the Best Athlete for both the male and female categories in 1931. By the 1960s, they also started naming the Best Athlete of the Decade. In 1989, an NHL legend and a Tennis great took home the coveted prize for that decade in the male and female categories respectively. Who were these deserving candidates? Read on to find out.

Wayne Gretzky and Martina Navratilova individually dominated the 1980s

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Wayne Gretzky and Martina Navratilova were named the Best Athletes of the Decade Male and Female respectively in 1989 by the AP of the USA. Their performance in that decade peaked and surpassed every other athlete’s effort in their respective genders.

Navratilova received 283 votes on the ballot from sports writers and broadcasters. She outran her then-rival, a very young Steffi Graf by a huge margin who only received 69 votes. Gretzky, on the other hand, received 307 votes, and also outdistanced his next contender by a huge margin. Joe Montana, a quarterback from the San Francisco 49ers, received 85 votes, just second to Gretzky.

Wayne Gretzky Joined Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova To Share a

Wayne Gretzky’s biggest moment in his career came in 1984 when he won the Stanley Cup for the first time with Edmonton Oilers. He had already been an established name by then in the NHL circuit, but that moment was special. Since then, he went on to win the Cup three more times in ’85, ’87, and ’88. This sealed his position as the best sportsman of the decade.

Wayne Gretzky Joined Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova To Share a
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Wayne Gretzky (Los Angeles Kings) – PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxONLY (NYP96012203); Vneg, hoch NHL 1995/1996, LA, L A Eishockey Herren Mannschaft USA Einzelbild Aktion Personen

Martina Navratilova on the other hand reigned as the No. 1 tennis player from 1982-1986. She went on to stamp the longest match-winning streak of 74 consecutive unbeaten games. It was followed by another streak of 58 unbeaten matches by her. Further, she had also won 15 Grand Slam titles by the end of that decade.

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Her domination saw no bounds, and thus made her the clear-cut winner among all sportswomen. Apparently, the only time she faced a tough challenge was from Steffi Graf, who had beaten her in the previous two Wimbledon Singles. As per an Argus Press news article from 27th Dec 1989, Navratilova said about Graf, “I have to play better tennis to beat Steffi than anyone else I’ve ever played”.

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Wayne Gretzky—the only non-American to seal his name for the award

The AP Athletes of the Decade was first won by Arnold Palmer, followed by Jack Nicklaus—both for their achievements in Golf. While Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods followed Gretzky in the 90s and noughties decades respectively, LeBron James and Serena Williams are the most recent winners of the Award.

Only on rare occasions, has the Awards (Be it Best Athlete of the year or decade for both male and female) stepped outside the US soil. The Canadian NHL legend is the only non-American to date to win the Best Athlete of the Decade. Fanny Blankers Koen (Dutch Track & Field Athlete), Ingmar Johansson (Swedish Boxer), and Nadia Comaneci (Romanian Gymnast) are a few of the other non-Americans to win Best Athlete of the Year from both genders.

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Do you actually agree with the notion of Gretzky and Navratilova being the Best Athletes of the 1980s? Or do you have other sportsmen and women in mind who deserved to take the coveted title? Let us know in the comments.



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