The top 20 Olympic athletes of 2018

From Yuzuru Hanyu to Simone Biles: here's our list of the most dominant sportspeople of 2018.

By Andrew Binner ·

Spearheaded by the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, 2018 was another bumper year.

Gold medals were won, world records were broken, comebacks completed and new stars unearthed.

Here we look at 20 athletes, in no particular order, who lit up 2018 with outstanding achievements in their respective fields.

Ester Ledecka

To win an Olympic gold medal in one sport is an achievement beyond most peoples’ wildest dreams.

To win TWO in different sports at the same Games is simply unbelievable.

The Czech caused one of PyeongChang 2018’s greatest shocks when she claimed alpine skiing's super-G on Mikaela Shiffrin’s borrowed skis.

She then rewrote the record books with victory in the snowboard parallel giant slalom to become the first woman to win Olympic gold in sports requiring different equipment.

Golden girl Ledecka slaloms to unique double

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Yuzuru Hanyu

Hanyu became the first man since Dick Button in 1952 to win back-to-back Olympic singles figure skating titles.

What makes the feat even more impressive is that it was his first competition back from a serious ankle injury.

The Japanese damaged ankle ligaments in training for the NHK Trophy three months before PyeongChang, and he was far from fully fit in Korea.

But he skated spectacularly through the pain and, after the ice was showered with his favourite Winnie the Pooh soft toys from the stands, a second Olympic gold medal was his.

After skipping March's World Championships, Hanyu scored two resounding ISU Grand Prix victories in November.

But a recurrence of that ankle injury in the second of those, the Rostelecom Cup, saw him miss December's Grand Prix Final and Japanese nationals.

Yuzuru Hanyu: My PyeongChang Highlights

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Geraint Thomas

Few would have listed the quietly-spoken Welshman as their favourite to win cycling’s Tour de France in 2018.

A longtime wingman for Team Sky's four-time winner Chris Froome, the double Olympic gold medallist looked set for another year in the Grand Tour shadows.

But Froome’s crash on Stage 1 opened the door for Thomas to have a shot at glory and he needed no second invitation.

He claimed the race leader’s yellow jersey at stage 11 and never relinquished it to win cycling’s most prestigious race.

Chloe Kim

Born in California to Korean parents, there was plenty of pressure on Chloe Kim ahead of PyeongChang 2018.

Kim was too young to go to Sochi 2014 having won X Games silver the previous month.

Four years later, despite being just 17, the American halfpipe snowboarder was the clear favourite for Olympic gold

She didn’t disappoint and her first run of the final was four points better than the rest of the field.

And there was more to come.

Kim became the first female boarder in Olympic history to land consecutive 1080 degree spins on a near-perfect 98.25 final run, winning by a massive 8.5 points.

The manner of her victory demonstrated a confidence far beyond her years, and possibly a hint of the domination to come.

Chloe Kim: My PyeongChang Highlights

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Simone Biles

Any questions over Biles’ form after a two-year absence from gymnastics were emphatically squashed at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.

Incredibly, she did this with a kidney stone which led to a late-night hospital trip the night before qualifying.

Despite the pain, the four-time Olympic champion led USA to a fourth consecutive women's team title by a record margin.

She then won a record fourth world all-around title, performing a new vault in competition for the first time which is now known as 'the Biles', and added further golds in the vault and floor.

Silver in the uneven bars, her first global medal of any colour on that apparatus, and bronze in the beam made her the first American gymnast to finish on the podium in every event at the worlds.

Watch our exclusive interview with the all-time gymnastics great in Doha here.

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Martin Fourcade

Fourcade is one of the most dominant sportsmen of his generation, and 2018 only enhanced his reputation.

The biathlete was one of just two athletes to win three gold medals at PyeongChang 2018 with two of his victories coming in individual events.

Fourcade’s haul in Korea means he is France's most successful Olympian of all time.

Unsurprisingly, he also wrapped up his seventh-consecutive overall Biathlon World Cup title.

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Eliud Kipchoge

Kipchoge made the world stand still in September when he smashed the marathon world record in Berlin.

His time of two hours, one minute and 39 seconds was 78 seconds faster than the previous best belonging to fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto.

The Rio 2016 gold medallist had already cemented his status as the World No.1, beating one of the deepest fields in history to take April's London Marathon.

Now 34, Kipchoge has no intention of taking it easy and he's eyeing more glory at Tokyo 2020.

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Australia's Oarsome foursome

Rowing requires such harmony and collective effort between team-mates that the crew can almost be regarded as one individual performer.

Australia’s men’s four of Alexander Hill, Jack Hargreaves, Spencer Turrin and Joshua Hicks epitomised this in 2018, finishing the season without being defeated once.

They retained their World Championships title in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and also took victory in World Rowing Cups 2 and 3.

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo

Klaebo was the second of two athletes to secure three golds in PyeongChang.

At just 21, the Norwegian cross-country skier became the youngest ever sprint Olympic champion, and was part of two victorious team efforts.

But his Olympic feats were no great surprise with the youngster collecting 12 wins on his way to the Cross-Country World Cup overall title.

If he can avoid injury, you can expect to see him dominate his sport for years to come.

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo: My PyeongChang Highlights

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Breanna Stewart

WNBA star Stewart is only 24 but she has already become a key player for her franchise and her country.

In 2018, the Olympic gold medallist scored 620-plus points for the third season in a row.

Stewart led the Seattle Storm to their first championship for eight years, securing WNBA MVP and WNBA Finals MVP honours.

She was also named FIBA World Cup MVP after spearheading the USA to an unbeaten campaign and their third consecutive title.

Alex Ovechkin

The Russian is one of the NHL’s most potent attacking weapons, a point underlined by the fact he was the league’s top scorer for the seventh time in 2018.

