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OLYMPIC GAMES 2021

What athletes have won the most Olympics medals?

From Usain Bolt to Michael Phelps we look back at the greatest medal winners throughout Olympic Games history, as we build up to Tokyo 2021 this summer.

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What athletes have won the most Olympics medals?

Ahead of the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games we present you with the all time list of the most successful athletes, arranged by medal count.

Olympic Games top ten medal winners

10. Usain Bolt JAM athletics

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The first international notion of Usain Bolt came at the 2002 World Junior Championships when he won the 200 meter event. At his first participation at the 2004 Olympics, he failed to get out of the early rounds. In his breakout season 2008, at the famous Grand Prix in New York, Bolt broke the 100-meter world record, recording 9.72, setting him up as a favorite for the sprint event at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Along with Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt was the star of the Beijing Games, in which he won three gold medals. His first gold came in 100 meters, winning with ease in a world record time of 9.69. He added golds in the 200 meters, and the 4×100 meters relay, also in world record-breaking times.

London 2012 was just confirmation of his status as an icon of track & field athletics when Bolt became the first athlete to win 3 Olympic gold medals at two consecutive Olympics. Bolt then repeated this feat at the following 2013 and 2015 World Championships and established himself as the greatest sprinter of all time.

Usain Bolt competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, again winning the sprint triple. The final result seemed to give him nine gold medals, equaling the fearsome Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi and legendary Carl Lewis. However, shortly before Rio, Bolt’s teammate on the 2008 relay was revealed to have a positive doping test in Beijing, consequently, this left the great Jamaican sprinter at a total of eight Olympic gold medals.

9. Matt Biondi USA swimming

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The three-time Olympian Matt Biondi's total of 11 Olympic medals in swimming equals the Olympic record set by Mark Spitz in 1968-72. Biondi first competed at the 1984 Olympic Games, qualifying for the 4 x 100-meter freestyle, after surprising fourth place at the U.S. trials. In his freshman year at UC Berkley, Biondi was a member of the university's water polo and swimming team. At the Los Angeles Olympics, Biondi swam the third leg of the relay, and thanks to his decisive 49.67-second split time in the final, the U.S. won the gold medal in Olympic and World Record time in front of Australia.

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His peak came at the Seoul 1988 Games when he attempted to match Spitz's Munich performance of seven gold medals. Biondi won seven medals but failed to win seven golds. Although he won five golds, he finished second in the 100-meter butterfly and third in the 200-meter freestyle.

Barcelona 1992 saw him winning two more gold medals in the relays and an additional silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle.

During his swimming career, Matt Biondi set seven individual world records (three in the 50-meter freestyle and four in the 100-meter freestyle) and won six gold medals at the World Championships.

Nowadays, he teaches philosophy and algebra and is very active in the L.A. county master's swimmers community.

8. Jenny Thompson USA swimming

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United States' Jenny Thompson, with 12 medals, has won more swimming medals and gold medals than any woman in Olympic history.

All of her eight gold medals came in relays, which was always the point of frustration for the talented American swimmer. In Thompson's four participation at the games, her only individual medals were silver in the Barcelona 1992 100-freestyle and a bronze in the same event at Sydney 2000.

While attending Columbia Medical School,Thompson came out of retirement and made the US team, winning two relay silver medals at Athens 2004.

Among female Olympians, Thompson holds third place as the most successful woman Olympian.

After retiring, Thompson became a physician specializing in pediatric anesthesiology.

7. Sawao Kato JPN artistic gymnastics

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Japan's Sawao Kato record of eight gold medals in his three appearances at the Olympics still stands as the most significant achievement in men's gymnastics.

Kato was a member of the winning all-around team in 1968, 1972, and 1976 and also won the individual title on the first two occasions, but he had to settle for a silver medal in 1976, behind the great Soviet gymnast Nikolay Andryanov. His other gold medals came in the individual floor exercises (1968) and the individual parallel bars (1972, 1976).

Strangely, Kato never won an individual World champion title of any kind at the World Championships, but he was member of the winning Japanese team in 1974.

