Ask anyone from the U.S. to name a famous swimmer and they will probably say Michael Phelps. But put the same question to someone in Japan and the name that trips off the tongue is Kosuke Kitajima.
It's 25 years since the end of Communist rule in Romania, and although much may have changed in the East European nation, its production line of gymnasts continues to generate champions.
Human to Hero meets Larisa Iordache,the Romanian gymnast who was inspired by former champion, Nadia Comaneci.
Taking time out to eat a homemade chocolate cake is hardly the conventional way to win an ultra-endurance marathon, but don't tell Emelie Forsberg.
27 year-old Swedish sky runner, Emelie Forsberg only burst onto the trail and mountain running scene two years ago.
He grew up in a surfing party town on the U.S. "space coast" and has conquered waves in some of the world's most exotic locales, but these days Kelly Slater comes across more like an eco-warrior than a stereotypical beach dude.
42-year-old Kelly Slater has been crowned ASP World Tour Champion 11 times and is the current world number 2.
Olympic triple-jump champion Christian Taylor knows all about putting his best foot forward.
U.S. triple-jump star Christian Taylor won gold at London 2012 and then had to overcome career-threatening injuries.
It's a surfer's paradise -- but Diah Rahayu is out on her own when it comes to professional women's wave-riding in Bali.
Diah Rahayu won a bronze medal at the 2008 Asian Beach Games and wants to be a role model for Indonesia's next generation of female surfers.
Human to Hero meets Vini Font, the first non-Italian player to become the world number one.
Beach volleyball played on sun-kissed Brazilian sand conjures up many images in the mind. But beach tennis? What's that all about?
"A 13-year-old girl called me an ape."
Adam Goodes is the most capped indigenous player in the history of the game and was voted "Australian of the Year."
"Sorry -- the sun is shining so I've gone to sleep on a hill."
In 2001, Alastair Humphreys jumped on his bike in England and didn't return for four years.
Born without the lower portion of his spine, Kurt Fearnley was given just a week to live.
When Australia's three-time Paralympic gold medalist Kurt Fearnley was born, doctors didn't expect him to survive beyond infancy.
"We face neither East nor West, we face forward."
Jedidiah Amoako-Ackah competed at the Commonwealth Games just 10 months after taking up track cycling.
Her surname means "fighter" or "warrior" -- and Christine Ohuruogu has done her best to fulfill that prophecy throughout a stellar running career of glorious peaks and painful troughs.
30-year-old Christine Ohuruogu won gold in the 400m at the Beijing Olympics and is training for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
One minute he was at the top, looking down. King of all he surveyed.
Australia's Matthew Mitcham talks about winning gold at Beijing Olympics in 2008 and overcoming depression.
Standing on the podium at London 2012, Joanna Rowsell achieved her greatest dream -- and gave hope to millions around the world who suffer from a condition that can have devastating effects on self-confidence.
Joanna Rowsell is a track cyclist who set 3 world records and won gold at her "home games," the London 2012 Olympics.
It might be a bit of a blur to everyone else, but Lionel Messi always seems to keep a clear head -- even in the most pressurized situations.
Getty photographer Mike Hewitt explains how he captured an iconic action photo of Lionel Messi during the 2010 World Cup.
Diego Maradona was a mesmerizing presence on the pitch during four World Cup finals as a player.
World Cup photographer Mike Hewitt talks about his iconic shots. CNN's Christina MacFarlane reports.
The World Cup is the world's most widely viewed sporting event, according to FIFA. It seems the world (yes, even the U.S.) has a love affair with soccer that runs deep and transcends cultural differences.
As senior World Cup photographer for leading agency Getty, Shaun Botterill has snapped pictures of every tournament since 1994.
CNN's Christina MacFarlane interviews Getty's Senior World Cup photographer Shaun Botterill.
It's a World Cup photograph taken over 40 years ago. Shot on film, and after the game, but it still ranks as one of the most memorable and impactful of football images.
