Top 10 greatest racers of all time!

Canadian Champion Jeff Adams is on the list. Follow the series to find out exactly where he ranks and why.

Part One: Laying the Groundwork

by Bob Molinatti

What a difficult task to look back over the many racers who have provided us with so many special moments in history. How exactly does one go about deciding who to add to the most exclusive list of racers, while at the same time omitting others who might potentially be deserving. The “best” are the ones who just had a way of standing out above the rest. So lets get to it!

The 4 basic attributes, characteristics or strengths I have laid out are: Major marathon victories, Longevity of career, Versatility, Social and historical significance.

  1. Significant wins on the road, in particular or maybe even specifically winning the Boston Marathon goes a long way towards securing a top position. In my mind, Boston was our Superbowl. Miami Dolphins QB, Dan Marino won a lot of big games, set many passing records and is in the Football Hall of Fame. But make no mistake, he will never be in the discussion of the Greatest of All Time/G.O.A.T. He just won’t. Why? because he did not win a Superbowl-period. (Side note: while winning Boston certainly has significant weight in making the top 10 list, it is not necessarily a sole factor to make it onto the top 10 list.)
  2. How did this racer perform in the Paralympics? I see this as relevant due to the fact that winning in the Paralympics means you can perform to the highest level in more than just one venue. Versatility matters. Winning road races is critical, but rounding the track at 20 plus miles per hour just inches from fellow competitors is another whole skill set. While silver is a pretty nice medal to have, gold medals add to an athletes cachet. Winning is winning.
  3. Longevity. Hey, anyone would dream of one Boston Marathon win and one Gold medal at the games. That would look pretty cool on your mantle over the fireplace, but there are too many champions who have accomplished this task multiple times. Sustaining a career goes a long way toward earning a spot on this prestigious list of athletes. After all this is very exclusive company and it only goes to reason that the list will feature those who stood the test of time.
  4. Historical and social significance. There are those who have carried themselves and communicate in a way that furthers the understanding that sacrifices made are very real and not just present for inspirational moments to uplift the public at large.

There are those who may not always agree with my picks, but understand that I am doing this on the basis of the criteria I established above and as well what I witnessed covering the sport for nearly 2 decades. I can only vow this; I will strive to be objective and fair. The reason I pick one over another will be based on the formula in the 4 items above and reflection of athletic performance.

The 6 part series will be released one week at a time:

Part One: Laying the groundwork

Part Two: The honorable mentions

Part Three: The countdown, 10, 9 and 8

Part Four: Racers 7,6,5

Part Five: Racers 4,3,2

Final: The G.O.A.T

10 Comments on “Top 10 greatest racers of all time!”

  • John Brewer

    says:

    Are you just looking at the open men field, or are you also looking at women and quad racers ?… you could probably do a top 10 for each of those divisions.

    • Bob Molinatti

      says:

      Hi John, As I have stated, I am speaking with a highly qualified woman racer to create a top 10. Though I might be able to do it myself I think it would be way more credible to have the list come from someone who toed the line in their respective divisions. So, the question becomes are you willing to be the guy to give me the Top 10 Quad racers of all time? I would be happy to do a guest posting.

      • John Brewer

        says:

        I have learned to better appreciate what your trying do with this project, after hearing the last part of your interview with Chris Waddell. You should reach out to Christoph Etzistorfer (quad racer) that compiled a list of the fastest marathon times for open men, women, quads… men & women.
        Clayton Gerein ( RIP) probably has the most Paralympic Marathon wins and consist road racing wins late’90 into 2000.(not sure if he ever did Boston)
        If you’re interested in my history,
        You can check out my post(History of W/C Racing)
        date: 6/28/2020,…or when needed I can message you a racing bio.
        As a visual artist… writing is not my thing !! “Stop the Chatter and Do what Matters “ is what I’d tell my art students. I have enjoyed posting photos and letting the comments tell the History.

