We honour some of our iconic record holders from the past 60 years and celebrate their incredible achievements.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes (b.1944) was named in 1984 by Guinness World Records’ Founding Editor Norris McWhirter as the greatest living explorer. A fitting accolade for a man who succeeded in being the first person ever to complete a surface circumnavigation via both the geographical poles.
After failing his A-levels at Eton and spending eight years in the army, Ranulph finally found what he was born to do and started his career as an explorer.
On 2 September 1979, Sir Ranulph travelled south with Charles Burton from Greenwich in London. They reached the South Pole on 15 December 1980, the North Pole on 10 April 1982, and then returned to Greenwich on 29 August 1982.
They had travelled an unbelievable 56,000 km (35,000 miles).
This three year odyssey took 1,900 sponsors, a team of 52 people, and a vast amount of preparation and determination to make it a success.
According to Ranulph, the Transglobe Expedition also took a tremendous amount of luck. Virtually every other expedition accomplished by explorers is repeated time and again – the Transglobe has never been successfully repeated.
Charles Burton, the only member of the Transglobe Expedition team to accompany Sir Ranulph on the entire adventure, sadly passed away in 2002.
Sir Ranulph has spent his life in pursuit of extreme adventure. For example, he was co-leader of the team which discovered the lost city of Ubar in 1992, and he was the first person (along with Mike Shroud) to cross the Atlantic unsupported.
However, Ranulph’s journeys have not all been about breaking records. He has also worked tirelessly to raise money for charities. For instance, in 2007 he climbed the North Face of the Eiger (with Kenton Cool and Ian Parnell) raising £1.8 million for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Ranulph names this expedition as one of his most frightening due to his serious fear of heights.
His countless fundraising quests have also raised significant amounts for the British Heart Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. In 1993 Ranulph was awarded an OBE for ‘Human Endeavour and Charitable Services’.
Ranulph’s various endeavours have pushed his endurance levels to the very limits, making him a pioneer of exploration with an unparalleled story to tell.
Whilst travelling across the Artic alone in 2000 he contracted severe frostbite. He was told he would have to have his fingers amputated and that he would have to wait five months for the operation. In yet another demonstration of his fearlessness, Ranulph removed his frostbitten fingers at home with a vice and a saw!
He even suffered a heart attack climbing Mount Everest for charity in 2005. Nevertheless, he proved where perseverance and determination can get you by successfully completing the climb in 2009 at the impressive age of 65.
Sir Ranulph’s talents don’t end with exploring either. In 2003 he ran 7 marathons, in 7 days, on 7 continents. He is also a best-selling author of 12 books and a leading motivational speaker through which he teaches people how the qualities needed to be a successful explorer can be transferred to the business and personal world.
Sir Steve Redgrave (b.1962) is an iconic rowing champion and arguably one of the world’s greatest Olympians.
He embarked on his rowing career with the ambitious goal to win three Olympic gold medals. He completely surpassed both his own expectations and the expectations of his supporters when he achieved gold for five Olympics straight.
He won gold in the coxed fours (1984), the coxless pairs (1988, 1992 and 1996) and the coxless fours (2000).
After winning his fourth successive gold medal, Sir Steve famously proclaimed “If anybody sees me going anywhere near a boat again, they have my permission to shoot me”. For four months he stuck to his resolution to stay away from boats, but it didn’t take long for him to decide that he had one more Olympic Games in him.
At the Sydney Olympics, on 23rd September 2000, team Great Britain beat the Italians to the finish line by 0.38 seconds.
After the race, Redgrave’s teammate Matthew Pinsent summed up what it meant for Redgrave and rowing history when he said: “He has made himself the greatest Olympian Britain has ever produced and arguably in the world… You can’t get better than that. It is an inspiration to all of us.”
However, many people are not aware that Sir Redgrave’s Sydney success was a momentous achievement for yet another reason. Three years before the 2000 Games he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and thought this would mean the end of his career. His success was proof that diabetes does not necessarily signify the end of an athletic life.
In addition to the record title for most Olympic rowing gold medals won, Sir Steve Redgrave’s rowing victories have earned him a title for the most gold medals won consecutively at the Olympics for an endurance event.
Furthermore, Sir Steve holds the title for the most Olympic rowing medals won (male). The rower has six Olympic rowing medals in total because he also attained a bronze medal in the coxed pairs (1988).
Since retiring from the sport, Sir Steve has strived to help others through various charity fundraising. He has set up the Steve Redgrave Fund. This is an organisation which aims to use sport to bring about positive change for disadvantaged young people and children.
