If not as instantly recognizable as most famous sport stars, Australia's Casey Stoner was every bit the child genius as those champions were from the moment he could walk.
Stoner competed in his first motorbike race at just four years old. On Sunday, the 21-year-old sensationally wrapped up the MotoGP world title with three races of the season left. He became Australians first world champion since Mick Doohan won the last of his five 500cc crowns in 1998 and also the second youngest premier-class champion in the sport's history.
Stoner's sixth-place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix completed an meteoric rise to stardom for the baby-faced rider. Even at 18 months old, when most infants are tottering on their feet, Stoner was getting blisters from riding a motorbike on the family farm at Niangala in New South Wales."I was sitting on the back directing him," said Stoner's father Colin. "He was controlling the bike by himself by 18 or 20 months and got his first throttle blister at 18 months. "It was just something he wanted to do and he's never, ever dropped that desire."
The kid from Kurri-Kurri has come a long way since then and now blasts around circuits at speeds over 300km/h on a 800cc Ducati - and has just beaten the great Valentino Rossi to the coveted world title. By the time he was 14, however, Stoner had already won 41 national titles but Australian law prevented him from entering Australian road races until he was 16.
That proved no obstacle for his bike-mad family, who packed their bags and took their son to Britain, where the legal age of road racing is 14. Stoner won the English 125cc Aprilia Championship in 2000 before recording his first grand prix victory in the 125cc class in Valencia three years later.
His incredible potential was there for all to see in 2005 when he won five races in the 250cc world championship and pushed Spain's Dani Pedrosa all the way to the title. Stoner's underlined his reputation for being quick in his first season in MotoGP last year -- but the paddock whisperers also joked that he was quick to fall.
His marriage in January this year to Adriana Tuchyna, a fan he met at Phillip Island four years ago when she asked him to autograph her stomach, had a calming effect on Stoner.
For the future, has Stoner less idea's, if you visit Stoner's personal Web site and click on 'Career', the page is mysteriously blank, with a brief message saying "Coming very soon.' Blink and you may miss him.