Four Sports Challenges That Took Years To Defeat

Some records in sports don’t last very long; new technology, new techniques, and athletes who are just better than those that came before can break records with shocking speed. But there are challenges that take years, even decades, before somebody takes the new crown. Here are four.

Most Points Scored In A Single Season Of Football

Football records tend to come in waves; anybody listening to quarterback arguments is well aware of the supposed statistical supremacy of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. But individual points scored over a season proves to be a surprisingly tough nut to crack.

Keep in mind, we’re not just talking about touchdowns, here, but total points scored in the game by any means. Which is part of the reason Paul Hornung set the record in 1960; in addition to being a Hall of Fame running back, he was a placekicker and quarterback as well.

It stood for nearly 50 years until 2006, when LaDainian Tomlinson, arguably one of the single best running backs of the modern era, finally managed to break it. Considering Tomlinson’s level of skill, we’re fairly safe in assuming he’s probably going to enjoy holding that record for a while.

Career Home Run Record

Setting a record for most home runs in a single season is one thing. It’s common enough that players can beat themselves at it. Career home runs, however, is another matter entirely.

It’s a record that tends to stand for decades. Babe Ruth famously set the first one in 1935 with 714 home runs, and that stood until 1974, when Hank Aaron broke it and ultimately set a new record with 755. It also seems a record likely to stand: Barry Bonds only barely edged it with 762 when he retired in 2007.

Most Games Played In A Tennis Match

In 1973, the Davis Cup featured a stunningly long match between the US and Chile teams that went on for five sets and 122 games. It was infamously grueling for both teams, to the point where Stan Smith’s singles match had to be canceled. It was thought there would never be a longer game.

And then the Endless Match of the 2010 Wimbledon came along. A seemingly typical match between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut was fairly standard, with four sets coming and going without major incident. But the fifth set became legendary: Mahut and Isner were so evenly matched that they wound up playing throughout the entirety of June 23rd before being called for darkness at a 59-59 tie. It was so long other players brought their friends takeout and both players had to practice before trying to end the match.

Ultimately it was narrowly decided on June 24th, after 65 minutes of play, by one point, with Isner taking the match. Along the way, they set no fewer than nine records for the length of play, including a staggering 183 games of tennis across three days. Mahut even got two possibly unbreakable records of his own, despite losing; he holds the record for most points won in a match, 502, and most games won by a losing player.

Most Consecutive Olympic Medals

Olympic glory is fleeting, and many athletes only go to the games once or twice in their entire lives before retiring. In fact, getting above four medals in the same event, all by itself, is a rare achievement. And Armin Zöggeler is the only one to get six in a row: He’s gotten at least one medal in luge in every Winter Olympics since Lillehammer. Yes, twenty years of luge.

Zöggeler, better known in luge circles as The Cannibal due to his sheer competitiveness, isn’t the only member of the six medal club, but he’s the only one to win them consecutively.

The previous consecutive record holder? Reiner Klimke, in dressage. So, thank you, The Cannibal, for keeping at least one Olympic record macho.

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