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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
The hardest sportsperson?
Terry Butcher cuts his head but plays on despite his shirt changing colour
Terry Butcher gave a memorable performance for England in 1990
Nominate the sports personality that has overcome the biggest tests, the worst conditions and proved to be the toughest.

Candidates may include cyclist Tyler Hamilton who won stage 16 of the centenary Tour de France only two weeks after breaking his collar bone in a spectacular crash.

You may prefer to recognise the amazing performance of Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautman who played in the 1956 FA Cup final with a broken neck for the last 15 minutes.

The efforts of many rugby players and boxers may also have caught the eye or are there any women that should be mentioned?

Quite simply, who is the toughest?

This debate has now closed. A selection of your best comments are published below.


Niki Lauder's bravery to get straight back into an F1 car after such a serious crash showed mental toughness beyond the fitness required to get well that quickly. And Lance Armstrong beat cancer the year before winning the first of his five Tours, and that is quite incredible, so they would both get my nod.
Alex Stewart, Hampshire

How can you ignore Russell W Hargrove?
Leppo, Germnay

The hardest man in British sport at the moment is Joe Calzaghe. I defy anyone to tell him he isn't to his face. Having said that, the toughest of them all is Ellen McArthur. She faced all her demons and beat them.
Martyn Winters, Cardiff

At the moment I would have to give it to Gordon Tallis of Brisbane Broncos and Australia. This guy is as tough as they come. It takes about three men to get him down and when he tackles he throws you around like a rag doll.

Honourable mention to Scott Gibbs for single handedly intimidating the Boks during the 1997 Lions series win. Anyone that came near him got flattened!
Jonathan Michaaud, UK

Certainly the examples of hardy sportsmanship that you cited are to be awed. But how can you ignore Russell W Hargrove who, despite a debilitating squirt of lemon juice to his eye merely minutes before the Stuttgart golf course's 2001 season-ender shotgun tournament, managed to lead his four-man team to victory? What a man, what a player, what an example to us all.
Leppo, Germany

Tyler Hamilton - there are no comparisons whereby a competitor in a sporting event puts up with a fractured collarbone for nearly three weeks and is still competing during the healing process. He finished fourth in the Tour De France and won an epic stage with a long lone breakaway despite this handicap.

Trautman was impressive but that era is long gone in football. Ali and other boxers come close but it's the length of the event that tips it in favour of Hamilton. Like most pro cyclists, they drive their bodies to the edges of endurance and beyond with little recognition in the British media as a whole (although the Beeb have an excellent section here on the sport).
Jon Harland, N Wales

Marvin Hagler, Ellen Macarthur, Jonny Wilkinson, Stuart Pearce and Steve Redgrave would all be in my trench, but what about Abebe Bikila, the Ethiopian marathon runner?

He won two Olympic marathons running in bare feet, one of them, in Tokyo, only six weeks after surgery for appendicitis, then had a car crash which left him paralysed from the waist down but two years later won a 25km cross country sledge race in Norway. An Ethiopian in snow. That's hard.
Ashley Slater, London

The list of hardmen heroes (or are some just foolhardy?!!) is impressive, and appears to counter the notion that the human race is going soft.

Most of the under-mentioned nominees indeed suffered and endured pain and agony... but their contest ended that same day, for some only minutes later.

Therefore, think must nominate Tyler Hamilton: for continuing to endure his pain and his contest ... for several more weeks! An inspiration.
John, Norwich

Can there be any mental or physical alternative to Steve Redgrave? That man is harder than diamond.
Wyatt Bell, Switzerland

Mario Lemieux, one of the best hockey players ever
Nathalie, Montreal

How about Muhammad Ali? Ken Norton broke Ali's jaw but Ali refused to quit in their heavyweight fight, although he lost the bout in the end.
Julian Earl, Lincolnshire

Michael suffered a blood clot on the brain but has overcome the near death experience to be an inspiration to many by taking part in the London marathon this year.
R, Southwick

Billy Reid, midfielder with Motherwell and Airdrie in the 1960s. Billy wasn't much over five six, but he could run through brick walls and level anyone.
QJ, Spain

Yeah, Bert Trautman who overcame being in an internment camp during WW2, then to be accepted, as I think maybe only City fans would after WW2 had finished. He would have been forgiven if he would have gone straight home, he didn't, and the '56 Cup Final was what the man was, and still is, all about. Gotta be Bert for me.
Neil Blinston, San Antonio, Texas

Wade Dooley - nails.
Jon, Seoul

Mario Lemieux, one of the best hockey players ever. Midway through an 80 games season and leading the scoring statistics in the NHL, he found out during the Christmas break he had Hodgkin's cancer.

