Thousands of Olympic athletes.
Hundreds of different events.
How is it possible to select the top Olympic athletes of all time? You may be surprised to find that there seems to be a general consensus when it comes to lists such as this (see lists from NBC, SportsMuntra, and Bleacher Report).
There are particular athletes that have proven beyond a doubt that they deserve a place in the list of the greatest of all time.
These are 5 top Olympic athletes you need to know.
5. Mark Spitz
This swimmer from the United States made history with his accomplishment in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. He won 7 gold medals during the course of the Games.
These 7 were in addition to 2 gold medals, 1 silver medal, and 1 bronze medal he won in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. According to SportsMuntra, this made him one of the most decorated Olympic athletes of all time.
4. Nikolai Andrianov
Gymnast Andrianov of the Soviet Union was a force to be reckoned with. His count of 15 medals (including 7 gold) was the Olympic record for men until Michael Phelps broke it.
Like Spitz, Andrianov competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics but also went on to compete in the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the 1980 Moscow Olympics. From SportsMuntra: “He still holds the men’s record for most individual Olympic medals in Artistic Gymnastics.”
3. Usain Bolt
Still going strong, this Jamaican sprinter runs all over his competition. NBC calls him “the greatest sprinter of all time.”
Want proof? Try 7 gold medals (thus far) and 2 world records – and it ain’t over yet! His races in Rio are sure to bolster his already outstanding track record (pardon the pun).
2. Larisa Latynina
According to NBC, Soviet gymanst Latynina’s 14 individual event medals still constitute the world record. She also held the record for the most total Olympic medals (18) until Phelps overtook it. Pretty impressive, considering she made this record in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics (48 years prior)!
She could easily be considered the greatest gymnast of all time and certainly one of the greatest athletes in the history of the world.
1. Michael Phelps
Of course, a list like this would not be complete without Michael Phelps. If you haven’t heard of Phelps you may be living under a rock, but for those who haven’t, he is an American swimmer who has broken several world records.
With an unheard-of 28 medals in his entire Olympic career over the course of 4 separate Olympic Games, Phelps is an unstoppable force.
His name is sure to go down in history as the greatest Olympic athlete of all time and that prestigious title is well deserved.
Bonus fun fact:
Although not one of the top Olympic athletes of all time, Frank Kugler nevertheless remains the only person to boast an Olympic medal in 3 separate sports: freestyle wrestling, two-hand dumbbell, and tug-o-war (according to Bleacher Report). Betcha didn’t know that!