CNN Digital Director of Photography Simon Barnett reflects on an iconic photograph of Ronaldo from the 1998 World Cup.
As director of photography for CNN digital, Simon Barnett's eyes will take in some 10,000 World Cup images -- a day -- during the Brazil 2014 tournament.
CNN Digital director of photography Simon Barnett will be dissecting thousands of images each day. Don Riddell reports
Italian footballer and World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro is considered one of the greatest defenders of all time.
National heroes don't always belong to one country. Just ask France's World Cup-winning star Patrick Vieira.
The French World Cup winner on his successful career and using the power of football to help educate children.
Former Germany international goalkeeper, Bodo Illgner talks to CNN about lifting the World Cup in 1990.
By the age of just 29, Hidetoshi Nakata was recognized by many as the greatest footballer Japan had ever produced. So why the glum look?
Country singer Julie Roberts tells CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta she'll never miss a show because of her multiple sclerosis
Retired footballer Hidetoshi Nakata has twice been voted Asian Footballer of the Year and is organizing a pop-up café in Sao Paulo during the World Cup.
His first act as a teenage professional goalkeeper was to pick the ball out of the back of the net.
"When you win the World Cup, you start to become a legend -- for the people around the world, you are different."
When former Brazil international captain Cafu is asked why he became a professional footballer, he gives a simple reply.
Human to Hero meets Cafu -- the country's most internationally capped footballer.
At first glance, Sergei Baltacha doesn't exactly look like a man of international sporting history.
Sergei Baltacha played for Dynamo Kiev before making a historic move to England.
When Sunday Oliseh was a young boy kicking a football around the dusty streets of Lagos, he never dreamed he would one day carry the hopes of 170 million people on the world's biggest sporting stage.
Retired Nigerian midfielder Sunday Oliseh went from playing football on the streets of Lagos to taking part in two World Cups.
He dreamed of being a tennis star, but it was not to be.
Sweden's former captain Olof Mellberg on his international career, the World Cup and enjoying the game more with age.
Want to know the real secret to being a success on Wall Street?
Toronto Rock's Garrett Billings on why it takes more than athleticism to master lacrosse.
He travels in private jets and is one of the world's highest-paid athletes, but Fernando Alonso's humble beginnings are never far away from his thoughts.
Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso on the importance of family and his first terrifying Grand Prix memory.
"When I'm riding, it is like flying. My feet do not touch the ground -- and the world and all the stresses that can come with being blind just disappear."
Meet Britain's Verity Smith, who has defied tragedy and is aiming for gold at Rio 2016.
Human to Hero meets 2013 World Champion Tai Woffinden who lives, dreams and breathes speedway.
"Pain is weakness leaving the body."
He was an outstanding talent who never made it in the NBA, before he established himself as one of the most famous American players in European basketball history.
Darryl Middleton is one of the top U.S. basketball players in Europe and has no regrets about not making the NBA.
There are not many Bond villains who survive to tell the tale of their encounter with 007.
Free running pioneer Sebastien Foucan talks about navigating urban landscapes and his starring role in "Casino Royale."
Imagine hurtling down a mountain at 60 miles an hour. Now imagine doing it virtually blind.
Human to Hero meets skier Kelly Gallagher -- the first person to represent Northern Ireland at the Winter Paralympics.
Jana Pittman was the woman to beat in track and field's 400-meter hurdles for nearly a decade, only to suffer crushing disappointment as a string of injuries wrecked her chances of Olympic gold.
Former world champion hurdler Jana Pittman is a dual Olympian competing at Sochi in Australia's two-woman bobsled team.
Sochi has been preparing for an Olympics invasion -- but perhaps it didn't expect a former Soviet soldier to be leading the charge.
41-year-old Sandis Ozolins talks about his career and representing Latvia at the Winter Olympics.
Former bordercross Olympian Xavier de Le Rue talks about his passion for big mountain snowboarding.
