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A sportsperson (gendered as sportsman or sportswoman) or athlete is a person who participates regularly in a sport. (For the different meaning of "athlete" in British and American English, see Athlete of the Year.)

Athletes can be professional or amateur. A superior athlete is one who has above average physical skills (strength, agility, and endurance) and is thus more suited for physical competition. The word athletes is a direct Romanticization of the Greek: άθλητης [athletes], one who participates in a contest.

Most professional athletes have particularly well-developed physiques obtained by extensive physical training and strict exercise accompanied by a strict dietary regimen. Athletes may also be known as jocks (primarily in American English).

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"All-around athlete"

An "all-around athlete" is a person who competes in multiple sports at a high level, for instance, someone who plays both basketball and baseball professionally. Examples of people who played numerous sports professionally are Jim Thorpe, Lionel Conacher, Deion Sanders (male), Danny Ainge (male) and Babe Zaharias (female). Others include Ricky Williams, Bo Jackson, and Damon Allen, each of whom were drafted both by Major League Baseball and by professional gridiron football leagues such as the NFL and the CFL.

"World's Greatest Athlete"

The title of "World's Greatest Athlete" traditionally belongs to the world's top competitor in the decathlon (males) and heptathlon (females) in track and field. The decathlon consists of 10 events: 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meters, 110 m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 m. The heptathlon consists of 7 events: the 100 m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin, and 800 meters. These competitions require an athlete to possess the whole spectrum of athletic ability in order to be successful including speed, strength, coordination, jumping ability, and endurance.

Although the title "World's Greatest Athlete" seems a natural fit for these two events, its traditional association with the decathlon/heptathlon officially began with Jim Thorpe. During the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe won the gold medal in the Decathlon (among others). Thorpe notably also competed professionally in football, baseball, and basketball; and competed collegiately in track and field, football, baseball, lacrosse, and did ballroom dancing. King Gustav V of Sweden, while awarding Thorpe the decathlon gold said: "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." That title has become associated with the decathlon event ever since. Another American decathlon champion, was the Olympic gold medalist, Bruce Jenner.

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