Harman Patil (Editor)

Superstars (US Version)

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The Superstars was first broadcast by ABC Sports as a two-hour special in 1973. The idea was developed by 1948 and 1952 Olympic figure skating champion Dick Button. He shopped the idea to all three U.S. television networks, and ABC bought it as a special for the winter of 1973.


Bob Seagren, an Olympic pole vault gold medalist, was the first winner. However, it was heavyweight champion boxer Joe Frazier who nearly stole the show. In the very first event, the 50 meter swimming heats, Frazier nearly drowned, and only after he was retrieved from the pool did he admit to commentators that he didn't know how to swim. When a reporter asked him why he tried the race, Frazier replied, "How was I to know I couldn't unless I tried it?" He also famously opined, "That Mark Spitz," (who had won several gold medals for swimming at the 1972 Olympics) "is a tough muthafucker!"

Spin-offs included a women's version of the show, and a Superteams version, where the two World Series and Super Bowl teams each faced off (except that the owner of the New York Yankees at the time prohibited his players from competing, so in years where the Yankees were in the World Series, their league's runner-up competed instead), with the winners competing in the finals. There were also brief runs of versions for celebrities and for juniors, where each state's Department of Education was asked to nominate one high school, and those schools each sent one boy and one girl to qualifying rounds, with the final aired on TV.

The show remained popular in the 1970s, but ratings declined and the last edition produced by ABC came in 1984. NBC Sports picked up the program the next year and carried it from 1985 to 1990. ABC took the show back in 1991, and broadcast it through 1994. During a three-year period (1991–1993) the event was held in Cancun, Mexico. The competitions were held in different areas of Cancun Palace and Melia Cancun hotels. During that period former great NFL players Frank Gifford, Dan Dierdof and Lynn Swann worked as commentators of the Superstars Tournament.

There was no American version for three years (1995–1997) then ABC revived the show in 1998 and broadcast it through 2002. CBS Sports picked up the show the next year.

Several athletes won the event two or more times. Among them:

  • Kyle Rote, Jr., Soccer, 1974, 1976, 1977
  • Renaldo Nehemiah, track and field/American football, 1981–83, 1986
  • Herschel Walker, American football, 1987–88
  • Willie Gault, American football, 1989–90
  • Dave Johnson, decathlon, 1993–94
  • Jason Sehorn, American football, 1998–2000
  • Speed skater Anne Henning won three straight women's competitions (1976–78). Basketball player Ann Meyers matched that feat in 1981 through 1983. Volleyball player Linda Fernandez won two straight events in 1979 and 1980.

    2009 edition

    In 2009 the franchise was revived for ABC. The Superstars paired athletes and celebrities to compete as a team. Kristi Leskinen (Freestyle Skiing) and Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Ballroom Dancing) won the competition.

    Obstacle Course variations

    The popular obstacle course was the final event of the original Superstars to determine the overall winner. The Superteams version featured the obstacle course as an earlier event. The original course had the contestants climb a 12' rope wall, run through a tubular tunnel, push a blocking sled (or traverse across monkey bars in the Women's and Superteams versions), cleanly step through a dozen tires (2 rows of 6), jump over a water hazard (rectangular pool of water), clear a 4'6" high bar, jump two sets of hurdles and cross the FINISH line. Penalty seconds were added for missing tires, stepping in the water hazard and knocking down the high bar and/or hurdles. Some athletes have shown super skills on this course by climbing the wall without using the rope and clearing the high bar like a hurdle.

    For the 2009 "elimination event" version, contestants have to climb a rope wall, duck under four rope hurdles (2 sets side-by-side) (this was changed mid-season to a balance beam just over 3-inches wide), cleanly step through a bungee grid, ascend and descend a large ramp, push through a large door-like block, jump two sets of hurdles, run through a cargo net and cross the FINISH line.


    A companion competition, this event would pit the two World Series teams and the two Super Bowl teams in a playoff-type match using all the Superstars events, with some team events added such as Hawaiian rowing and the Tug-of-War. The running, swimming, and cycling events were relays, with the cycling done on tandem bikes; the obstacle course (which had its blocking sleds replaced by monkey bars similar to those used in the women's competition, as it was felt that the football teams would have too much of an advantage over the baseball teams) was decided by best combined time. The team that won the most events in each semi-final advanced to the SuperTeams finals where an ultimate champions would be crowned. The New York Yankees advanced to the World Series in 1977, 1978, and 1981, and was eligible to participate in these events held the early in the following year, however Yankees owner George Steinbrenner refused to allow his players to compete, as he had several of his top players under lucrative long term guaranteed contracts that required players to get ownership permission to participate in outside athletic activities, which in this case Steinbrenner refused to grant. In those years, loser of the ALCS in those years took the Yankees place, and in all three years that team ultimately won the competition.

    In the 1978 final, the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Royals split the first six events, so the tug-of-war would decide the winner. However, while there was a time limit in the preliminary rounds, there was none in the final, and after 75 minutes in which neither team came particularly close to winning, the organizers declared the event (and, as a result, the competition) a tie.

    SuperTeams Winners

  • 1975 - Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 1976 - Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 1977 - Cincinnati Reds
  • 1978 - (tie) Dallas Cowboys & Kansas City Royals
  • 1979 - Kansas City Royals
  • 1980 - Los Angeles Rams
  • 1981 - Philadelphia Eagles
  • 1982 - Oakland Athletics
  • 1983 - Washington Redskins
  • References

    Superstars (US Version) Wikipedia

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