Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo is arguably the greatest female cyclist of all time.
By the time of the 1996 Atlanta Games, Jeannie Longo had won ten World Championship titles in cycling. This included winning the road race five times, a feat no other cyclist, male or female, has achieved. In fact, Longo was so dominant in her sport, she even won a World Championship silver medal in mountain biking.
Until 1996, Olympic gold had always escaped her. In the 1984 Olympic road race, a last-minute collision left her in sixth place. In 1988, a month after breaking her hip, she could do no better than 21st. In 1992 in Barcelona, she finally managed to win a silver medal but was beaten in the quarter-finals of the pursuit.
Longo developed her own training strategy for the 1996 Atlanta Games. While others arrived early to acclimatise to the heat, Longo trained in the Colorado mountains and arrived in Atlanta two days before the road race. A mid-race downpour caused many racers to skid and fall, but Longo stayed out of trouble to win gold in convincing fashion. Later, she claimed a silver medal in the road time trial.
Age no object
Age seemed to have no effect on this incredible competitor. Aged 41, she won a bronze medal in the road time trial at the 2000 Sydney Games. Even more incredibly, at the age of 49, she won her 55th French Championship title and qualified for the 2008 Beijing Games.