Skip to main content

Meet the Icons - Sports Stars

Four of the greatest sports personalities

Some of the most exciting, unconventional and successful sporting talents have come from France. Regardless of the sport, energy and élan is their common trait.

  1. Zinedine Zidane
  2. Alain Prost
  3. Bernard Hinault
  4. Suzanne Lenglen

Zinedine Zidane

1972 -

A football great.

“Life is full of regrets but it doesn’t pay to look back”.

Zinedine Zidane - Football (1972)
Zinedine Zidane - Football (1972)

First appearing professionally aged 17, Zidane never looked back. He played for top clubs including Juventus and Madrid and among his trophies were the European Championship, UEFA Champions League and La Liga.

He became a national hero when helping France win the World Cup in 1998 but the final chapter was soured when he was sent off during the World Cup final against Italy in 2006.

Why an icon?

Led France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and named best European player of the past 50 years by UEFA.

Alain Prost

1955 -

Formula One champion.

“The only thing you can judge in this sport is the long term. You can judge a career or a season, but not one race”.

Alain Prost - F1 (1955)
Alain Prost - F1 (1955)

Considered one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, Prost held the record for the most victories in the final years of the 20th century and at the time of his retirement. In 2001 Schumacher finally surpassed Prost’s 51 victories.

Racing against the likes of Mansell, Senna and Piquet, he stood out for his smooth driving style with echoes of Jackie Wilson and his intelligent approach earned him the nickname of ‘The Professor’.

Why an icon?

A record-breaking driver who, with Ayrton Senna, was part of the most intense rivalry ever seen in sport.

Bernard Hinault

1954 -

France’s greatest cyclist.

“As long as I breathe, I attack”.

Bernard Hinault - Cycling (1954)
Bernard Hinault - Cycling (1954)

A five-time winner of the Tour de France and the only man to have ever won each of the Grand Tours more than once. His Tour de France win in 1985 was a landmark – after this the nation who created the great race found they could no longer win it.

He was the last of an old school: unconventional and unpredictable, he earned the nickname ‘The Badger’ for his aggressive, bristly demeanour.

Why an icon?

Winner of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a Espana, as well as World Champion and the Grand Prix des Nations, Hinault is a legend within the sport.

Suzanne Lenglen

1899 - 1938

The first international female tennis star.

“A little wine tones up the system just right. One cannot be too serious. There must be some sparkle too”.

Suzanne Lenglen - Tennis (1899 - 1938)
Suzanne Lenglen - Tennis (1899 - 1938)

Winner of 31 titles between 1914 and 1926 Lenglen was dominant at Wimbledon and the Olympics. Her flamboyant brilliance ensured capacity crowds and her quirky personality ensured the crowds never were quite sure if they were watching a superstar athlete or an over-the-top diva.

She brought theatre to court-side, arriving in fur coats, bobbed hair, painted nails and high cut silk dresses – all alien to the norms of the day. Not to mention her penchant for sugar cubes soaked in brandy during games, even swigging from a hip flask. Lenglen was a celebrity trendsetter and an effortless headline grabber but she was, too, France’s leading athlete of the day.

Why an icon?

Supremely talented, it was her colourful swagger and unconventional attitude that really sky rocketed her appeal. She was perhaps the first rock’n’roll sporting superstar.

Voting is now closed.