Which sports are completely dominated by a single person currently?
June 12, 2021 9:47 AM   Subscribe

We've been watching competitions in the run up to the Olympics and women's gymnastics and some of the swimming competitions, the goal seems to be for second place due to Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky, respectively. Which other sports currently have someone that dominant in them?

I'm primarily thinking of individual sports, but if there's a player in a team sport who just raises the quality of the team to the point that they're unstoppable (I'm under the impression that LeBron James was like this, I don't know if that's still true), I'm interested also.
posted by Hactar to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Lewis Hamilton?
posted by srednivashtar at 10:21 AM on June 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Mondo Duplantis in the pole vault.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen is heading that way in middle distance track events, though most of what I’ve seen recently has been European competition so it’ll be interesting to see where he’s at on the world stage come Tokyo (given that he was only about 15 when the last Olympics happened!)

Both only about 20 so plenty of time for them both to consolidate.
posted by penguin pie at 10:23 AM on June 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely Lewis Hamilton. F1 is a team sport, because you need the car itself, the engineers, and the strategy people as well as the driver, but Hamilton has won 6 out of the last 7 F1 World Championships and is without doubt one of the greatest drivers of all time. Quite often Mercedes run a strategy which they couldn't run with any other driver because Hamilton is so good he makes it work.

The only WC he lost was to his teammate Nico Rosberg, and if Hamilton's engine hadn't failed in the Malaysian Grand Prix (costing him 25 points and gifting Rosberg an extra 7 points, so a swing of 32 points) he would have won that one too. The man has huge speed, race craft, overtaking ability, and consistency, as well as being able to drive his car faster than the engineers think it should be possible for it to go. Singapore 2018 qualifying is a good example - his pole position lap was nearly a second quicker than the Mercedes team thought it was possible to achieve, and he described that drive as being like an out-of-body experience.

Every other F1 driver is just a supporting actor until he decides to retire.
posted by underclocked at 10:31 AM on June 12, 2021 [13 favorites]

Nathan Chen has not been beaten in years at the World Championships for men's figure skating. His only serious competition now is Yuzuru Hanyu, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in men's figure skating and a generational talent and bar setter for the sport - he took his second gold in the Olympics in 2018 where Chen bombed in his debut, but Chen has become unbeatable ever since and he probably has years of improvement left and at least one more shot at the Olympics, whereas Hanyu is still incredible but in his twilight (quad jumps are hard on the body), and as soon as Hanyu leaves the sport, Chen has no more rivals on his level. I think it hasn't quite reached the level where Chen is alone at the top yet the way Hanyu was for years up to 2018, but they really are exceptional talents far ahead of the rest of the pack in a way that doesn't exist in women's figure skating right now and hasn't since Yuna Kim retired after the 2014 Olympics.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:35 AM on June 12, 2021 [7 favorites]

In street skateboarding, Nyjah Huston is a pretty dominant number one, although he recently came in second in the world championships to Yuto Horigome. He and Yuto each have about double the points on the world ranking system than the third highest ranked skater.
posted by papayaninja at 11:35 AM on June 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Fans of F1, Red Bull and Max Verstappen would dispute that Hamilton is a shoo-in for the championship this year.
posted by StephenB at 11:55 AM on June 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

Usain Bolt?
posted by nkknkk at 12:06 PM on June 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

People were talking about Luka Dončić as being of the same caliber as Lebron James in 2019, but I'll admit that I don't follow the NBA closely and it's possible that he has declined since then.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:10 PM on June 12, 2021

Usain Bolt?

Nope, he retired 4 years ago!

I was in the mixed zone after his final race at London 2017, it was mobbed, and I had nothing to ask him, but I hung out there for about an hour just enjoying seeing this legend doing the final interviews of his active career. He’d had a terrible final race - beaten by drugs cheat Gatlin in the World Championships final, the last race of the night - but he stopped for every single interview, gave everyone all the time they needed, gracefully ducked the numerous invitations from interviewers to slate Gatlin, and exuded all the star quality you’d want at a time when he must have just wanted to get away, cool down and sink the first beer of his retirement.

A class act.
posted by penguin pie at 12:56 PM on June 12, 2021 [17 favorites]

If anything, Luka Doncic has gotten better since then. But that’s the thing about team sports: as great as he is individually, his team still lost in the first round of the playoffs this year. Even Lebron, who’s one of the two greatest players in history, famously couldn’t win a championship on his own. Likewise, Mike Trout, who some advanced stats think is on track to be the greatest baseball player of all time (as in, better than Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio or Willie Mays), has never won a single playoff game in his entire career. There are too many other factors in team sports for one player to dominate the way a Simone Biles or a Serena Williams does, which makes the achievements of someone like Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky (who was surrounded by All-Stars for much of his career) even more spectacular.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2021

Best answer: Therese Johaug in women's distance cross-country skiing. She wins by insane margins.
posted by brainmouse at 1:36 PM on June 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Marianne Vos -- though there should be more women's cycling for a deeper field and more dominance.
posted by k3ninho at 2:28 PM on June 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hakuho sumo rikishi from Mongolia, appears greatest of all time, though he's been on the verge of retirement for the last year, missing several tournaments due to injury and covid.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:44 PM on June 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: men's cyclocross for a few years has been Mathieu van der Poel versus the world. every now and then Wout van Aert will pull one over on Mathieu, but in the past 7 years, VDP has never finished worse than 5th in a World Championships... and has won 4 of them .