He was also involved in the 2012 Olympic Games. He travelled through Henley-on-Thames – where he won numerous races at the Henley Royal Regatta – carrying the Olympic torch. He later passed the flame to the young athletes at the opening ceremony, a great symbol of how his achievements can and have inspired the next generation.
Five years ago, on 16 August 2009, Usain Bolt (b.1986) flew to a 100m win in a superhuman 9.58 seconds. It was during the IAAF World Championships in Athletics at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany.
Exactly one year to the day when he secured the Olympic gold medal in Bejing, the Jamaican ‘Lightning Bolt’ smashed his previous record of 9.69 seconds.
Not only did he destroy his previous record for the 100m sprint at this event, he also exceeded his 200m record, finishing in an incredible 19.19 seconds.
Usain Bolt has become a household name thanks to his unbeaten sprinting success and he has subsequently been dubbed “the fastest man in the world”.
As young as 14, Bolt started to display signs of his lightning potential. Though, surprisingly, his first medal at any meet was not for a track race: He won a bronze medal for hurdles. He also tried his hand at bowling in cricket as well as high-jump before he settled into his sprinting niche.
However, Bolt’s success didn’t come as naturally and effortlessly as we might imagine. In his Olympic debut in Athens (2004), Usain was eliminated in the first round of the 200m. Since then, however, Bolt has won countless medals and set numerous world records.
During that unforgettable Beijing Olympics Bolt became the first athlete ever to set three sprinting world records at a single Olympic Games. He won the 100m, the 200, and the 4x100 relay (37.10 seconds).
Then, in the London 2012 Olympics, Bolt became the first athlete in history to win the 100m and 200m sprints at successive Olympic Games – proving him consistent and undefeated as the fastest sprinter in the world.
Yet Usain has become more than the customary superstar sprinter we have been used to – he has become famous for his performances around the race and interactions with fans. He turns a less than 10 second sprint into a show that grabs everyone’s attention with his play-acting, jokes, and of course his notorious lightning bolt pose.
Bolt has accomplished so much already, but what is so exciting is the fact that he is still pushing to run faster. Many think the best is still yet to come for Bolt and fans of the fastest man on earth eagerly anticipate the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Joe Calzaghe retired from his amazing 16-year boxing career in February 2009 but he left the ring triumphant and with the satisfaction that he was the first boxer to win all major super middleweight titles.
During the course of his career, Calzaghe secured the title of WBO, IBF, WBC and WBA.
Calzaghe was born in London, but moved to Wales when he was two. He started boxing when he was only nine years old – and lost his first fight.
However, in 1993, he made his professional debut and won the match. He had a glittering amateur career and won three consecutive British Championships before finally attempting a World Championship.
Calzaghe, trained by his father Enzo, captured his first world title when fighting fellow Brit Chris Eubank. Calzaghe floored him in the first round, and finally outpointed him over 12 rounds.
The Daily Telegraph named it “one of the finest fights in British boxing history”.
Calzaghe went on to defend this title over 21 successive fights in spite of suffering several hand injuries.
This means that Calzaghe also holds the record title (jointly with Sven Ottke) for the most consecutive successful defences of a boxing super-middleweight world title. Calzaghe made his 21st defence when he beat Mikkel Kessler (Denmark) in Cardiff, Wales in 2007.
In a unification contest on 4 March 2006, he added the IBF crown when he defeated bookie’s and fans’ favourite American Jeff Lacy – a man who had the reputation of being super middleweight’s answer to Mike Tyson – over 12 rounds. This fight propelled Calzaghe into the limelight.
Finally, on 3 November 2007, Joe entered the ring with Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler – a fighter who strode into the ring with a 39-fight unbeaten record. The pressure was on as a crowd of over 50,000 fans cheered for Joe in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The Welsh boxer left victorious after outpointing Kessler over 12 rounds and claiming the WBC and WBA simultaneously.
Following the fight Calzaghe said: “Ten years a champion, four major belts – what else is there to do? Dig all those guys up – Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, let’s do it.”
After a lot of deliberation, Joe decided he really had done it all and so hung up his boxing gloves. His children wanted him to stop too.
It is extremely rare for a fighter to walk away completely undefeated, yet proud champion Calzaghe left the ring with 46 wins and 0 losses
In June this year, 5 years after calling time on his boxing career, Calzaghe was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame along with Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. Calzaghe’s contributions to the boxing sport are now officially recognized and immortalized.
