Top 10 athletes with the most Gold medals in Olympics
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
These Olympians etched their names in the history books forever.
A Gold medal at the Olympics is the pinnacle in most sports. It is considered as the absolute achievement; an athlete or sportsperson can have in his career. To do it once itself, is no mean feat.
However, there are several competitors who have been so dominant that they have won numerous Gold medals on the biggest stage.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 athletes with the most Gold medals in the Olympics:
10. Usain Bolt – 8 (Jamaica)
Whenever he took a spot on the track, the Jamaican athlete was a show-stopper. The aptly named Bolt, came into notice during the Beijing Olympics when he coasted to two Gold medals, setting world records in both the 100m and 200m events. He had won the Gold in the 4x100m relay event, while breaking another world record. But, his medal was stripped in 2017 when one of his teammates was found to have used a banned substance.
Bolt continued his success into London, where he again won the three events and repeated the same feat at the Rio Olympics in 2016. With eight Gold medals, Usain Bolt remains one of the most successful short distance sprinters in the world. He holds the world record in all three of his competing events, the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay.
9. Matt Biondi – 8 (USA)
After Mark Spitz and before Michael Phelps, American swimming had Matt Biondi. The ‘California Condor’ set the Olympic pool on fire from 1984 to 1992, breaking several world records in the process. Biondi won his first Gold medal in the 4x100m freestyle event at the Los Angeles edition. However, he came into his own at the Seoul Olympics, winning five Gold medals and setting four world records in the process.
He won the 50m and the 100m freestyle and also won three more medals in the relay events with Team USA. Biondi continued his winning streak in Barcelona, winning two more Gold medals in the relay events. He also won three straight 4x100m freestyle events from Los Angeles to Barcelona.
8. Jenny Thompson – 8 (USA)
Jenny Thompson won eight Gold medals from 1992-2004. All eight of her medals came in relays. The American used to tear up the pool during World Championships, but medals in individual events at the Olympics seemed so near yet so far for Thompson.
However, her domination was a key part of Team USA’s success in the pool. She won the 4 x 100 m freestyle and the 4x100m medley Gold three times in a row from 1992 to 2000. She also won the 4x200m freestyle in 1996 and 2000 to take her tally to eight. During the process, she became the most decorated female swimmer in Olympic history.
7. Sawao Kato – 8 (Japan)
The Japanese Olympian was one of the early participants and key figures in the country’’s golden gymnastics era. Kato’s first taste of Olympic success came with his brother Takeshi, when the duo won the Gold in the team event at the 1968 Olympic Games. He followed up that victory with a first place finish in the floor and all-around events.
Kato added to his tally in Munich, repeating victories in the team and individual all-around events. He further clinched the Gold in the parallel bars discipline as well. His tally improved to eight Gold medals at the 1976 Montreal Games. He won a third straight Gold in the team event and made it two straight in the parallel bars. He finished his Olympic career by winning the most Gold medals for any Japanese competitor, an achievement that still stands today.
6. Birgit Fischer – 8 (Germany)
All athletes in this list are pace-setters in their sport, without a doubt. But, none have had the longevity and poise of Birgit Fischer. The German was an Olympic Gold medal winner for a period of 24 years from 1980-2004. Infact, her tally could have been much more, had she participated at the 1984 Olympics.
Representing East Germany, Birgit won three Gold medals. One came in Moscow in 1980, while two came in Seoul in 1988. After unification, she just kept getting better, winning another five Gold medals from 1992-2004. She won three straight medals in the k-4 500m event, bringing her total in that event to four Gold medals. More than the number of her victories, it is the duration of her Olympic career that surprises many.
5. Carl Lewis – 9 (USA)
American sprinter Carl Lewis is a legend in track and field. It is not just his nine Gold medals that make him standout. It is also about how dominant he was when he took the track or the field. In his debut Olympics itself, Lewis achieved the unthinkable, when he emulated the 48-year-old feat of Jesse Owens, by winning all four of the events he entered in. The Los Angeles Olympics saw Lewis win the 100m, 200m, the 4x100m relay and the field event long jump.
Lewis followed it up with two more Gold medals in Seoul in both the 100m and long jump. He won the 4x100m relay in Barcelona in 1992. The American won two more medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics to finish with nine Gold medals. His performances were a key inspiration for another record-breaking sprinter, Usain Bolt.
4. Mark Spitz – 9 (USA)
Munich 1972 were Mark Spitz’s Olympics. The American broke the record for most Gold medals at a single Olympics. He won seven Gold medals which in itself is an incredible achievement. But, he also broke seven world records during his seven victories to achieve the mind-blowing feat. Spitz won the individual 100 and 200m freestyle and 100 and 200m butterfly events. He also won the 4x100m freestyle, 4 x200m freestyle and the 4x100m medley relay events to achieve a historic accomplishment.
Spitz had earlier won two Gold medals in relay events at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. He had won the 4x100m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle events before having his breakout competition in Munich in 1972.
3. Paavo Nurmi – 9 (Finland)
For long distance runners, Paavo Nurmi is a benchmark. The ‘Phantom Finn,’ known for introducing an analytical approach to long distance racing, was a spectacle to be witnessed. Nurmi, who competed at three Olympics, won nine Gold medals in various long distance running events. His dominant self came at the 1924 Paris Olympics, when he won all five events he raced in.
He won 10,000m, 5000m, individual cross country racing and team cross country racing twice each, finishing his career as one of the sturdiest running machines.
2. Larisa Latynina – 9 (Soviet Union)
Larisa set the gymnastic world on fire from 1956-1964, winning nine Gold medals and finishing her career as the most successful gymnast at the quadrennial event. The Soviet Union gymnast won four events at her debut Olympics in Melbourne. She claimed first place in team, all-around, vault and floor exercise events.
The Soviet gymnast continued her success in three of those events, except vault, in the 1960 Rome edition. She finished her Olympic career in Tokyo in a spectacular manner, winning two more medals in the team and floor exercise. She, to-date, remains the most decorated female Olympian and most decorated gymnast.
1. Michael Phelps – 23 (USA)
Never before have the Olympics seen a competitor as dominant as Michael Phelps. Ever since his first Olympic competition, Phelps routinely found himself on the right end of the table, notching up a whopping 23 Gold medals from 2004 in Athens to 2016 in Rio. He won six Gold medals in Athens. In the process, he narrowly missed out on equalling compatriot Spitz’s record of seven Gold medals at a single Olympics.
A motivated Phelps broke Spitz’s record in Beijing by winning eight Gold medals. He added four more to that in London and notched five more in Rio, to establish himself as one of the greatest swimmers and Olympians to take part at the quadrennial event. He also holds the record for the most medals won in the Olympics as well.