All records are a reminder of a unique feat, but they are made to be broken. Be that as it may, some records have become virtually unattainable; a number them are listed below. Not everyone will agree about their invincibility, but these records have stood the test of time up until the time of writing, and most of them are likely to remain the gold-standard.
Of course there are many omissions, and this list is in no way written in stone; some of these records may indeed be broken in future – nothing is certain.
Margaret Court’s grand slam record
Margaret Court won 62 grand slam tennis titles in her career (24 singles, 19 doubles and 19 mixed doubles). Why is it highly probable that this record will never be broken? There have been plenty of players with the capacity to overhaul Court, but the modern game makes doubles play far less important to players. There has been only one player since with both the talent and the desire to break the Australian’s record; Martina Navratilova came close with 59 before she ran out of steam, eventually retiring in 2006.
New York Yacht Club’s winning streak
In 1851, the schooner America won a yacht race around the Isle of Wight for the New York Yacht Club, and the America’s Cup was born. After that, the NYYC did not relinquish the trophy for an astonishing 132 years, until Australia II beat Liberty by four races to three in the water off Newport, Rhode Island.
Australia rejoiced and the then prime minister, Bob Hawke, told his country: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.” The longest winning streak in any sport had come to an end. The longest winning reign since is seven years. The record is safe.
Don Bradman’s Test batting average
Bradman was not popular with his Australia team-mates, so they were probably grateful he spent so much time in the middle. The Don is so far ahead of the rest it is ridiculous to contemplate anyone surpassing his Test average of 99.94. A player is considered accomplished if he averages the far side of 40; 50-plus and you are in the company of the greats. Across a 20-year career, and even without weaker Test nations – Bangladesh, Zimbabwe – from which to plunder, Bradman excelled. The next best average is 60.97, by Graeme Pollock. Says it all, really.
Byron Nelson’s 11 in a row
If golfers like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods could not touch this record, it is unlikely someone else will in the near future – remember, Woods’s best is six in a row.
In 1945, Byron Nelson won 18 events on the PGA Tour, including 11 consecutively. As the Texan landed only five major championships, he is just off the top table when it comes to all-time greats, but in the final year of the Second World War, between the Miami Fourball and the Canadian Open, he was simply untouchable. He later said that having an incentive helped: “I could see the prize money going into the ranch, buying a tractor, or a cow.”
Wayne Gretzky’s career points total
Wayne Gretzky, playing for the New York Rangers.
In ice hockey, just about any individual National Hockey League record worth thinking about is held by ‘The Great One’, but the one that probably no one will ever break is his career points total. In a career that spanned 1978-1999, and included 1,487 regular-season games, the Canadian amassed 2,857 points (894 goals plus 1,963 assists).
His nearest challengers are Mark Messier (1979-2004) – who, in nearly 300 games more, was a little under 1,000 points behind – and Joe Sakic, who retired on 9 July, a mere 1,216 points shy of Gretzky’s record.
Frankie Dettori’s seven winners
To ride three winners at a single meeting is considered some achievement – even at an evening meeting at Wolverhampton in February – ride all seven on the card is remarkable.
The fact that Dettori did it at Ascot, in top-level races, makes this one of the great records in any sport. Bookmakers still cringe at the mention of 28 September 1996, when Dettori’s 25,095-1 accumulator – which started on Wall Street and ended on Fujiyama Crest – bit them. “God was on my side,” the jockey told a rapturous Ascot, having leapt from the saddle after the final race.
Heather McKay’s 16 British Open victories
In her career on a squash court McKay lost only twice. That’s twice. The defeats came in 1960 and 1962, and then the Australian scented nothing but victory until she retired from tournament play in 1981.
In 16 appearances at the British Open (the world’s premier tournament at the time), she never even lost a game. Only twice did an opponent score more than six points (games are won with nine) against her, and her opponent in the 1968 final, Bev Johnson, failed to win one. McKay didn’t let up after retirement, winning world titles in the over-45 and over-50 categories.