He got treated and came back to finish the season, win the Stanley cup and was top scorer of the year too! And he eventually bought the team to save it from financial ruin. What a guy!
Nathalie, Montreal

The hardest sportsperson is, without any shadow of a doubt, Sachin Tendulkar
Rob, UK

Bobo Balde has to be the hardest man in sport. Did anyone see Gary Neville running into him at high speed, Bobo didn't even blink. Good thing Celtic have him cos we don't have any other defender!
Boby Sands, Belfast

Any list like this has to include Shirley Muldowney, the first woman to race and win at the highest levels of pro drag racing. Despite hostility and discrimination, she won 18 National Championship races and innumerable match races.

Her claim to the title of hardest sportperson, though, is based on her record of coming back time after time from fires and, in 1984 from a crash at 250 mph (about 400 kph). She spent 18 months in rehabilitation from that crash which shattered her body but not her spirit.

She even insisted that the surgeons set the bones in her hopelessly shattered right foot to insure that she could press down the accelerator! After her return she continued to race and win for several more years.
K, Texas

The hardest sportsperson is, without any shadow of a doubt, India's star cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar. A strange choice? Well, not only does this man walk to the crease with the pressure of a billion or so expectant, volatile people watching his every move, but he also plays and continually performs despite numerous death and kidnap threats.

It makes the nomination of a blood-soaked Butcher or double footed challenge by Vinny Jones seem quite insignificant, in comparison.
Rob, UK

Stuart Pearce - legend. End of story!
Paul Goodacre, Nottingham

Footballers cannot be considered proper hardmen
Chris, Leeds

The name I would put forward is Dennis Lillee. For those of you who don't know him, Dennis fought back form crippling back problems early in his career and then a serious knee injury later on to take 355 test wickets.

He may not be a tough tackling footballer or a rugby league loose forward but to come back the way he did was a tribute to sheer hard work and dedication. Being a "hard" sportsman is not just about hurting people.
JB, Lancs

Kurt Angle is the toughest. As an Olympic wrestler, he won with a broken neck. And as a sports entertainer, he has set new boundaries in endurance, fitness, guts, determination and professionalism. Also, Mick Foley is a very close second.
Nick Hornett, Sydney, Aus

The fact that Vinnie Jones squeezed Gazza's testicles doesn't make him hard or good, it makes him a hooligan that felt he had to cheat to gain the upper hand. Footballers cannot be considered proper hardmen just because they do not have the same level of contact in their sport as other games.

I wonder if anyone remembers Mendez, the little Argentinian hooker who floored Paul Ackford in his debut match against England. Perhaps not the hardest, but probably the most balls.
Chris, Leeds

Who can beat Stuart Pearce as the hardest of them all?
Claire Fletcher, Nottingham

What other sports person could claim to be the best at their profession for more than 30 years? It has to be Lester Piggott who sustained many injuries, some life threatening, but will remain Britain's greatest athlete while at the time was constantly starving himself to keep at a weight some 21lbs below his natural weight.
Alan Reilly, Watford, Herts

It has to be Matt Busby
Ant, Cambs

Has to include Mal Byrne who had an ear virtually severed during the 1979 Leinster hurling final. Mal had the damage temporarily repaired pitch-side and continued playing.

Unfortunately he was sent off with 10 minutes remaining for a tackle that was so late, it took place the following Sunday. As the ref whistled to catch his attention Mal simply trotted back up the field.