to k3ninho - I'd argue that while Marianne Vos is probably the most accomplished bike racer ever, in the past few years, women's road racing has been dominated by Annemiek Van Vleuten.
posted by entropone at 2:58 PM on June 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Would you accept Magnus Carlsen?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:28 PM on June 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

Possibly Ashima Shiraishi?
posted by suelac at 3:34 PM on June 12, 2021

Best answer: For women's climbing, up until 2 weeks ago it would have been without question Janja Garnbret, not Ashima. Garnbret had 9 straight world cup wins in bouldering, and was the 2018 and 2019 world champion in both lead climbing and bouldering. She "lost" for the first time in two years two weeks ago, finishing second to Natalia Grossman, the first time she hasn't won a world cup event since 2018.
posted by true at 3:58 PM on June 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Mikaela Shiffrin in women's Alpine skiing probably deserves mention, though she's taken a step back toward the pack in COVID times.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 4:44 PM on June 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Teddy Riner for heavyweight judo. He has won 10 world championships, the first and only judoka to do so. He also had a streak of 154 consecutive victories in seven years. He's still going strong and will probably be at the next Olympic hunting for his third gold medal there.
posted by SageLeVoid at 4:56 PM on June 12, 2021

Nirmal Purja in mountaineering (though there's some controversy about his style).
posted by Jahaza at 5:04 PM on June 12, 2021

Best answer: Obscure sport (to the point of spawning a lot of boring arguments about whether it's actually a "sport" or not), but: Anthony Gatto holds some still very hard-to-beat world records despite his leaving juggling years ago to run a concrete business. Great story about that at Grantland.
posted by bfields at 5:46 PM on June 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Alan Francis for horseshoes. This NYT article from 10 years and 9? Championships ago calls him “the most dominant athlete in any sport in the country.”
posted by charmedimsure at 5:50 PM on June 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It annoys me, but France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron in ice dance.

Per Wikipedia: "Papadakis and Cizeron have broken world records 29 times, which is in itself a record across all figure skating disciplines since the introduction of the ISU Judging System in 2004. They are the current and historical world record holders in short dance, free dance, and combined total. They are the first team to have broken the 90-point barrier in the rhythm dance, 120-point and 130-point barriers in the free dance, and the first team to score above the 200-point, 210-point and 220-point barriers in the combined total score."

They are, however, currently relatively low in the world rankings but that's mostly because they skipped a lot of the last (weird) season after getting Covid and not wanting to deal with travel/quarantine/etc. for their assigned competitions, which were in Europe, though they train in Canada.

(Annoying because I prefer other teams above them, and judging and its honesty and/or lack of transparency is always an issue in skating.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:21 PM on June 12, 2021

Hey, I’ll go ahead and bring in the world of “sports entertainment”: Roman Reigns has been the WWE Universal Champion since last August, when he returned as a bad guy after sitting out the early pandemic months.

Fans had been ironically booing him for years, and now he’s getting a run where he can earn those boos with some quality villainy.

The scripted nature of pro wrestling means that storylines will determine when he drops the title (and why he hasn’t yet). Of course his matches will inevitably look competitive, but there are no signs of him dropping the title before the big SummerSlam show this August.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:44 PM on June 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Beaten to the punch upthread on Janja. I assume True put the word loss in quotation marks because her competitor literally had a perfect finals round, topping every single boulder problem on the first try. It was super fun to watch.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:24 PM on June 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all great. And thanks for letting me know when there were two people who were absolutely dominant, even if there's at least a little competition between them.
posted by Hactar at 7:10 PM on June 13, 2021

Jennifer Thompson has been dominant in the 63kg class for 15+ years now.

Ray Williams hasn't been competing as long but as of 2019 was similarly dominant in the 120kg+ class.

Daniella Melo and Amanda Lawrence in the 84kg class are also younger competitors who between themselves broke every world record at the 2019 IPF World Championship - they both totalled 613kg, almost 100kg ahead of the third place lifter who totalled 520kg.
posted by aussie_powerlifter at 7:39 PM on June 13, 2021

Surely we can't forget Kelly Slater and competitive surfing. He might finally be retired (is he? I swear he's come out of "retirement" several times and gone straight back to winning) but his records are ludicrous, including being both the youngest and oldest person to win a professional contest.

Rock climbing for men must be Adam Ondra surely.

Rachel Atherton for women's downhill mountain biking.

Valentino Rossi for motorcycle racing.
posted by other barry at 12:05 AM on June 14, 2021

Not current, but in rowing the New Zealand men's pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray won 69 straight races, often by incredible margins, 6 world titles, and two consecutive Olympic gold medals from 2009 - 2016.
posted by hepta at 4:10 AM on June 14, 2021

Nikola Jokic is poised to be one of the top UFC fighters in the world.
posted by mecran01 at 10:52 AM on June 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Chrigel Maurer has been absolutely dominant of the X-Alps paragliding race. He's won every one since 2009, and he just won the prologue for this year's race which starts on the 20th of June.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:03 AM on June 17, 2021

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