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Sports Illustrated's Fittest 50 2022

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There’s no denying it: all athletes’ bodies are built to meet the unique demands of each sport and withstand the rigors of the game. At the elite level, physical fitness and conditioning is ever present. But what happens when you level the playing field and compare athletes of all shapes and sizes in disparate sports?

Each year Sports Illustrated accepts the challenge and ranks the best-conditioned athletes in the world, consulting the expertise of trainers, exercise physiologists and performance experts with experience across the college, pro and Olympic levels of sports. The panel evaluates athletes on the following criteria: performances over the last 12+ months; demands and risks of their respective sports; durability; training regimens; and other physical benchmarks including power, speed, strength, agility, endurance, flexibility and more.

So who’s the fittest of them all? Count down to see the 2022 Fittest 50 list of the best-conditioned athletes in the world right now.

Written by Kristen Nelson, Tess DeMeyer, Kate Yanchulis and Jamie Lisanti.





Maggie Steffens, Water Polo

The 28-year-old Steffens made her presence known early at the 2020 Olympics by scoring her first goal of the Tokyo Games just 21 seconds into Team USA’s opening preliminary match. She’d go on to net 13 more goals, which brought her Olympic career total to 56 and shattered the previous record of 47. As team captain, the Stanford graduate led the Americans to their third consecutive gold medal. Outside of the pool, she lifts weights and mixes in cardio exercises that help build endurance, speed and explosive power.


Erin Jackson, Speedskating

A former inline skating champion, Jackson made the jump to speedskating on ice just months before she competed at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang. Now, the 29-year-old Florida native is the top-ranked woman in the 500-meter event and the first Black woman to win a World Cup race after her blazing-fast finish in November 2021. Jackson’s routine incorporates both on- and off-ice training, including cycling workouts, weightlifting (with a focus on explosiveness) and interval exercises on the ice to test speed. A slip at Olympic trials in early January nearly cost her a trip to Beijing, but her teammate Brittany Bowe gave up her spot to allow Jackson the opportunity to make history at the 2022 Olympics.


Lynn Williams, Kansas City Current

In 2021, Williams won an Olympic bronze medal with the U.S. women’s national team and became the NWSL’s career assists leader. This year, the 28-year-old forward will blaze new trails. She was traded to the Current on Jan. 10 after a seven-year tenure with the North Carolina Courage that included two NWSL championships, a Golden Boot and an MVP award. The 5'7" speedster has said she regularly reaches sprint speeds over 20 miles per hour in games. She shared a snapshot of her speed data in 2020, tweeting, “I’ll just be over here running like a girl.”


Jennifer Valente, Track Cycling

No U.S. woman had ever won a gold medal in track cycling—that is, until Jennifer Valente took to the track at the Tokyo Olympics in August. The 27-year-old already had won a bronze medal in team pursuit (on top of a silver medal in the same event at the 2016 Games) by the time the omnium event came around. The omnium, which includes four races crammed into three hours, is designed to test both speed and endurance. Valente took the lead in the first race and held on for the victory, putting her incredible fitness versatility on display.


Molly Seidel, Marathon

After running her first-ever marathon at the U.S. Olympic trials, Molly Seidel took bronze at the Tokyo Games in her third marathon and became the first American woman to medal in the event since 2004. Originally focused on the 10,000 meters, the 27-year-old and her coach reevaluated her training and removed the speed workouts that had previously caused injuries.


Naomi Osaka, WTA Tennis

Osaka won her second Australian Open title to start 2021. Yet while physical gifts—her booming serve, her blazing forehand—remain intact, her regard for her mental well-being received the most attention last year. The 24-year-old withdrew from the French Open in June to take care of her mental health, and she opened up about her struggles with depression and anxiety. “I hope I was able to help some people and for them to see that even athletes are still humans like the rest of us,” she told Women’s Health in an email.


