My second choice for greatest athlete of the 20th Century has always been Evel Knievel. Mohammad Ali might have been the greatest fighter and Bill Russell won more NBA championships than any other basketball player, however the Butte, Montana native rode a motorcycle like a demon and refused to quit no matter how badly he had broken body.
His public expected nothing less from a man who was fired the Anaconda Mining Company for doing wheelies with an earth mover. Evel might have gotten away with this stunt, if the truck hadn't knocked down Butte's main power line.
Bobby Knievel changed his first name to Evel after a night in the Butte jail for a wild motorcycle chase.
According to the night jailer came around to check the roll, he noted Robert Knievel in one cell and William Knofel in the other. Knofel was well known as "Awful Knofel" ("awful" rhyming with "Knofel") so Knievel began to be referred to as Evel Knievel ("Evel" rhyming with "Knievel") according to Wikipedia.
He was not a simple man as demonstrated by this quote;
"You come to a point in your life when you really don't care what people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself."
Evel Knievel was a lucky lucky man.
I wish I could have been a little more like him, but couldn't do wheelie of an earth mover, but Evel didn't do everything for the camera.
He did them, because 'I love the feeling of the fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair.'
Same as me on a bike.