        • Bob Molinatti

          says:

          Hi John, connect me up with Christoph if he is really interested and I would be more than happy to do a posting. Thanks

  • Hi Bob
    Good to know Jeff is on your list, this makes me hoping I am on your list too. It is very hard to compare titels, victoires or world records. I am not a fan of this. There will be always a winner and many loosers. That means, winners turn to loosers as only one will be a winner. For Example: I won 14 Paralympics Gold medals in wheelchair racing, more than anyone else (only wheelchair racing). This makes me feel as a winner. But not to be on this list would make me feel as a looser. Hope you understand what I mean. Just find a way to make more winners than loosers! Good luck! Franz

    • Bob Molinatti

      says:

      What a great champion you are Franz! You were an awesome racer and an even better interview. Loved covering your Boston wins and as well many of your track wins at the Paralympics. I think you have a shot!

  • Scot Hollonbeck

    says:

    This is no easy task. Adam Bleakney and I Started the American series in the World Series of wheelchair racing for this very reason.We drop ranked athletes performances against their results at multiple distances 200- to the 10k against the world records in the gender and class. We ended up with female, open men and quad champions over the six or so years we had those events.
    You had mentioned Boston as being a key event in your considerations. Will Boston certainly was it is a very prestigious event I have always had concerns about the reality that Boston allowed whoever ruled down the initial hill the fastest to the draft the lead press truck the whole rest of the race. As a race director, and then promoter and Athlete There’s no doubt in my mind that this unfairly affected the outcomes of Boston for many years. This issues was raised for nearly a decade that I know of but was not resolved until recently. Case in point, when Saul was in his prime he would turn around and beat the Boston winner by a couple of minutes within weeks or months of Boston that a recent did not have what the sport, the rules and most of the other top road races would consider illegal drafting off of the press vehicle. It is also the reason Heinz and many of us would skip Boston. There was no way to close that gap even with athletes working together in coordinated chase packs. Not knocking the fitness of the winners, the countless hours they spent honing their aerodynamics and rolling efficiency, but this was a Boston reality for over a decade. Just my two cents….

  • marty morse

    says:

    As someone who has seen all the top road and track racers from 1975-2021 I do not envy you with this task Bob. I put three years of diligent work into my personal list and I still think it needs more research, especially with the Quads and the Men before I share it.

    However, with the way technology changed between 1984-88, I am stunned to see Paul van Winkle left off the list. I served as the Co-Director of the Wheelchair Exhibition Event at the LA Olympics in 1984 and as the USA Head Coach 1996 Olympics where I got to see first hand how tough it was to make the final eight at this Exhibition Event. In my professional opinion(43 years in wheelchair racing as a Coach,) there has not been a Wheelchair Racing Competition for the Men more cut-throat than trying to make one of the eight spots for racing in the Olympic Exhibition 1500 meters Event. Paul was on the podium at LA and Seoul, was a consistent winner in the Mid-West and Europe when the fields were huge in the early to late 80s.

    On the road at Illinois, we spent three years getting our racers ready to beat Paul at the Chicago Marathon. We lucked out with a very young and inexperience Scot Hollonbeck beating him at the Chicago Marathon when Paul flatted. In my book Paul deserves another look because of his longevity at the front.

    Proud of your work Bob. You possess think skin and I admire the way you have taken on this intellectual visit to fantasy land. Now that we have everyone stirred up over this list, I would like to see this kind of interest directed towards the ruination of our sport by the IPC. For those not paying attention, the T-52 class as we knew it, is gone. That class could be down to two races at the Paralympics in 2024. While this is going on, the T-53 class is being ransacked and they could lose two events by 2028 in the Paralympic Program. Adam Bleakney and I have been working with athletes around the world to stem this tide of destruction. Would like some help from an earlier generation of racing in saving wheelchair sports within the Paralympic Program.

  • Jim Knaub

    says:

    I am completely and utterly devastated that I didn’t make Bob’s list! I probably won’t be able sleep at night.

    • Bob Molinatti

      says:

      Hey Jim, glad to see you are alive and well. You’re still a hero in my eyes–Rest easy!

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