10 Most Famous French Athletes

Some well-known clichés about the French include their contempt for American tourists, their love of four-hour lunches and their belief that they are the foremost purveyors of culture in the world, so in their mind, a list that is limited to only the 10 most famous French athletes is probably an insult, but what's life without a little controversy? This list is proof that the French don't just give us great food and art, they can actually lay claim to athletes of consequence:

  1. Zinedine Zidane. The Alpha and Omega of French superstar athletes, this breathtaking soccer player lead France to the 1998 Word Cup championship, and cemented his legacy two years later, by winning the European Championship as well.  Highly skilled, blessed with superb field vision and deceptively fast, he's widely considered one of the five greatest soccer players of all time.
  2. Thierry Henry. Combining speed, power and devastating finishing ability, Henry's soccer talent earned him a World Cup in 1998, and European Championship in 2000, and he became the top goal-scorer in French soccer history in 2007. 
  3. Jean-Claude Killy. One of the most graceful alpine skiers in history, Killy swept all three Alpine Events at the 1968 Winter Olympics, earning world fame and cementing his status as an iconic French athlete still revered to this day.
  4. Marie Jose-Perec. A polarizing track-and-field star because of her outspoken views on other athletes, and her diva-like behavior, this long-legged Olympic track-and-field star won three Olympic gold medals and two World Championships, and remains one of the most successful French athletes of the past 30 years.
  5. Tony Parker. This French-born basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs has already won three NBA Championships and is considered one of the ten best point guards in the League.  Cat-quick, with a beautiful shooting touch, he's as famous for his skills on the court as he is for his wife, the American actress Eva Longoria.  Despite plying his trade in the United States, Parker plays for the French Olympic team and continues to be one of the most famous athletes from France.
  6. Michel Platini. Voted one of the 100 greatest players in soccer history, Platini played in three World Cups and dazzled soccer fans with his masterful control of the ball, and the grace with which he played.  He now works with FIFA, soccer's governing board,through which he promotes the values of fair play and honor, while remaining the most influential French athlete of the past 50 years.
  7. Yannick Noah. The last Frenchman to win the French Open title in 1983, Noah's fame was enhanced after he retired and became a pop-music superstar. Charismatic and a bit wild, Noah works actively with charities and is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. His popularity as an athlete in France endures mainly because he's the last native to win the French Open, a point of pride with his countrymen.
  8. Bernard Hinault. A five-time winner of the Tour De France, Hinault's reputation as arrogant, condescending and emotionally distant, perfectly fit the French temperament and made him beloved in his country. He now works actively promoting the Tour and still remains one of the most popular athletes in France.
  9. Amelie Mauresmo. Former number one ranked tennis player, and winner of two Grand Slam Single titles, Mauresmo cemented her popularity with her French admirers, when she revealed to the world that she was a lesbian. 
  10. Mary Pierce. Though born in Canada, Pierce obtained French citizenship and became famous in France for her tennis skills, winning two Grand Slam Singles titles, including the 2000 French Open, which drew wide praise from her adopted country.  She made the 2008 French Olympic team, but had to withdraw due to injury. Confirming her fame in France, an avenue at Roland Garros, site of the French Open, was named in her honor.
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