Katie Nageotte, Track and Field

Nageotte did not have the most promising start at the Tokyo Olympics. But despite missing her first two jumps, she found her form and eventually went on to clear a 4.90-meter jump to win gold in the women’s pole vault. The 5'8" Nageotte also set a personal best at the U.S. Olympic trials when she won with a 4.95-meter jump.


Candace Parker, Chicago Sky

At 35 years old, Parker led her hometown Sky to the franchise’s first WNBA championship last October. In the leadup to the season, the 6'4" forward pulled double duty as an NBA analyst. That resulted in late-night TV appearances followed by training camp at 9 a.m., so she needed to keep her body finely tuned. Her dedication culminated with a title in her first season in Chicago. The former No. 1 draft pick and two-time WNBA MVP spent the first 13 seasons of her career with the Sparks and won a championship with Los Angeles in 2016.


Claressa Shields, Boxing and MMA

In June 2021, two-time Olympic boxing champion Shields made her MMA debut with a win over Brittney Elkin by way of a third-round technical knockout. The 26-year-old will return to the boxing ring this year when she takes on Ema Kozin, and videos she’s shared on social media show she’s sparring with great speed and intensity. She also hits the squat rack to work out with what she calls “big girl weights.”


Dalilah Muhammad, Track and Field

Having set the standard in the 400-meter hurdles in the 2016 Rio Games, Muhammad put up a record-breaking performance in Tokyo, finishing her signature event in 51.58 seconds. But the 31-year-old’s personal best was only enough for silver as teammate Sydney McLaughlin took gold with a world record. Muhammad also ran the third leg of the U.S.’s star-studded 4x400 relay team that took home gold.


Courtney Frerichs, Track and Field

An emerging star in 2021, Frerichs put her strength on full display at the Tokyo Games when she built a sizable lead in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. She held onto the lead until the 250-meter mark and earned a silver medal after cranking out a 9:04.79 finish. Just two weeks later at the Prefontaine Classic, Frerichs became the first U.S. woman to break nine minutes with an 8:57.77 finish, making her the fourth-fastest woman in history in the steeplechase.


Adeline Gray, Wrestling

Gray added an Olympic silver medal to her list of accomplishments in 2021 and became the first U.S. wrestler in history to win six world titles. The 31-year-old, who competes in the 167-pound weight class, has a little bit of everything in her fitness routine, including weightlifting, yoga, isolation exercises that require only a tiny range of motion, and massages for recovery.


Carissa Moore, Surfing

Hawaii native Moore has been a staple on the professional surfing scene since 2010, when she was named the World Surf League Rookie of the Year at just 17 years old. Last summer she cemented her place in the history books by winning the first ever Olympic gold medal in surfing. Two months later, she added a fifth world title to her resume. The 29-year-old spends a large portion of her time riding waves, but Moore also does pilates, boxing and circuit training to stay in tip-top, injury-free shape.


Sifan Hassan, Track and Field

The Tokyo Games featured a number of historical feats, but Hassan’s Olympic triple reigns as one of the most impressive. The 28-year-old, who was born in Ethiopia but came to the Netherlands as a refugee in 2008, won medals in three demanding distance running events at the Olympics: the 1,500, the 5,000 and the 10,000 meters. All in all, Hassan ran 24,500 meters in six races over nine days, exhibiting her supreme endurance and stamina.


Flora Duffy, Triathlon

Duffy earned several new titles in the last few months, most notably becoming the first Olympic gold medalist for Bermuda. The 34-year-old finished the triathlon event in Tokyo in 1:56:18, winning by a record-setting 1:51 margin in a multisport race that includes a 1.5K (0.9 mile) swim, 40K (24.9 mile) bike and 10K (6.2 mile) run. A month later, she won a record-tying third world championship in Edmonton and capped off her year with a sixth XTERRA world title in Maui. The four-time Olympian started 2022 off with yet another accolade when she was made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire.