At the appeal to decide the length of his suspension, he claimed that he hadn't ignored the ref, but simply hadn't heard the whistle because of his injury. He escaped with a one-game ban. All this in an amateur sport.
John Joe Kerrman, Enniscorthy (Wexford)

Paula Radcliffe. Always runs hard and fast, and even if she's laps or miles ahead, she runs the same. Not even someone knocking her over a couple of weeks before London could stop her!
Sarah L, UK

Niki Lauda. In 1975 he had a horrific fiery crash at the Nurburgring where he suffered severe burns. Six weeks later he was back in the car, the burns to his face not even healed.

His left hand was bandaged in to a shape that would fit the steering wheel because he couldn't grip it himself. Now that's what I call determination.
Matthew Cox, Reading, UK

It has to be Matt Busby. He fought back from the brink of death after the Munich air disaster, was given the last rites and within ten years had built a broken team into Champions of Europe. Top that!
Ant, Cambs

Scott Gibbs has to be one of the hardest men ever to play rugby
Asa Joseph, London

Paula Radcliffe, the best of all time in the toughest sport on the planet. Just one of her three daily training sessions would finish most of the names on this list.
Nigel, Stirling

Scott Gibbs has to be one of the hardest men ever to play rugby. Remember that time on the Lions tour, when he ran straight through Springbock prop Oz du Randt, as if he wasn't there?
Asa Joseph, London

It has to be Stuart Pearce. One of my favourite sporting moments was in the 'friendly' England v France. The England hardman and left-back Pearce v French tough guy and right-back Basil Boli had been built up all week.

At a corner, as the ref wasn't looking Boli planted a headbutt right on Pearce's nose. Pearce just rolled his eyes and carried on! Nails!
Andy C, London

Colin Meads. In 1970, Meads broke his arm against Eastern Transvaal - a team of Afrikaners who compensated for their lack of skill with raw brutality.

Meads emerged from a particularly vicious ruck with his arm dangling horribly. It was an obvious fracture, and yet Meads completed the match.

When the doctor cut away his shirt and confirmed the break, Meads muttered, "At least we won the bloody game." He treated himself with horse liniment and, after missing the first two Tests, Meads returned for the Third with his still broken arm held together by a thin guard.
Ben, Scotland

The hardest man in football was Mick Harford
Adam Stott-Everett, UK

Rob Hall has got to be one of the hardest. He survived two nights out on the summit ridge of Mt Everest, without oxygen or shelter, in temperatures down to -60 degrees Celcius and in winds of up to 100km/h.

Unfortunately there was no happy ending - rescuers couldn't get up to him from camp four in the storm and he died from exposure on the third day. But it was a super-human effort to last those two nights.
Simon Elms, London

The hardest man in football was Mick Harford. According to Vinnie Jones, he was the only one never to do the Crazy Gang initiation as everyone was scared of him.
Adam Stott-Everett, United Kingdom

Unsurprisingly, tennis players don't feature in this list, but as John, London, says, it's what you're prepared to go through to win. In this respect, Thomas Muster and Mark Philippoussis both deserve a mention - coming back from major surgery, going through rehabilitation that, in Muster's case (and rumour has it, Philippoussis') included playing tennis and training in a wheelchair before returning to the circuit.

Muster had his greatest ever year shortly afterwards; Philippoussis might still have his. And while on the subject - ALL disabled athletes qualify as hard.
Tony, UK

Finlay Calder, just awesome.
Charlie J, London

It's got to be Matt Adamson! All rugby players have to be hard and tough to play the contact sport they play, but the way Matt played in the Challenge Cup final for Leeds was amazing. He's gone from strength to strength after smashing his cheek bone! He's totally professional and a star!
Helen, Leeds

Another to throw into the ring is Ireland and British Lions hooker Keith Wood
Steveo, Liverpool

Stuart Pearce. Words alone cannot fully explain the depth of this man's strength, courage and commitment. Missed penalties, broken limbs, car crashes, scored penalties, head butts... the list of things that he endured goes on and on. He put the fear of God into both the opposition and his team-mates.