Sir Roger Bannister, born in London in 1929, was a 25 year old British medical student when – on 6 May 1954 – he became the first person ever to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.
The occasion was the annual match between the Amateur Athletic Association and Oxford University.
The athlete tore down Oxford University’s Iffley Road track under the watch of 3,000 spectators and finished the mile in the record time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. He broke through that notional “great barrier” and completed the mile in a time which was then considered to be completely insurmountable.
It was the desire of many athletes to be able to say they were the first to break the 4-minute mile. The existing record was held by Sweden’s Gunder Hagg who ran the mile in a tantalizingly close 4:01.4 in 1945.
However, Bannister’s biggest contemporary competition came from Australian John Landy. In 1952 Landy had run a mile in 4:02.1 and was doing all he could to get closer to that sought-after 4 minute mark.
During that iconic race Bannister passed the 1,500m mark in 3 minutes 43 seconds – equalling the existing world record for that distance. Then, for the final 200m, Bannister sprinted past his two pacemakers and secured his success. The 20,000 miles run in 8 years of preparation had paid off.
Norris McWhirter was the timekeeper and broadcaster of this breakthrough achievement – a sprinter himself as well as the man who was later to become one of the founding editors of Guinness World Records. He caused mayhem as he announced the time: “Three…”
In August that year, Bannister and Landy (who had since improved the time to 3:57.9) met at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. Their race was promoted as ‘The Mile of the Century’, and later became known as ‘The Miracle Mile’ and one of the greatest sporting showdowns in history.
Bannister won with a time of 3.58.8, with Landy finishing second in 3:59.6. This race marked the first time the four minute mile had been broken by two men in one race.
Shortly after his Iffley Road triumph, Sir Roger retired from athletics to pursue his career in medicine and progressed to become a distinguished neurologist.
In 1955 he was awarded the CBE and he was knighted in 1975 for his services to medicine and ground-breaking research.
He never severed links with sport though and became the first Chairman of the Sports Council. Here he initiated significant sports funding as well as prompted testing for the use of anabolic steroids in sport.
Since Sir Roger accomplished this sporting milestone others have been inspired to attempt the sub-four-minute-mile and many have surpassed his time. Nevertheless, as the hero who proved the impossible to be possible, Roger Bannister will remain immortalized as a symbol of British sporting success.
For the Guinness World Records 60th anniversary we honour Cheryl Baker (b.1954) for spending an amazing 10 years co-hosting children’s’ cult TV programme “Record Breakers” – one of Britain’s longest running shows.
Cheryl joined the BBC children’s show as co-host alongside Roy Castle in 1987 and she continued to be a recognizable face of record breaking until 1997.
During the show, the presenters taught the viewers about a particular world record in an educational yet entertaining way.
Most episodes would also feature children attempting to break records for various exciting feats. Cheryl and the hosts would stand by with motivating comments and interesting facts about the records. Undoubtedly, Cheryl is now a fountain of knowledge on world record breaking attempts!
“Record Breakers” ran for 30 series before eventually coming to a close in 2001
Prior to “Record Breakers”, Cheryl was part of the singing group “Bucks Fizz”. The group performed at the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin in 1981 and won. They then went on to have three number one hits.
In addition to “Record Breakers”, Cheryl also presented the children’s TV programmes “How Dare You” and “Eggs ‘n’ Baker” and became hugely popular.
This year Cheryl has released a new single called “Skin on Skin” and she is due to be performing in a pantomime production of “Jack and the Beanstalk” with fellow Bucks Fizz member Mike Nolan.
She is involved with many charities and is the patron of Kent Children’s University which aims to encourage children to learn and develop outside of school. She is also vice-president of Abigail’s Footsteps which is a charity which tries to help the parents of stillborn babies.
As an iconic TV personality who was dedicated to helping children push record-breaking to its limits, Cheryl Baker is undoubtedly deserving of recognition and appreciation during the Guinness World Records 60th anniversary.
We had a chance to catch up with Cheryl and ask her about her unique record-breaking experiences and you can watch the interview below.
Lord Sebastian Coe is a former British athlete who holds the record for the most gold medals won at the Olympics for 1,500 metres (male). He is the first and only man in history to win the Olympic 1500m event twice!
In 1979, over a period of only 41 days, Coe started accumulating world records. He broke records in the 800m, the 1500m and the mile – and became the first person to hold all three at one time.
Coe’s biggest contemporary rival in record-breaking was Stephen Ovett. The pair first met whilst racing at the English Schools Cross-Country Championships in Hillingdon. A 16 year old Ovett came second and a 15 year old Coe came tenth.