Amanda Nunes, MMA

Despite losing the UFC women’s bantamweight title to Julianna Peña at UFC 269 in December, Nunes remains one of the most dominant fighters in the sport thanks to her powerful leg kicks and right overhand punches. The 5'8", 135-pound Brazilian still holds the UFC featherweight belt, which she defended against Megan Anderson at UFC 259 last March.


Simone Biles, Gymnastics

Simone Biles continued to defy the laws of gravity in 2021 when she debuted a new double back pike vault, but it was her decision to prioritize her mental health and withdraw from competition at the Tokyo Olympics that further cemented her status as one of the greatest athletes of all time. The 24-year-old endured a case of the twisties in Tokyo but altered her balance beam routine so she could compete in the event final without performing any twisting elements. She nailed a double back pike dismount that she hadn’t trained consistently in years to clinch the bronze. It was her seventh Olympic medal, which ties an American record set by Shannon Miller. Though she jokingly calls herself a grandma, Biles possesses explosiveness, agility and pure strength that is unmatched in her sport.


Allyson Felix, Track and Field

There is no other U.S. track and field athlete with more Olympic hardware than Felix. The 36-year-old bested the record previously set by Carl Lewis when she won two medals—a gold and a bronze—in Tokyo to bring her career total to 11. A life-threatening pregnancy forced Felix to have an emergency cesarean section in November 2018, and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her training in the leadup to the 2020 Games. But Felix conquered those obstacles and prepared for her fifth Olympics by lifting weights, doing plyometrics and, of course, sprinting on the track.


Sydney McLaughlin, Track and Field

Just like in Tokyo, McLaughlin is coming in just ahead of fellow American Muhammad on our list. She was the first woman to crack 52 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic trials last summer, and then she broke her own world record at the Tokyo Games, finishing in 51.46 seconds to capture the gold. McLaughlin won her second gold medal on her 22nd birthday when she ran the first leg of the 4x400 relay in Tokyo.


Athing Mu, Track and Field

Less than two months after turning 19, Mu became a two-time Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo with her incredibly rare feat. After setting collegiate and national records, the former Texas A&M student captured gold in the 800 meters and the 4x400 relay at the Summer Games, demonstrating a unique (and uncommon) blend of speed and endurance for such a young athlete. To put a bow on her breakout 2021 year, Mu won the prestigious Bowerman Award, given to the nation's best collegiate track and field athlete.


Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing

After winning her record-setting 47th World Cup slalom in January, Shiffrin is riding an avalanche of momentum entering the Beijing Games. Though she tweeted on Dec. 27 that she had tested positive for COVID-19, the two-time Olympic gold medalist looked in top form when she completed an aggressive run to beat her rival Petra Vlhova by .15 seconds. The secret to the 26-year-old's success may be her commitment to getting plenty of sleep and a “data-obsessed approach to both her practice and race times.”


Valentina Shevchenko, MMA

The reigning UFC women’s flyweight champion, Shevchenko defended her title against Lauren Murphy at UFC 266 in September and against Jéssica Andrade at UFC 261 in April. She won both of her title defenses last year by technical knockout; with the win against Murphy, the 33-year-old tied former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey for the most consecutive title defenses by a woman with six. In strength training, the 5'5", 125-pound fighter relies on partner workouts rather than weightlifting so she can better replicate what she does in the octagon.


Nafissatou Thiam, Track and Field

At the Summer Games in 2021, Belgium’s Thiam became only the second woman since the U.S.'s Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1992 to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the heptathlon. After winning in Rio, the 27-year-old won a gold (in ‘17) and silver (in ‘19) at the World Championships, then further confirmed her dominance in the event—which requires speed, strength and endurance, plus jumping and throwing ability—in Tokyo.


Katie Ledecky, Swimming

Ledecky can swim faster and farther than you. And she can do it while balancing a glass of chocolate milk on her head. She established that fact once again at the 2020 Olympics, sans milk, when she won gold in the inaugural women’s 1500-meter freestyle race with a time of 15:37.34, which was four seconds faster than silver medalist Erica Sullivan. The six-foot distance swimmer also picked up another gold and two silvers, bringing her total career haul to seven. When she isn’t doing laps in the pool, Ledecky hits the weight room for strength training and dynamic exercises like squat jumps.


