5 Real Athletes With Strange-Ass Superpowers

As much as we like to poke fun at superheroes, it's a scientifically proven fact that there are people out there with abilities that wouldn't look out of place in an X-Men movie.

But amazing powers are just one part of the equation. The rest of it is actually figuring out how to put your newfound superpower of, say, farting show tunes or stacking cups really fast to good use. Regardless of their particular power and how it manifests, many of these people seem to wind up as fairly successful athletes. For instance ...

#5. Michael Phelps Is Basically A Seal

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Michael Phelps is so good at swimming that people actually recognize his name, despite the fact that his claim to fame is traveling at the speed of a canoe. In fact, he's so good at swimming that not only are other swimmers compared to him, but other athletes are as well. He holds the all-time Olympic medalist record with 18 gold medals, eight of which were from Beijing in 2008.

It's all absolutely awesome and inspiring to the point of unbelievability. Hell, I doubt that a single person on Earth would raise an eyebrow if Phelps one day chose to take off his human mask and reveal that he was actually a were-seal all along.

Which, incidentally, he kind of is.

The "wingspan" statistic also indicates the possibility of a were-penguin.

According to many sources, nature has designed Michael Phelps to be a better Aquaman than Aquaman himself, to the point where you start to suspect he could easily sic a sharknado on his worst competition, if he ever actually had any. His massive hands and feet are custom-designed to act as paddles. His ridiculous arm length gives him a massive stroking advantage (hee hee hee), while his tiny, possibly double-jointed legs are basically designed to propel him through water. In fact, his entire body is built out of landlubber proportion, with his 6'4 frame divided in the way that gives him the upper body of a 6'7 dude and the legs of someone under 6' tall. Here's how goofy this makes him look out of water:

Note to the next gritty, realistic Aquaman reboot: Model the dude after an emperor penguin instead of Khal Drogo.

In all fairness, the man is not the absolute superhuman some of the stories out there like to present him as, and as a trainer and former swimmer points out here, a decent chunk of his success comes from plain old hard work and great technique. Still, if you're looking for someone who's a genuine freak seemingly engineered for a very specific sport, there's always ...

#4. Miguel Indurain Was An Extension of His Bicycle

Richard Saker/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Cycling is a very special sport that requires a very, very specific set of talents -- not the least of which is a complete lack of spandex-and-funny-helmets related shame. Back in the 1990s, Miguel Indurain was the king of the sport. A cycling machine who won five consecutive Tour de Frances between 1991 and 1995, he was a wholly abnormal creature in the world of cycling. At 6'2, he was larger and more muscular than the average cyclist. Yet his large, relatively weighty frame didn't hinder him at all, thanks to some peculiar physical properties that made him King of Cycling of the period.

In his prime, Indurain's lungs were said to be able to take in a ridiculous two gallons of air (twice that of a normal man), which did wonders for his oxygen intake. His heart was an equally powerful instrument, with a reported resting heartbeat of just 29 beats per minute (as opposed to the 60-100 bpm rate of the average Joe). With an engine room like that, he was able to use his long legs to pump his pedals with such force and determination that his opponents gave him the name "The Extra-Terrestrial."

Unlike many of his more Armstrongian colleagues, Indurain has never been caught (or admitted to) doping. Knowing that we're talking about a sport in which people have routinely inhaled, ingested, and injected any and all substances that keep them going, it's hard to believe he never once used anything. Still, what if he didn't? What if he won all his gold solely because of his superior, almost-fused-with-the-bike physiology, while fighting against the hordes of 'roided up freaks consisting of literally everyone else in the game? Man, that would be a Golden Age superhero tale all in itself.

But not a visually intimidating one.

Are these physical qualities genuine superpowers? Or was Miguel's dice game just really, really on point in the athletic attribute crapshoot? We don't know for sure. By now, Indurain's incredible physical properties are the stuff of legend, to the point where they might be, shall we say, somewhat embellished. Besides, the man was also known for his meticulous, high-tech training methods, which probably helped.

However, what we do know is this: In 2012, 14 years after his retirement, scientists ran a series of physical tests of the 46-year-old, comparatively out-of-shape Indurain, and found that his power output and physical values still compare favorably to active top cyclists, which led people to start wondering if he could just up and make a comeback if he one day felt like it.

Man, if you're 14 years out of active competition and science basically declares you as ready to hit the damn Tour de France as the guys who actively ride the Tour de France, just like that, I don't care which bits of your physical attributes from the 1990s were embellished and which weren't. Here are your official Superman papers. The spandex ... well, it looks you've got that covered.

#3. Andre The Giant Could Eat And Drink As Much As He Damn Well Pleased

Russell Turiak/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As a denizen of the Internet, you may have heard about professional wrestler and part-time Fezzik Andre the Giant and his inexplicable talent for handling alcohol. The way the man could gulp down 100 (or up to 156, depending on who you ask) beers like it was nothing has cemented his status in the annals of popular culture far more than his famous Wrestlemania 3 match with some mustachioed racist with a skullet.

When people think about Andre's mighty booze deeds, they often miss the fact that he wasn't just some rampaging alcoholic (at least, not until later in his life, when his celebrity and the pain his condition was causing him drew him into boozy depression in his attempts to avoid the painkiller hell that many of his colleagues had succumbed to). He drank in no small part because a day at his office required getting his strained back smacked with steel chairs. Still, peers suggest there was always a different aspect to his antics.

Andre was an entertainer through and through, and when he found out that his bulk enabled him to soak up vast amounts of alcohol and enormous amounts of food, he incorporated it as an act into the show of his life. "Andre the Giant" was a larger-than-life character, because duh, so he gathered around drinking comrades and unleashed his powers on them, downing absurd amounts of booze and, according to his colleagues, happily chowing down a ridiculous 12 steaks and 15 lobsters at one sitting. Although his friends say his drinking was largely motivated by the painkilling aspect, they're also quick to confirm tales about Andre passing out in a hotel lobby and getting cordoned away with velvet ropes because no one could move him, or the LAPD actually assigning a cop to follow him around in his bar rounds in case he fell on another patron (which apparently happened once).

B Bennett/Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
He's doing shots with Roddy Piper in heaven right now.

Over time, Andre -- presumably well aware of his reputation as the Superman of Drunks -- developed a few specialties seemingly custom-designed to impress people. Princess Bride cast mate and frequent drinking partner Cary Elwes still shudders at Andre's favorite cocktail, a ridiculous 40-ounce pitcher of various liquors that the French Andre no doubt innocently dubbed "The American," comparing it to a fairly decent approximation of jet fuel. That's right -- people like Michael Lotito might be able to eat planes, but only Andre could drink freaking jet fuel for fun. Who's the real life Matter-Eater Lad now, Lotito?

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