Modern professional sports are incredibly demanding and while the rewards can be huge, the toll that competing at the top level can take on the human body is immense.
To stay at the top of their game, the best US athletes undertake grueling fitness regimens. They are followed by thousands of fans, and their presence at an event can shake up the sports betting market and grab the focus of spectators. Here are some of the main contenders for the title of fittest athlete in the US.
Maggie Steffens – Water Polo
Just 21 seconds into Team USA’s first preliminary match, the 28-year-old Steffens scored her first goal of the Tokyo Games to announce her presence at the 2020 Olympics. She would later score 13 more goals, breaking the previous record of 47, to bring her Olympic career total to 56. The Stanford alumnus captained the American team as they won their third straight gold medal. Her fitness regime includes weightlifting and cardio routines that boost her endurance, speed and explosive power.
LeBron James – Basketball
Despite the LA Lakers’ struggles since winning the 2019–20 NBA championship, Lebron James is still performing at an astonishingly high level. In his 19th NBA season in 2021-22, and at the age of 37, James recorded his highest single season points average. It has been reported that James spends as much as $1m annually on his diet and training, but that expenditure seems to be worth it as it has both extended his career and allowed him to maintain his high performance levels.
While arguments persist over whether he or Michael Jordan is the GOAT, James’ longevity in a sport that places enormous demands on its athletes is remarkable.
Simone Biles – Gymnastics
Simone Biles continued to defy gravity in 2021 when she unveiled a new double back pike vault, but it was her choice to put her mental health first and skip the Tokyo Olympics that solidified her place among the all-time great US athletes.
After getting the ‘twisties’ in Tokyo, the 24-year-old changed her balancing beam routine so she could compete in the event final without having to do any twisting parts and proceeded to execute a double back pike dismount that she had not been practicing regularly, equaling Shannon Miller’s American record with her eighth Olympic medal. Biles is unrivalled for her explosiveness, quickness and pure strength, and her brave stance at the Olympics underlined the importance of mental wellbeing as a key part of an athlete’s quest for fitness and success.
Aaron Donald – Football
No matter how hard his adversaries work to slow him down, Donald always manages to cause havoc in the backfield. At 30 years old, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has five straight seasons with 11 or more sacks under his belt and is still going strong. The 6’1″, 280-pound pass rusher spends the offseason working to increase his strength and muscle mass through high-intensity, low-rep workouts before switching to low-intensity, high-rep exercises just before the season opens. The result is a physique that makes Donald one of the fittest and most effective NFL players of all time.
Katie Ledecky – Swimming
Swimming is one of the most demanding sports a professional athlete can pursue, and any successful swimmer is likely to have attained a high level of fitness. Katie Ledecky is one of the greatest swimmers that the US has produced and proved her ability at the 2020 Olympics, when she claimed the gold medal in the first women’s 1500-meter freestyle race with a time of 15:37.34, beating her closest rival by four seconds. The six-foot distance swimmer went on to add two more silvers and another gold to her seven career victories. Ledecky is a regular in the weight room for strength training as well as dynamic workouts such as squat jumps when she isn’t swimming laps.
D K Metcalf – Football
One of the fittest wide receivers ever to play the game, the Seattle Seahawks star has recorded many great moments in his short NFL career so far. He announced himself at the NFL Draft combine with an eye-catching display of speed and strength and was picked by Seattle in the second round. The 6’4” 235-pound star has justified the Seahawks decision with a string of impressive displays on the field, including 12 touchdowns in the 2021-22 season. His elite level speed and fitness was on display when he took part in the 100-meter event at the 2021 US Olympic trials.