Preston North End’s perfect Double
In the Premier League era, the Double is not the rarity it once was. Since Sky financed football’s equivalent of the Big Bang in 1992 – giving rise to the Big Four – it has been achieved five times. Before then – and there was such a time – the double had been managed five times in 103 years. Preston North End were the first club to do it, and the style of their accomplishment will probably never be equalled. In the 1888-89 season, the Lancashire club (staffed mainly by Scottish players) went unbeaten in the League and didn’t concede a goal in the FA Cup.
Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak
It seams highly unlikely that anyone will get near DiMaggio’s hitting streak – in layman’s terms, the number of consecutive games in which he took at least one base hit. It may not sound that tough but, in baseball batting, a 35% hit rate is considered a huge success.
To give you some idea of the size of this streak: prior to DiMaggio’s effort for the New York Yankees in 1941, the best streak was 44 games by “Wee” Willie Keeler in 1897; the best since is also 44, by Pete Rose in 1978.
Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a game
Chocolate isn’t the town of Hershey’s only claim to fame. Only 4,124 were in the Hersheypark Arena to see the NBA game between the Philadelphia Warriors and the New York Knicks on 2 March 1962, and there was not a television camera in sight. Chamberlain spent the night before the game with a lady friend (he had lots) and didn’t get much sleep; he also enjoyed a big lunch with friends before the game, so how he went on to score 100 points is little short of a miracle. The next best single-game score in NBA history is 81, by Kobe Bryant in 2006.
Montreal Canadiens win five straight Stanley Cups
One word can describe the Montreal Canadiens in the late 1950s: dominant.
A member of the ‘Original Six’, the Montreal Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, by far more than any other NHL organization. That is a jaw-dropping accomplishment by itself, but not to be outdone is this: the Habs winning five straight Cups from 1955-56 to 1959-60.
The New York Islanders came close. They won four straight Cups in the early ’80s. Since then, no team has ever won more than two in a row. Today, there are too many teams to be able to string together five straight cups like the Habs did.
Boston Celtics win eight straight NBA Championships
Boston Celtics logo
Today, two or three championships in a row is called a dynasty. Not for the Boston Celtics. From 1959-66, the Boston Celtics simply dominated the NBA.
This record will most probably never be broken. Since the Celtics’ run of eight in a row, there have been three three-peats. The Chicago Bulls did it twice in the 90’s and the Lakers did it once from 2000-02.
Nadia Comaneci becomes the youngest gold medallist
In 1976, Comaneci became the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics in a move that was so unexpected, the score board didn’t have enough places to display the 10. That feat has been repeated, most notably by American Mary Lou Retton in 1984.
However, Nadia won her three gold medals when she was 14 years old, making her the youngest gymnast to win a gold medal. Today, gymnasts have to be a minimum of 16 years old to compete, which cuts out any potential competition in that field to Nadia’s young feat.
Oscar Swahn becomes the oldest medallist to date
It’s a record that hasn’t been broken since 1920 when 72-year-old Oscar Swahn won a silver medal in a shooting competition called “Team 100-meter running deer, double shot,” — the same year he set the record for being the oldest athlete to compete in the Olympics. The Swedish shooter competed in three Olympic games during his life, winning three gold, a silver and two bronze medals during his Olympic career.
Usain Bolt’s 100-meter record
Runners tend to shave off another hundredth or two of the 100 meters at the Olympics, but have we finally seen the lowest limit? Usain Bolt’s 9.69 seconds at the 2008 games in Beijing looked like a record with a chance to stand – until Bolt himself beat it with his 9.63-second run to the gold medal in London. Now, is this the record that will stand the test of time?
Monaco: most Summer Games without a medal
The small principality located on the French Riviera has participated in 18 Summer Games with no medals to show for it. And with a medal-less eight Winter Games, that brings the country’s total to 26 total Olympic Games without winning a gold, silver or bronze.
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