When Fanny Smith lines up at the start gates in Sochi later this month, she will do so with form and, perhaps, the fates in her favor.
Ski cross champ Fanny Smith on winning the World Cup and not letting injuries hold her back.
Only in the extreme world of big-mountain snowboarding could someone cheat death in an avalanche and realize it had reaffirmed their love of the powder.
Jenna McCorkell has spent her career dancing on a knife edge.
Meet 11-time figure skating champion Jenna McCorkell -- the youngest skater to represent Britain.
As power couples go, they have the sparkle to supersede even Posh and Becks.
The Barcelona player on his pop star girlfriend and growing up playing with Messi.
Annette Fredskov's recipe to alleviate the often crippling effects of multiple sclerosis is a curious concoction.
Mother-of-two Annette Fredskov ran 366 marathons in 365 days despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Eric Abidal is a fighter. He's also a philosopher.
Former Barcelona defender Eric Abidal on winning the Champions League two and a half months after being diagnosed with cancer.
He's not a household name, but in Iceland Olafur Stefansson is a sporting icon and one of the biggest handball legends of all time.
Even if Olafur Stefansson dressed up as Santa Claus this Christmas, he would still have one of the most recognizable faces in Iceland.
Human to Hero meets Bouldering World Cup champion Kilian Fischhuber, a renowned figure in the free-climbing world.
You could say that Kilian Fischhuber is on top of his game.
"A must-have quality for figure skaters is, I think, gorgeousness."
When you've stood on the edge of space, taken in the glorious sight of the Earth's curvature, and hurled yourself through the speed of sound back towards it, life afterward is always going to be a bit of a comedown.
Human to Hero meets Felix Baumgartner, the first person to break the speed of sound without use of a vehicle.
It was in the cave of Hira that the prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Quran. For rugby's original wild child Sonny Bill Williams, meeting a Tunisian family who lived with their five children in a one-bedroom flat in the south of France proved pivotal to his conversion to Islam.
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams on staying in shape and the proudest moment of his career.
Casually warming up on the mat, Yana Kudryavtseva slips into a pose that would leave a contortionist gasping in admiration.
Human to Hero meets 16-year-old Yana Kudryavtseva who can handle a hoop, ball or ribbon while performing complex turns.
If England's netballers are going to realize their goal of becoming the world's finest team, they're going to have to get nasty.
Human to Hero meets England's national netball team as they take down South Africa at London's Wembley Arena.
Bones and Mammoth. They're quite a team -- and they love a beach party.
Human to Hero meets Emanuel Rego, one of the most successful players in the history of beach volleyball.
Human to Hero meets Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen, an Olympic silver medal-winning badminton team.
Mathias Boe is smiling, like a lot of people do when he explains that badminton is his full-time job.
Nicknamed "The Duke," 39-year-old Colombian Orlando Duque is considered one of the world's best cliff divers.
"The Duke" knows within a split second if something is awry. The trouble is, he only has two further seconds to put it right.
Your city is Maxime Charveron's blank canvas, and it's no longer spray cans he is painting with.
Maxime Charveron tells CNN how a brush with the law propelled him into freestyle BMX.
A "miracle" journey has propelled Gael Bigirimana from war-torn Burundi to soccer stardom in the English Premier League with Newcastle United.
Human to Hero meets Burundian-born Gael Bigirimana, who plays for Newcastle United and the England under-20 team.
She was dubbed "The Assassin" after winning gold at the London 2012 Olympics, but Kaori Matsumoto prefers to be known as "Beast."
Human to Hero meets Kaori "The Assassin" Matsumoto, the first Japanese woman to win Olympic gold in the 57kg weight category.
Some people take many years to find their calling in life -- but for Adam van Koeverden, it was right in front of him in black and white.
2-time world Kayak champion Adam Van Koeverden talks to CNN about his journey into water sports and his daily training.
Human to Hero meets 23-year-old Ona Carbonell, a double Olympic medalist in synchronized swimming who loves life underwater.