Tia-Clair Toomey, CrossFit

With a commanding performance at the 2021 CrossFit Games, Toomey retained the Fittest on Earth title for the fifth straight year. The 28-year-old Australian won nine of the 15 events, and over the course of her career she has won the most events (33) in the history of the CrossFit Games. A jack-of-all-trades at 5'3" and 128 pounds, Toomey also competed at the 2016 Olympics in weightlifting and made a run at the ’22 Olympics in bobsleigh. To train for the winter sport, she focused on plyometrics exercises to increase her strength and explosiveness.



Ryan Crouser, Track and Field

If there was a shot put record still standing in 2021, it’s likely that Crouser shattered it. On his final throw of the ’20 Olympics, the 6'7", 320-pound star heaved the 16-pound sphere 23.30 meters (76.4 feet) to best his own Olympic record. It was just 0.07 short of the world record he set at the Olympic trials in June. To reach that level of strength, Crouser squats, bench presses and snatches loaded barbells while throwing in some medicine ball exercises. His recovery routine includes lots of bass fishing.


Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

With 46 home runs and a fastball that clocked in at 101 mph in the 2021 season, there isn’t much Ohtani can’t do. The versatile 27-year-old consistently demonstrates strength, power and mobility no matter where he is on the diamond, becoming the first All-Star selected as a pitcher and a hitter in one of the best seasons baseball has ever seen. Oh, and he can deadlift nearly 500 pounds.


JuVaughn Harrison, Track and Field

Only two U.S. men have competed in both the long jump and high jump in a single Olympics: Jim Thorpe in 1912 and Harrison in 2020. In Tokyo, Harrison finished seventh in the high jump and fifth in the long jump. A decorated competitor representing LSU in collegiate meets, Harrison won six NCAA titles and six SEC championships. He’s also a two-time U.S. champion, having won both of his events at Olympic trials in June ’21.


D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

Despite being one of the most jacked wide receivers the NFL has ever seen, Metcalf isn’t interested in showing off his body. At least not in photo shoots. Instead, he prefers to turn heads with his pure athleticism on the field. The star wideout has had countless highlight-worthy moments in his three-year NFL career, which began with an absurd combine performance that saw him display insane speed and strength. Before the 6'4", 235-pound Metcalf hauled in a career-best 12 touchdowns this season, he made a one-race foray into the world of track and field when he held his own against elite pros in the 100 meters at the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials.


Eliud Kipchoge, Marathon

The greatest marathoner in history? It’s hard to argue against 37-year-old Kipchoge, whose list of accomplishments at the 26.2 distance continues to grow. In the summer of 2021, the native of Kenya won gold at the Tokyo Games to become the third marathoner to win back-to-back Olympic titles. The 5'6", 115-pound runner holds the marathon world record and is the first man to break two hours for the distance, in an exhibition race in Austria in ’19—feats that have endurance experts studying his dominance.


Bryson DeChambeau, Golf

DeChambeau may be able to add a new line to his résumé: professional long driver. The 2020 U.S. Open Champion finished sixth in the ’21 Professional Long Drivers Association World Championship last October with drives that topped out at 406 yards and hovered in the 390 range. He also contributed to the U.S. team’s Ryder Cup win in September. The 6'1", 235-pound golfer bulked up during the initial COVID-19 quarantine by using a full-weight cable machine to increase strength and mobility.


Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

No matter how much opponents try to slow him down, Donald always finds a way to wreak havoc in the backfield. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year has put together five straight seasons with 11 or more sacks, and at 30 years old, shows no signs of slowing down. The 6'1", 280-pound pass rusher spent the offseason focused on building strength and body mass with high-intensity, low-rep workouts and switched to low-intensity, high-rep to maximize his energy and endurance as the season approached.


