person who participates regularly in a sport

A sportsperson, also known as sportsmen or sportswomen,[1] is a person who is involved in sports. It may mean someone who is known for the promotion of sport or athletic activities.[2]

Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Summer Olympics
Megan Rapinoe (May 2019)

A sportsperson can be a man or a woman who is person trained to compete or interested in a sport involving physical strength, speed or endurance. A sportsman is a player in a sport; but the term also means someone who plays sport in a way that shows respect and fairness towards the opposing player or team.[3]

The term sportsman can also be used to describe a former competitor who continues to promote the sport in later years. For example, Tsunekazu Takeda is a sportsman who competed in two Summer Olympic Games[4] and who was the President of the Japanese Olympic Committee[5] before he was elected to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2012.[6]

Sportspeople may be professionals or amateurs.[7] Sportsmen and sportswomen often have particularly well-developed physiques obtained by extensive physical training and strict exercise accompanied by a strict dietary regimen, but term is also used more broadly. For example, Hou Yifan was honored in 2011 as the best sportsperson of the year in a non-Olympic event.[8]

The term athlete may be used as a synonym for sportspeople in general, but the word has strong connotations of people who compete in team sports, as contrasted with other sporting types such as horse riding and driving. For example, a fisherman may be called a sportsman, but not an athlete. In British English (as well as other variants in the Commonwealth) athlete can also have a more specific meaning of people who compete in traditional athletics (track and field) events.

Olympic games


The term "World's Greatest Athlete" was first to describe the sportsman Jim Thorpe in the 1912 Summer Olympics at Stockholm in Sweden. Thorpe won the gold medal in the decathlon. When King Gustav V of Sweden awarded Thorpe, he said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world."

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.[9] These competitions require an sportsman to possess the whole spectrum of athletic ability in order to be successful including speed, strength, coordination, jumping ability, and endurance.



  1. Oxford Learner's Dictionary, Sportsman Archived 2012-10-18 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 2012-8-3.
  2. "Prince Bertil, 84, Swedish Sportsman," New York Times. January 7, 1997; retrieved 2012-8-3.
  3. Cambridge Dictionaries Online, Sportsman; retrieved 2012-8-3.
  4. (SR/Olympics), Tsunekazu Takeda Archived 2020-04-17 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 2012-8-3.
  5., "Olympics-Japan chief Takeda elected to IOC," Archived 2013-06-30 at July 27, 2012; retrieved 2012-8-3.
  6., "IOC Session votes on new members and Executive Board positions"; retrieved 2012-8-3.
  7., "From Amateur to Professional Sportsman"; retrieved 2012-8-3.
  8. World Chess Federation, "Women's World Champion Yifan Hou - Sportsperson of the Year in China," 18 January 2011; retrieved 2012-8-3.
  9. 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 seven events: the 100 m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin, and 800 meters.