Despite being possibly the fiercest tackler this country has ever seen he was always fair and even handed in the punishment he doled out. He gave no quarter and asked no quarter. He could hand it out but the true measure of the man was that he could take it too. All without losing his rag or taking it personally - for Pearce it was just all part of the game, all part of life. Stuart Pearce - a true legend.

And I still well up when I see replays of the penalty he scored against Spain at Euro 96. Awesome.
Jim Sanders, London

Got to be the legend that is Terry Funk, the man has wrestled through horrific injuries and taken punishment that would kill most people for the last 30 years! The winner, done.
Adrian Nightingale, Redhill, Surrey

Such a debatable question, with so many people deserving of the accolade - another to throw into the ring is Ireland and British Lions hooker Keith Wood. Perhaps not out and out pure "hardness" but for sheer aggression and single minded focus on winning, he always puts his body on the line; making and taking many a "big hit" in the process... a gent of the Union game also.
Steveo, Liverpool

Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated. He was a small fighter that would soak up the punches before getting inside his bigger rivals to attack their ribs before finishing them with his famous 'Suzi cue' - a left hook followed with a right cross.

The very definition of hard.
James, UK

Lance Armstrong, How many people have gone through cancer treatment and come back to be the best in the world?
Keith, Wales

David Beckham. Being tripped up all the time. He looks like he is in agony, but he still manages to get up an play on.
Keith, Wales

Tony Bullimore. Remember how he survived in his upturned and leaking boat through stormy seas. He was injured; he'd had fingers ripped off. Everyone thought he was dead and yet he just swam out of his boat when the Australian Navy finally got to him.

How's that for British grit?
Jim Butler, South Shields

Lance Armstrong, How many people have gone through cancer treatment and come back to be the best in the world?
Keith, Wales

Bobby Baun of the Toronto Maple Leafs for ice hockey without a doubt. At the start of the Stanley cup final game seven he broke his leg, but then came back for the overtime and scored the winning goal.
Ty, Canada

Matt Adamson in the world's toughest sport Rugby League. In this Years BBC televised Challenge Cup played for Leeds Rhinos despite a smashed cheek bone with a metal plate inserted days before. Truly awesome display from a true professional.
Tom Brannigan, Leeds

Footballers - hard?! How can anyone nominate someone from a sport where feigning injury is the norm? If Lance Armstrong were a footballer he would have stayed on the ground after his crash writhing 'in agony' and crying like a kid who didn't get a bicycle for Christmas!
David Mentz, Colorado

Every National Hunt jockey. They are the toughest around, return from injury quicker than anyone. To be thrown from half a ton of horse at 30 mph on average once every six or seven rides, while managing their weight, never complaining or arguing, never seeking to play act or cheat; these guys are as tough as teak.
Michael Ord, Whitley Bay

Wayne Shelford - lost a testicle in a rugby union match, had his scrotum stiched and played on. Impossible to beat.
Andrew, Hong Kong

It must be Ali. Just to get into the ring against brutal punchers like Liston, Frazier and Foreman required extraordinary courage
Jon Squires, Alton

Anyone who plays in the front row has, by definition, got to be hard. And the hardest? Graham Price. I remember plenty of loose heads going off broken midway through the second half - even at international level.
Huw, Wales

It must be Ali. Just to get into the ring against brutal punchers like Liston, Frazier and Foreman required extraordinary courage.

No other sportsman could have withstood these monsters. Ali took everything they had, and then dropped them, and the Frazier fights have cost him dearly!
Jon Squires, Alton

The toughest, hardest man seen was Dave Mackay of Spurs and Scotland. Strong in the tackle and with a big, mud splattered chest, he led by example and nobody messed with him.

Remember that classic photo of Dave grabbing a young Billy Bremner by the scruff of his shirt when he had enough of Billy's ankle tapping? It was MAN v BOY. Dave broke his leg twice but he still remained the hard man that other team's feared.
Brian Garson, Hampshire

There can surely be no competition for this award. It has to go to Phil Blakeway, the former Gloucester and England prop forward. In a match against France, he broke his neck.

He finished the game AND played against Wales two weeks later. At prop! Only then did he go to the doctor to see why he was in so much pain. They made 'em tough down in Glos...
Richard, London, UK





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