Ítalo Ferreira, Surfing

A broken board didn’t stop Ferreira from claiming the Olympic surfing crown in Tokyo, where he rode to a massive score of 15.14 in the final round. The 27-year-old works out with everything from dumbbells and kettlebells to ropes and resistance bands, and his leg exercises are next level. He frequently uses loaded leg press machines and even worked out while professional skateboarder and six-time X Games gold medalist Letícia Bufoni sat atop the weights.


Noah Lyles, Track and Field

After missing out on the 2016 Olympics by 0.09 seconds, Noah Lyles has established himself as one of the world’s speediest. The 24-year-old dominates in the 200 meters and holds the 300-meter indoor world record (set in 2017). Lyles was disappointed with his bronze-medal performance in Tokyo but has his sights set on improving his 200-meter PR of 19.50, which is fourth-fastest in history.


Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Flexibility is key for the quarterback that can seemingly twist his body any which way and still make draw-dropping, on-the-run passes. Patrick Mahomes is five years into an NFL career that has already seen multiple Super Bowl appearances and the most lucrative contract ever. The 6'3", 230-pound Mahomes chases down defenses like he’s chasing GOAT status, in part thanks to workouts that maximize his mobility without building up his frame more than necessary.


Stefanos Ntouskos, Rowing

Single sculls rowing demands an exorbitant amount of aerobic capacity and power, and Ntouskos proved he had both when he won gold in the event in Tokyo. Balance and flexibility are also qualities crucial for success in rowing, so Ntouskos and his coach, Gianni Postiglione, focused on those when training for the Olympics.


Rafael Nadal, ATP Tennis

Just weeks into 2022, Nadal already has a tournament win under his belt. The 35-year-old bested Maxime Cressy in the final of the Melbourne lead-up event ahead of the 2022 Australian Open, making this the 19th straight year in which he has won an ATP title. The 6'1", 187-pound star is working his way back from a left foot injury and a bout with COVID-19, and practices with Andy Murray and Diego Schwartzman have helped him return to form.


Mondo Duplantis, Track and Field

Already a prodigy in men’s pole vault, Duplantis holds both the indoor and outdoor records at 6.15 meters and 6.18 meters, respectively. Competing for Sweden (though born in Louisiana), Duplantis won gold at the Tokyo Games with a 6.02-meter jump. The 22-year-old, who says he’s faster and stronger than he’s ever been, attempted 6.19 meters in a dozen competitions in 2021, with no intention of relinquishing his records anytime soon.


Kamaru Usman, MMA

Ranked No. 1 in UFC men’s pound-for-pound standings, Usman is writing his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of all time. In addition to his 20–1 MMA record, Usman also boasts a black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu and an NCAA Division II national championship from his days as a college wrestler. To prepare for rounds in the Octagon, the 6', 170-pound fighter known as the “Nigerian Nightmare” does exercises that build strength and stamina, like weighted sled sprints and deadlifts.


Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

When Salah first joined the Premier League with Chelsea in 2014, he dedicated himself to lifting weights to improve his upper-body strength. In his home now, he has installed a cryotherapy bath and hyperbaric chamber to help him rest and recover. The 29-year-old striker keeps his body in top shape, and it pays off on the field; he leads the Premier League with 16 goals this season, six more than his nearest competitor, Liverpool teammate Diogo Jota.


Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

In the NHL 22 video game, EA Sports awarded McDavid the highest speed and agility ratings of any player (96 out of 100 for both). At 6'1" and 193 pounds, the 25-year-old center cuts across the ice with purpose and precision. At the end of last season, he won his second Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP and third Art Ross Trophy as the points leader, and he should be in the mix for both again this season.


Karsten Warholm, Track and Field

Norwegian hurdler Warholm broke a 29-year-old world record in July 2021—and just kept getting faster. His 400-meter hurdles time of 46.70 seconds stood for a month until he lowered it to 45.94 and clinched gold at the Tokyo Olympics. His time was the first sub-46 mark in the event, and he was faster than 18 of the men who ran the 400 meters without hurdles. To accomplish such feats, Warholm does high-intensity workouts that include sprinting and weightlifting. His goal is to remain lean and speedy, so he goes lighter in the weight room to avoid bulking up.