At the Moscow Olympic Games the pair met head to head. The 800m went badly for Coe (finishing second after Ovett), but the ensuing criticism and disappointment simply served to increase his determination to win the 1500m four days later.
As a result, Lord Seb Coe won gold in the Olympics of 1980 with a time of 3:38.4 minutes. The victory left him well on the way to becoming one of the all-time greats of middle distance running.
That famous photo of Coe with his arms outstretched and face contorted will forever remain as evidence of how much the win meant to him.
His repeat performance in the 1984 Loss Angeles Games was even more remarkable. After being beaten to the finish line by Peter Elliott in the AAA Championships 1500m final, many thought Coe would not be selected to race at the Olympics and that his chances of retaining his title had been destroyed.
Nevertheless, Coe stormed to gold yet again. He exceeded his previous time and finished in a record-breaking 3:32.53 minutes – setting all his doubters straight.
The fact that Lord Coe is the only athlete ever to win gold twice in the Olympic 1500m substantiates his sporting prowess. No one has been able to repeat or better this achievement in over 30 years.
Subsequent to his Olympic athletic successes, Lord Coe has continued to be a major influential force in Olympic events: He led London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics, taking on the role of chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
On 15 October 1997, the jet-propelled vehicle Thrust SSC raced down the Black Rock Desert (Nevada, USA) at the unimaginable speed of 1,227.985 km/h (763.035 mi/h), thus setting the record for the fastest land speed.
Thrust SSC was consequently the first car to break the sound barrier – which is usually around 1,236 km/h (768 mph) – an extraordinarily impressive feat in the history of speed. The record was broken 50 years and a day after the sound barrier was broken in the air by American Chuck Yeager.
Thrust SSC is powered by two Rolls-Royce Spey 202 jet engines which generate 222 kN (50,000lb) of thrust.
The car’s speed triggered a sonic boom that shook a school and caused sprinkler covers to fall off in the nearby town of Gerlach.
Pilot Richard Noble was the director of this supersonic project and the man who drove Thrust2. Thrust2 was formerly the fastest car as it could travel at a speed of 1019 km/h (633.468 mph).
Noble’s interest in the land speed record began at the age of six whilst on a family outing. His family was out driving when they spotted John Cobb’s jet boat on Loch Ness in Inverness. He started reading about Cobb and a fascination with land speed grew from there.
However, to the surprise of many, Noble did not drive the Thrust SSC. He was under a great deal of pressure trying to raise £50,000 worth of sponsorship every month and felt he would not be able to do the focused driving that was essential for safety and success.
An extensive assessment of 32 applicants resulted in the highly skilled RAF Tornado pilot Andy Green being selected as the driver. As a result, he was the first person ever to travel on land at a speed faster than sound.
The remarkable success of the Thrust SSC, and the incredible achievement of Noble and Green, was a rapid leap forward in the world of speed technology and driving.
Noble, Green and the rest of the team are now advancing with their new challenge to create the Bloodhound SSC. This new supersonic car is powered by a rocket bolted to a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine and aims to break the 1,000 mph mark!
By next summer the Bloodhound SSC will be transported to a desert in South Africa where it is intended to reach 800 mph and break the record held by the Thrust SSC. Then, in 2015, the team will return to South Africa and attempt to reach the four-figure speed that is faster than a bullet.
Driver Andy Green summed up how exciting the iconic land speed record is, and what improving it would mean in history, when he said: “This is human adventure, it’s about people doing stuff, it’s climbing Everest, it’s Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon.”
Former Jamaican born British Athlete Linford Christie (b.1960) is a worldwide sporting champion and arguably one of the most famous.
On 3 March 1991 at Kelvin Hall, Glasgow, team Great Britain (consisting of Linford Christie, Darren Braithwaite, Ade Mafe and John Regis) finished the 4 x 200m indoor relay in an astonishing 1:22.11 minutes! 23 years on and no team has been able to better this one.
He is also the only British man to have won gold in the 100 metres at all four major running competitions: the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
After winning gold at his fourth major competition (the World Championships in 1993), Christie was awarded Sports Personality of the Year.
Christie also presented the Guinness World Records BBC show “Record Breakers” in 1999, and it briefly became “Linford’s Record Breakers”.
Christie is now a dedicated and inspirational coach, mentoring the sports-stars of the future. In 1992, Linford founded the sports personality management brand consultancy “Nuff Respect”, and it continues to grow. Through this he helped Katharine Merry and Darren Campbell to Olympic medals at the Sydney games.