We debate who is the best olympian ever and compare the greatest athletes with the most olmpic medals in the history of the Summer Olympics: Bolt, Comaneci, Latynina, Lewis, Nurmi, Owens, Phleps, Redgrave and Spitz. Learn more about them, watch their videos and vote in our poll!
Best Olympian ever?
Comparing famous Olympians from different disciplines and deciding who is the best athlete in the history of the Olympics is a very difficult task. We have shortlisted some of the greatest Olympians by looking at those with the most Olympic medals and those with the strongest social and media impact. In addition to their sporting achievements, many of these sportsmen and women have become role models for other Olympians and people outside the realm of sports. The self-discipline, capacity for self-sacrifice, search for perfection, level of motivation, capacity to overcome life obstacles and thirst for victory of these athletes have inspired generations and continue to do so. Join our debate and poll on who should be considered the best Olympian in history.
Greatest athletes in the history of the Olympics
- Usain Bolt: a Jamaican athlete born in Sherwood Content in 1986. Usain Bolt is the fatest man in the world and the first to win both the Olympic 100-metre and 200-metre races with world record times (2008). Bolt holds the 100 metres world record: 9.58 and the 200 metres world record: 19.19. Usain Bolt won 3 gold medals in three consecutive games (100 metres, 200 metres, 4x100 metres relay): in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2012 London Olympics, and 2016 Rio Olympics. He has also won 11 gold medals in Athletics World Championships.
- Nadia Comăneci: a Romanian gymnast born in Onesti in 1961. Nadia Comăneci became the first woman to score a perfect 10 in the Olympics (in Uneven Bars). Moreover she did it at the age of 14 in the Montreal 1976 Olympics in which she won 3 gold medals (All-Around, Uneven Bars and Balance Beam), one silver medal (Team) and a bronze medal (Floor Exercise). Nadia also won 2 gold medals (Balance Beam and Floor Exercise) and 2 siver medals (All-Around and Team) in the Moscow Olympics in 1984. Nadia also won 2 gold medals in Gymnastic World Championships and 9 gold medals in European Championships. She was the first woman to perform a double-twist dismount, as well as an aerial cartwheel-back handspring and aerial walkover series on the balance beam.
- Larisa Latynina: a Soviet (Ukranian) gymnast born in Kherson in 1934. For 48 years she hold the record of the most Olympic medals, 18, being surpassed by Michael Phelps in 2012. Larisa Latynia dominated artistic gymnastics for over a decade. She won 4 gold medals (All-Around, Team, Vault, Floor Exercise), one silver medal (Uneven Bars), and a bronze medal (Team, apparatus) in Melbourne 1956 Summer Olympics, 3 gold medals (All-Around, Team, Floor Exercise), 2 silvers (Uneven Bars and Balance Beam), and one bronze (Vault) in Rome 1960 Olympics, as well as 2 gold medals (Team and Floor Exercise), 2 silver medals (All-Around and Vault) and 3 bronze medals (Uneven Bars and Balance Beam). Latynina also won 9 gold medals in Gymnastics World Championships.
- Carl Lewis: an American athlete born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1961. Carl Lewis matched Jesse Owens record winning 4 gold medals (100 metres, 200 metres, 4x100 metres relay and Long Jump) in a single Olympics, Los Angeles 1984. Carl Lewis long sprinter career allow him to win 2 gold medals (100 metres and Long Jump) and a silver medal (200 metres) in Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, 2 gold medals in Barcelona 1992 Olympics (4x100 metres relay and Long Jump); as well as a last Olympic gold medal in Atlanta 1996 Olympics (Long Jump). Carl Lewis won also 8 golds in Athletics World Championships.
- Paavo Nurmi: a Finnish midle and long-distance runner (Turku 1897-Helsinki 1973). Nurmi, also known as the "Flying Finn" dominated distance running during the early 20th century, beat 25 world records and remained unbeaten in Cross-Country and 10,000 metres races during his entire career. He won 3 gold medals (10,000 metres, Individual and Team Cross-Country) and one silver medal in Anwerp 1920 Olympics, 5 gold medals (1,500 metres, 5,000 metres, 3,000 metres Team, Individual and Team Cross-Country) in Paris 1924 Olympics; as well as one gold medal (10,000 metres) and 2 silver medal (5,000 and 3,000 steeplechase) in Amsterdam 1928 Olympics.
- Jesse Owens: an American field and track athlete born in Oakville, Alabama who died in Tucson, Arizona in 1980. James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens only participated in one Summer Olympics, Berlin 1936, but his impact on the history of sports will last for ever. Jesse Owens was the first athlete to win 4 gold medals in a single competition (100 metres, 200 metres, 4x100 metres relay and Long Jump), but most importantly he managed to completely demolished the myth of Arian supremacy in Berlin in front of Adolf Hiter shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Owens became a symbol against racism and paved the way for generations of African American athletes in the USA and beyond.
- Michael Phelps: an American swimmer born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1985. Michael Phelps, also known as the "Flying Fish" or the "Baltimore Bullet" is the most decorated Olympian of all time: 28 medals (23 gold medals). Michael Phelps won 6 golds (100 and 200 metres butterfly, 4x100, 200 and 400 metres medley, 4x200 freestyle) and 2 bronze medals (200 metres freestyle and 4x100 freestyle) in Athens 2004 Olympic Games; 8 gold medals (100 and 200 metres butterfly, 4x 100, 200 and 400 metres medley, 200, 4x100 and 4x200 metres freestyle) in Beijing 2008 Olympics; 4 gold medals (100 butterfly, 4x100 and 200 metres medley, 4x200 freestyle) and 2 silver medals (200 metres and 4x100 metres fteestyle) in London 2012 Olympics, and 5 gold medals (200 metres butterfly, 4x100 metres medley relay, 4x 100 and 4x200 metres freestyle relay, 200 metres medley, ) and 1 silver medal (100 metres butterfly) in 2016 Rio Olympics. Michael Phelps has also won 26 gold medals through his participation in Swimming World Championships.
- Steve Redgrave: a British rower born in Marlow in 1962. Sir Steven Geoffrey Redgrave has the impressive record of winning gold medals in 5 consecutive Olympic Games. He dominated sweep rowing from 1984 to 2000. Redgrave won gold medals in Los Angeles 1984 (Coxed Four), Seoul 1988 (Coxless Pair), Barcelona 1992 (Coxless Pair), Atlanta 1996 (Coxless Pair) and Sydney 2000 (Coxless Four). He also won an Olympic Bronze (Coxed Pair in Seoul) and 9 gold medals in Rowing World Championships.
- Mark Spitz: an American swimmer of Jewish Hungarian descent born in Modesto, Californa, in 1950. During 36 years Spitz held the record of the most gold medals in a single Olympic event, 7, until Michael Phelps beat it in 2008. "Mark the Shark" as they used to called him won 2 gold medals (4x100 and 4x200 metres freestyle), one silver medal (100 metres butterfly) and one bronze medal (100 metres freestyle) in Mexico City 1968 Olympics; as well as 7 gold medals (100, 200, 4x100 and 4x200 metres freestyle, 4x100 medley, 100 and 200 metres butterfly) in Munich 1972 Summer Olympics.
Hot questions: Which of these famous Olympians do you consider the best sportsman or sportswoman ever? Who do you think had to overcome more difficulties to reach the Olympic glory? Who inspires you the most? Is the fame of all of them deserved?
If you change your mind, you can change your vote simply by clicking on another option.
Best Olympian ever? Find out who are the greatest athletes in the history of the Olympics
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