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Relive the best years, tourneys, and matches of these eight sporting greats

Being an athlete is no easy task. One needs to spend countless hours training, maintaining a strict diet, and studying different styles and techniques. One literally has to eat, sleep, and breathe sports. Perfecting a skill takes years—even decades—to accomplish. These greats have dedicated their lives to their sports and have reached their personal best. Let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit the greatest moments from these eight sporting legends:

Manny Pacquiao

When you think of Manny Pacquiao, you think feisty, fast, and powerful. It's not every day that you get to see a young, 5-foot-4 boxer with a modest wing span of 1.75m, take down boxing greats one after another–Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Márquez, Marco Antonio Barrera–and not only via judges' scorecard decision but through one knockout after the other.

Out of all his matches, the one that arguably sealed the deal for Pacman was his bout against Miguel Cotto in 2009. It was a dogfight, to say the least. Both boxers were fearless and unrelenting, but Pacquaio proved himself to be the braver warrior, never backing down as if Cotto's punches only made him stronger. Pacman's magnificent display of speed and power stunned everyone in the arena. Two knockdowns and a bloodied Cotto later, the referee decided to stop the fight 55 seconds into the 12th round. And with that win, Pacquiao took home his seventh world championship, each from different weight divisions.

Right there and then, the world met its newest boxing legend. 

Usain Bolt

A world-record holder for the fastest sprint in 100 metres, 200 metres, and 4 × 100 metres relay, Usain Bolt really is the greatest sprinter the world has ever seen. In August 2009, during the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Usain Bolt topped his personal best in both 100-metre and 200-metre dash, recording a spectacular 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds respectively. Not only that, but Usain is also an eight-time gold-medalist holder in the Olympics, having won the 100-metre and 200-metre dash during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2012 London Olympics, and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Michael Jordan

Right from the get-go, NBA fans knew that Michael Jordan was destined for greatness. During his rookie year (1984-85), he was immediately voted as an All-Star starter. In 1987-88 season, he received his first MVP Award and was named Defensive Player of the Year. But it did take long before MJ took home the championship.

It was the NBA 1990-91 Finals when the Chicago Bulls finally clinched a spot in the finals against the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers headed by superstars Magic Johnson and James Worthy. The Jordan-led Bulls stunned everyone, winning the series, 4-1; the franchise's first-ever championship since its making. Jordan posted an astonishing average of 31.2 points on 56% shooting, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.8 steals and was also named as the Finals MVP. In the two following seasons, Jordan and the rest of the Bulls would head back to the finals and win their second and third consecutive championships with Jordan posting an average of 35.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists during the 1991-92 Finals, and an impressive 41.0 points per game average during the 1992-93 Finals.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams has held to the WTA number 1 ranking for a total of 319 weeks and is one of the most decorated female tennis players of all time with 39 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals. She's won in all courts: from grass to hard court, and even clay, with her medals sprinkled across years and even decades. But it was in 2002 when Serena was just at the top of her game, claiming one grand slam after another.

It first started in the 2002 French Open, when Serena defeated the then defending Rolland Garros champion, Jennifer Capriati in the semifinals and eventually her older sister Venus Williams in the finals. Next came the 2002 Wimbledon Championships, where she once again fought Venus for the championship. Serena emerged victorious in two straight sets. Then came the 2002 US Open where, for the third time in a row, she was met by her sister in the finals. Venus once again succumbed, and Serena closed the year with yet another Grand Slam. In the following year, Serena would then win the Australian Open in January of 2003, completing all four Grand Slams.

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Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has been a consistent fixture in modern-day football and holds almost 700 career goals from his football club and country matches combined. It's hard not to get excited whenever Messi has ball possession, as more often than not, it results in a goal or a magnificent pass at the least.

It's truly a difficult task to choose a single best game of Lionel Messi, but personally, of all his goals and hat-tricks (when a player scores three goals in a game), the one that I may boldly call as his greatest performance to date was his four goals against Arsenal in 2010 European Cup. Early in the game, Arsenal was momentarily in the lead with one goal to none until Messi responded with a powerful strike of his own. A few moments later, a few steps from where he took the first goal, the Argentinian would again find the back of the net to push the score to 2-1. And just before the second half, Messi completes the hat-trick with a sneaky chip over the Arsenal goalkeeper. Solidifying the lead is his fourth goal–which he made look so easy.

That game perfectly showcased Messi's immense talents–a gift to his team and fans and a daunting curse to his opponents.

Michael Phelps

You can't speak of the Olympics and personal bests without Michael Phelps coming to mind. An absolute beast in the water, Phelps has won a total of 82 medals across different tourneys, 28 of which are Olympic medals, making him the most victorious Olympian in history. With his fair share of championships and even a world record under his belt (4:03.84 for 400 metres individual medley in long course), arguably his best tourney was the 2007 World Aquatics Championships where he placed first in seven different categories: 4×100-metre freestyle, 200-metre freestyle, 200-metre butterfly, 200-metre individual medley, 4×200-metre freestyle relay, 100-metre butterfly, and 400-metre individual medley.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer has got to be way up in the list of the greatest male tennis players of all time. To date, Federer has the most Grand Slam titles won—20 under his belt. He's also held the no.1 spot in the ATP Rankings for a total of 310 weeks and of that a very impressive streak of 237 weeks, the longest streak in ATP history.

Federer has many highlights in his career, but his best year was arguably in 2006 when he won a total of 12 singles titles (a feat that no other male tennis player has ever accomplished since) and three Grand Slam singles titles. He has a record of 92 wins to 5 losses from a total of 17 tourneys–six of which he had reached the finals. His only loss during the finals was against his archrival, Rafael Nadal, on the clay court. Federer would later complete his career Grand Slam, finally winning the French Open on 2009.

Simone Biles

Simone Biles may be the youngest athlete (aged 23 years old) in this list, but by no means is she less successful than the others. Having competed for 10 years in senior level, she already is the most decorated gymnast to date. She is a five-time World all-around champion, five-time World floor exercise champion, three-time World balance beam champion, two-time World vault champion, six-time United States national all-around champion, and four-time Olympic Gold medalist, not to mention gold medals she won during team events.

Her greatest showing was in Rio 2018 where she won all of her four gold medals and one bronze. Biles, having qualified in four of five individual events, managed to come out victorious after putting on an almost flawless routine in the horse vault, individual all-around events, and floor exercise. In the floor exercise alone, Biles left everyone speechless having garnered 15.966, 0.466 points away from fellow American silver medalist Aly Raisman.

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