With a first name that means "wave" in Catalan, perhaps Ona Carbonell was destined to pursue a career in water sports.
World number five Cyril Moussilmani and twin brothers Benoit and Sylvain want to turn windsurfing into a must-watch sport.
Where there's wind and water in Marseille, you are likely to find "Les Mouss."
Winters can be depressingly long in Sweden but when it comes to sports played in those chillier months, curling usually isn't the first choice for youngsters in the Scandinavian nation.
Human to Hero meets Swedish curling captain Niklas Edin who is aiming for gold in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
North Korea is one of the world's most mysterious and secretive states, regarded as a political pariah and at bitter loggerheads with its neighbor South Korea.
Ryang Yong-Gi is the Japan-born captain of Vegalta Sendai who also plays for North Korea's national team.
Scoobers, hammers and laying out - it's the "ultimate" flying saucer attack. And if Mark Poole is right, his sport could soon be coming to an Olympics near you.
Human to Hero meets Mark Poole, a champion in the world of ultimate which he says has Olympic potential.
For the son of a math teacher, rallying legend Sebastien Loeb is not too concerned by numbers.
Human to Hero meets French rally legend Sebastien Loeb, who has been called the greatest driver in motorsport
Rowie Webster, Australia's top scorer during the London Games, opens up about her love for the sport and dirty tactics.
On the surface, water polo appears an elegant pursuit played by extremely polished performers.
For Kei Nishikori, "Project 45" has transformed into "Project 10."
Grand Slam hopeful Kei Nishikori is one of the hottest tickets on the ATP tour and the number one tennis player in Asia.
When a marriage ends up in court it usually means the end -- but for Todd Rogers it was just the beginning.
U.S. pro beach volleyball star Todd Rogers on hunting down the perfect on-court partner in Ryan Doherty.
The fastest man in Nigeria, Obinna Metu, on his routine and being trained by icons Haile Gebrselassie and Usain Bolt.
When Haile Gebrselassie speaks people listen.
At long last, Maria Toorpakai Wazir can indulge her life's greatest love without fear of persecution.
Pakistani squash player Maria Toorpakai Wazir opens up about her love for the sport and supporting women's rights.
Hannah Whiteley laughs in the face of danger -- at least she does now.
Britain's Hannah Whiteley talks about returning to the sport after a 5 year break and wanting more women to take her lead.
It can appear to the naked eye as a blur; a frenzied whirlwind of arms and legs, but for Ancient Greece it epitomized an intoxicating marriage of harmony and balance.
Melina Robert-Michon talks about competing for France at London 2012 and how the sport's image has changed.
She's a perfect 10; the surfer that other professionals will drag themselves out of the water to watch.
Human to Hero meets Brazilian elite surfer Silvana Lima, the first woman ever to score a perfect ten in competition.
He's broken every record in the book and won a glut of Olympic and world titles, but even at the age of 40, Haile Gebrselassie has no intention of resting on his laurels.
Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie talks to CNN about his 4 World Championship wins and 27 world records.
Ruta Meilutyte's initial brush with swimming as a seven-year-old in Lithuania could never have foretold her success in the pool.
The youngest Lithuanian to win Olympic gold, Ruta Meilutyte talks about being a full-time student with a sporting career.
Amid all the noise and chaos of a short-track speed skating final, there is one voice in the crowd Charles Hamelin can hear as clear as a bell.
Canada's Charles Hamelin, who will defend his Olympic titles at Sochi 2014, reveals how he has mastered the ice sport.
Zoe Smith's petite frame should fool nobody -- she's a weightlifting warrior.
Gymnast turned Olympic weightlifter Zoe Smith is the first Englishwoman to win a Commonwealth Games weightlifting medal.
"A must-have quality for figure skaters is, I think, gorgeousness."
Japan's figure skating champion Daisuke Takahashi on why he loves the adoration of the crowd and his hopes for Sochi 2014.