Winners of the decade: World’s top athletes and sports teams

From Usain Bolt to Serena Williams, a look at the most successful sports stars and teams over the last 10 years.

Pictures of the Decade
Jamaican runner Usain Bolt looks at Andre De Grasse of Canada as they compete in the men's 100-metre semi-finals at 2016 Rio Olympic Games [File: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]

Five Olympic Games, six football World Cups, 10 years.

It has been an eventful decade in sport, with records broken and history books rewritten.

Here are 10 of the most successful athletes and teams who shook the sporting world.

1. Michael Phelps

After sweeping success in Athens and Beijing, United States swimmer Michael Phelps picked up right where he left off at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Four medals in the British capital and five more in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 took his Olympic gold tally to 23 – cementing his status as the most successful Olympian of all time.

Swimming - Men's 200m Individual Medley Victory Ceremony
Phelps bagged a total of 28 medals at four Summer Olympic Games [File: David Gray/Reuters]

Of the 39 world record times he set over the course of his glittering career before retiring in 2016, four remain unbroken.

2. Usain Bolt

World’s fastest man Usain Bolt dominated the sprints events on the track, adding six more Olympic gold medals to his name.

The Jamaican runner also amassed 13 world championship medals, including 11 golds, before retiring in 2017.

He still holds the world records for the fastest time in 100 metres and 200 metres.

Bolt in 2016
Usain Bolt from Jamaica celebrates winning the gold medal in the men’s 200-metre final at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [File: David J Phillip/AP]

3. Serena Williams

US tennis star Serena Williams continued her dominance of the women’s game, ending the decade with 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name – one shy of Margaret Court’s all-time record.

She also won two gold medals at the 2012 London Olympic Games. 

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
Serena Williams defeated her sister Venus for her 23rd major title at the 2017 Australian Open [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]

The 38-year-old last triumphed at the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant with her first child. She has reached four major finals since giving birth.

She was the only female representative in the top 40 list of this decade’s highest-paid athletes, according to Forbes magazine.

4. Allyson Felix

US Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix became the most successful athlete – male or female – in world championships history when she broke Bolt’s record this year.

Her 12th and 13th gold medals in the Qatari capital, Doha, came less than a year after she gave birth to her first child in November 2018.

The 34-year-old athlete also bagged a total of five Olympic gold medals in London and Rio de Janeiro.

World Athletics Championships - Doha 2019
Allyson Felix is the only female track and field athlete in history to win six Olympic gold medals [Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

5. Rafael Nadal

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal emerged as the undisputed king of clay, capturing his 12th French Open title this year.

2019 French Open - Day Fifteen
Nadal won a record five consecutive Roland Garros titles from 2010 to 2014 [Clive Mason/Getty Images]

Despite injury woes and long layoffs, the 33-year-old Mallorcan also won at Wimbledon and four times at the US Open, taking his Grand Slam tally to 19 – one behind the all-time record of Roger Federer.

Nadal finished 2019 at the top of the men’s world rankings for a fifth time in his career.

6. Novak Djokovic

In a decade that has seen three of the greatest tennis players compete against each other, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic rewrote the history books.

The 32-year-old completed his career Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open in Paris and won a record seventh Australian Open trophy earlier this year.

Novak Djokovic
Djokovic has won the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsman of the Year four times since 2010 [Saba Aziz/Al Jazeera] 

The Serb also became the first man to hold all four major titles at one time since Rod Laver in 1969.

He sits behind Federer and Nadal in the Grand Slam winners’ list, with 16 titles.

7. Spanish football

On the men’s side, Spanish football reigned supreme in Europe and on the global stage.

The national team won its maiden FIFA World Cup trophy in 2010 and its third European Championship in 2012.

FIFA 2010 World Cup Champions Spain Victory Parade And Celebrations
Iker Casillas of the Spanish national football team holds the trophy during his team’s victory parade following the 2010 FIFA World Cup [File: Angel Martinez/Getty Images]

At the club level, Real Madrid left their mark by lifting four trophies at the UEFA Champions League – in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The Spanish giants also captured three UEFA Super Cup titles and four FIFA Club World Cup trophies.

8. US women’s football team

United States of America v Netherlands : Final - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France
The US defeated the Netherlands 2-0 at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Lyon, France [Richard Heathcote/Getty Images]

The US successfully defended and lifted their fourth women’s World Cup title in France this year. They also finished runners-up in 2011.

The squad stepped up their fight for equal pay off the field, filing a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF).

The trial is set to begin next year.

9. Floyd Mayweather

Former five-division champion Floyd Mayweather is regarded as one of boxing’s all-time greats. 

The US boxer hung up his gloves in 2017 with an undefeated 50-0 record – the most wins without a loss or a draw.

He beat Irishman Conor McGregor by way of a technical knockout in his last professional match to surpass heavyweight great Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record.

Boxing: Mayweather vs McGregor
Floyd Mayweather defeated Irishman Conor McGregor in his last professional boxing match in August 2017 [File: Mark J Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters]

In May 2015, he defeated Philippine boxer Manny Pacquiao in one of the most lucrative fights in boxing history.

He topped the Forbes list as the highest-paid athlete of the decade, pocketing $915m.

10. Lewis Hamilton

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton ended the decade on a high note with his third consecutive, and sixth overall, World Championship title this year.

He also took his tally of F1 Grand Prix wins to 84, the second most after Germany’s Michael Schumacher.

F1 Grand Prix Of China
Hamilton has a total of 151 podium finishes in 250 races [File: Anadolu]
Source: Al Jazeera