He may not have won much during his second comeback season last year – an individual time trial on his way to a podium finish in the Tour de France being the highlight – but Lance Armstrong has been named the most influential athlete in the US, according to a new poll.
The Team RadioShack rider beat off basketball star LeBron James to secure the accolade, bestowed on him, by California-based E-Poll Market Research following a survey that measured 46 attributes of more than 5,000 celebrities such as public awareness, influence, and their likeability, as reported on Examiner.com.
The research found that more than half the US population know who Armstrong is, putting him ahead of Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning and Cleveland Cavaliers player LeBron James, with almost half of respondents saying that they “like him a lot” and almost one in three believing him to be “influential.”
Armstrong’s work with his Livestrong cancer charity is likely to have boosted his profile, with the poll saying that whether someone is considered “influential” derives not only from their talent but also “endorsements and media attention, along with off-the-field image… In short, has the player raised interest in the sport he plays?”
According to E-Poll’s chief executive Gerry Philpott, Armstrong’s ranking means that “people feel he’s making an impact.”
One athlete missing from the list, however, is golfer Tiger Woods, who had figured near the top of last year’s rankings before his marital difficulties came under the spotlight.
According to Philpott, "No one can doubt Woods' enormous influence on golf over the years. But the retreat of several of his sponsors in the wake of his personal problems has people naturally assuming that his influence is waning.
"People hear about Accenture, AT&T and others pulling out, and they figure he's just not as influential any more," he added.
The full top ten of America's most influential athletes (and we should perhaps come clean here and admit that we had to Google half of them to find out who they were and what they do) is:
Lance Armstrong (Cycling)
LeBron James (Basketball)
Tim Tebow (American football)
Shaun White (Snowboarding)
Shaquille O'Neal (Basketball)
Peyton Manning (American football)
Kevin Garnett (Basketball)
Kobe Bryant (American football)
Apolo Anton Ohno (Short Track Speed Skating)
Dwayne Wade (Basketball)
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.