Lamont Marcell Jacobs, Track and Field

Italian track and field athletes were the talk of Tokyo due to their unexpected Olympic victories, and sprinter Jacobs may have commanded the brightest spotlight. With a time of 9.80 seconds, he became the first Italian man to ever win Olympic gold in the 100 meters. A few days later, he stood atop the podium again after running the second leg of Italy’s 4X100-meter relay team. The first-place finish marked the first time a team from Italy had ever won the event.


Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United

Returning to Manchester United in 2021, Ronaldo picked up right where he left off more than a decade before. His physique, however, has changed quite a bit from the 18-year-old who first debuted at Old Trafford. The 36-year-old is famously disciplined in his training, fitting in a workout whenever and wherever he can. Ronaldo’s work ethic helped him surpass 800 career goals in December, making 1,000 seem entirely possible for the ageless wonder.


LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Although the Lakers have struggled since winning the 2019–20 title, James is still doing GOAT things, as always. The 37-year-old is posting his highest single-season scoring average in more than a decade and carrying Los Angeles to wins in his 19th NBA season. James reportedly spends more than $1 million on his training and nutrition each year, an investment that seems to not just be prolonging his career but allowing him to somehow get better with age.


Novak Djokovic, ATP Tennis

Djokovic constantly strives to maintain his physical prowess. The 34-year-old literally wrote the book on his gluten-free diet; he practices yoga and tai chi; he did the splits during a workout with the Belgian Olympic gymnastics team last July. In 2021 he won three majors, including the 20th of his career, which ties him with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most men’s Grand Slam titles of all time. The unvaccinated Djokovic’s stated desire to “choose what’s best for my body” led to a visa standoff and his deportation ahead of the Australian Open.


Justin Medeiros, CrossFit

In a tricked-out garage gym in Boise, Idaho, 22-year-old Medeiros has everything he needs as he prepares to defend his Fittest on Earth title at the 2022 CrossFit Games: a customized squat rack, a dumbbell set with weights ranging from five to 125 pounds, a treadmill, two different exercise bikes and more. After winning Rookie of the Year at the Games but finishing third in ’20, he became the youngest man to take the title in ’21. He’ll aim to repeat this year.


Caeleb Dressel, Swimming

At the Tokyo Olympics, Dressel proved himself at the peak of his physical powers, though by the end of the Games, his neck might have been a bit sore from the weight of his five gold medals. The 25-year-old became the first swimmer in the history of the modern Olympic Games to win gold in the 50-meter freestyle, the 100 freestyle and the 100 butterfly at the same Olympics, and he also won as part of the 4X100 freestyle and medley relay teams. At 6'3" and 194 pounds, he tailors his workout routines to develop “explosive strength off the block,” and it worked: He left Japan with Olympic records in all three individual events and the medley relay.


Damian Warner, Decathlon

After settling for bronze in the decathlon at the 2016 Olympics, 32-year-old Warner claimed the unofficial title of world’s greatest athlete with a gold medal last summer in Tokyo. When the pandemic limited his access to facilities ahead of the Games, the 6'1", 185-pound Canadian turned a 66-year-old hockey arena in Ontario into a decathlete training ground. At the Olympics, he opened the decathlon with an Olympic-best time of 10.12 seconds in the 100-meter sprint. He also set Olympic records in the 110-meter hurdles, long jump and final point total (9,018) to reach the top of the podium.


Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Don’t let his newfound affinity for Oreos fool you: Antetokounmpo remains the picture of fitness on the basketball court. The 27-year-old Greek star overpowers opponents with his 6'11", 242-pound frame, or dashes past them with long strides, or shooting over their heads with his improved jumper. Last year, he led the Bucks to their first NBA title since 1971 and won the series MVP, averaging 35.2 points and 13.2 rebounds in the six-game series against the Suns.