But this year was extra special for the wing as he finally lifted the Stanley Cup.

Since the start of his NHL career with the Washington Capitals in 2005, some indifferent playoff performances meant ice Hockey’s most prized possession had eluded Ovechkin.

The Caps started the 2017-18 season slowly but found form in the New Year to clinch their third consecutive Metropolitan Division title.

They ended their long hoodoo against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round before defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning to clinch their first Conference title for 20 years.

Washington were swept 4-0 by the Detroit Red Wings in 1998, but their second trip to the Stanley Cup Finals was more successful.

Vegas Golden Knights won the Western Conference in their first season in the NHL, but they went down 4-1 to the Caps.

Ovechkin was named NHL Playoffs MVP and a Stanley Cup victory puts him right up among the all-time greats.

Jessica Fox

Fox dominated canoe slalom in 2018, going the whole season unbeaten in C1.

The Australian also secured C1 and K1 titles at the Canoe Slalom World Championships for the second time in her career.

The 24-year-old won K1 silver at London 2012 and bronze at Rio 2016, but the addition of C1 for Tokyo 2020 makes her a hot favourite for at least one gold.

Her World Championships successes in September in Rio took her past mother Myriam Fox-Jersusalmi’s record for the most world titles by a female paddler, while her father Richard is also a multiple world champion canoeist.

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Caterine Ibarguen

Colombian Ibarguen just keeps getting better with age, securing another unbeaten triple jump season.

But in 2018, the Olympic champion decided that dominating one event wasn’t enough, leaping to a Diamond League double in the triple jump AND long jump.

Ibarguen took the extra strain of competing across two disciplines in her stride, winning the IAAF Continental Cup and the Diamond League finals in two different cities within the space of 24 hours.

Novak Djokovic

The Serb is back on top of world tennis after an injury-plagued 2017.

But the year did not start well for Djokovic who underwent elbow surgery in January after an early exit from the Australian Open.

He showed signs of returning to something like his best in the European clay court season, but found another gear after going out in the quarter-finals of the French Open.

Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set of an epic Wimbledon final over two days, and then defeated Roger Federer in the Cincinnati final to become the only man in history to win all nine ATP Masters 1000 events.

His mojo was back, and he claimed the US Open to clinch his 14th Grand Slam singles title.

Don't bet against him making it 15 next month in the Australian Open which he has already won six times.

Shaun White

White rolled back the years to win his third snowboard halfpipe Olympic gold medal.

Despite suffering two serious injuries in the run up to PyeongChang, the flame-haired shredder displayed all of his trademark confidence en route to recording the highest halfpipe score ever.

Now 32, White has cemented his place as the greatest snowboarder in history and he's even considering taking part in skateboarding at Tokyo 2020.

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Nino Schurter

Schurter has dominated mountain biking for most of the last decade and he added to his medal collection in 2018.

The Swiss won two golds at the World Mountain Bike Championships, including his seventh individual Cross-country title, to take his tally to nine.

Add in a sixth UCI Mountain Bike World Cup crown and it was another remarkable campaign for the 32-year-old who beat Roger Federer to the Swiss Sports Personality of the Year award.

Marcel Hirscher

Going into 2018, the only thing missing from the Austrian's incredible career was an Olympic title.

At PyeongChang, he won not one but two gold medals.

Hirscher took a surprise victory in the combined, before winning the giant slalom by a huge 1.27 seconds.

Despite crashing out of the slalom, he has now confirmed his place among the greatest technical skiers in history and there's more to come from the 29-year-old.

His tally of 63 World Cup wins is an Austrian record, and he is on course for an unprecedented eighth consecutive World Cup overall title.

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LeBron James

James was inspirational in the 2017-18 season.

He played all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career, and then led the Cleveland Cavaliers through the playoffs for his eighth-consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

The highlight was arguably this in Game Five of the Eastern Conference against the Indiana Pacers:

The Golden State Warriors were too strong for LeBron and co in the finals, but he was by far the most influential player in the league averaging 34.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game in the post-season.

In July, LeBron signed for the LA Lakers where he has continued to excel.

He overtook Wilt Chamberlain for fifth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list in November, and is averaging close to 28 points per game so far this season.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo

Bahamian Miller-Uibo left everyone in her wake this season.

The Olympic 400m gold medallist was unbeaten in 15 races, indoors and out, this season.

She also won her first Commonwealth Games title in the 200m.

And in June, Miller-Uibo showed she's not just a track star.

Perhaps taking inspiration from her husband, Estonian decathlete Maicel Uibo, she won the high jump at the Bahamas national championships with 1.70m.

Miller-Uibo was the only competitor in the shot put, where she threw 11.78m, making her 2018 CV as eye-catching as her ever-changing hair colours.

Oleksandr Usyk

If 2017 was the year of London 2012 super heavyweight gold medallist Anthony Joshua, 2018 belonged to the heavyweight champion from those same Games.

Usyk became a household name in professional boxing this year, becoming the first man to hold all four major world cruiserweight title belts.

With the WBO title already in his possessoin, the Ukrainian southpaw started the year by taking the WBC belt off Latvia's previously unbeaten Mairis Briedis on a unanimous points decision.

He then outclassed WBA and IBF champion Murat Gassiev, using his right jab to great effect and becoming the undisputed cruiserweight king.

And in November, he went to Manchester to stop Britain's former WBC cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew - a two-time winner over former heavyweight champion David Haye - in the eighth round.

Bellew announced his retirement after the fight and, like Gassiev, had nothing but praise for Usyk's all-round boxing skills.

Sports Illustrated named Usyk as their Fighter of the Year and there is already talk of a potential super-fight with Joshua.

That really would be something to look forward to!