In 2001, Sawao Kato was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

6. Birgit Fischer-Schmidt GER canoe sprint

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Birgit Fischer-Schmidt of Germany is considered the greatest woman canoeist of all time. Her total of eight Olympic gold medals and 27 World Championships golds still stand as one of the most remarkable career achievements in all sports history.

Fischer-Schmidt is also praised for the longevity of her Olympic career success, spanning 24 years in between her first (Moscow 1980) and her last gold medal (Athens 2004).

In 2008, she was inducted into the German Sports Hall of Fame.

Nowadays, an avid photographer, Birgit Fischer-Schmidt, also runs a kayak school in her birthplace of Brandenburg.

5. Carl Lewis USA athletics

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The four-time Olympian Carl Lewis is an American track-and-field athlete who won nine Olympic gold medals during the 1980s and ’90s.

Lewis qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 but did not compete because of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Games. At the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, his four victories (100 meters, 200 meters, 4×100 meters relay, long jump) matched the record set by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympic Games.

Atlanta 1996 saw Lewis ending his career after he was the surprising qualifier at the U.S. trials, equaling another record, this time of Al Oerter, another U.S. track and field athlete, in winning the same Olympic event four times consecutively, in the long jump, respectively.

Despite his performances, Lewis never achieved great popularity among fans in the United States, yet many athletes credit Lewis for increasing the prize and sponsorship money in the sport.

4. Mark Spitz USA swimming

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High expectations surrounded the young 18-year old Californian, Mark Spitz, before Mexico 1968 games. He won two golds at these games but failed to succeed in the individual events.

This failure motivated the American, and he set for a personal quest at the following games in Munich 1972. And what a quest it was, winning seven gold medals all in World record times, setting an Olympic record for the number of gold medals at one edition of the games. Until Beijing 2008 and the phenomenal performance of Michael Phelps in China's capital.

In 1991 at 40 years of age, the swimming world witnessed his comeback in the competitive world for a brief time, with Mark Spitz going for the U.S. trials, with the idea of competing at Barcelona 1992. Unfortunately, due to his age and the high level of his competitors, he failed in his intention, which was the unfortunate end of his emblematic swimming career.

3. Paavo Nurmi FIN athletics

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The legendary Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi was an Olympic legend whose commitment to a detailed training schedule and incredible sense for pace judgment brought a new dimension to distance running in his era. Between 1920 and 1928, he recorded nine Olympic gold medals and three individual silver medals during two Olympiad periods.

His medals came in from middle distance to long-distance events: 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters (team), 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, steeplechase, and cross-country. In 1932, for alleged professionalism, Nurmi missed the chance to add the 1932 marathon title, for which he was one of the favorites, and the chance to complete his list of Olympic successes. He continued to be banned from international competition, a decision that left him angered for the rest of his life. However, he returned to the Olympic arena when he carried the torch into the Opening Ceremony at his home country's Olympics in Helsinki. The incomparable "Flying Finn" set 22 official and 13 unofficial world records.

2. Larisa Latynina URS artistic gymnastics

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Until the London Olympics in 2012 and the appearance of Michael Phelps, the Russian female gymnast Larysa Latynina was the athlete with the most Olympic medals won in total - a total of 18, nine gold, five silver, and four bronze medals. She is a three-time Olympian with participation at the Olympic Games in Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960, and Tokyo 1964. After London 2012, she was "replaced" on the all-time list by Michael Phelps with 22 Olympic medals.

Her coach was the famous Alexander Myshakov, who was also the coach of another famous Soviet gymnast, Olympic medalist Boris Shaklin.

After she retired from the competition, she became the Russian national team gymnastics coach.

In 1998 Larisa Latynina was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

1. Michael Phelps USA swimming

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Michael Phelps is by far the most successful athlete in the history of the Olympic Games.

Interestingly, Phelps has more than double the medals from Latynina, Finnish athlete Pavo Nurmi. Most notably for this whole story, Mark Spitz, a fellow countryman and Olympian and main competitor in the GOAT swimming race.

It has long been thought that no one will break Mark Spitz's record of seven golds at the Olympic Games until Beijing 2008 when Phelps won eight!

His first Olympic experience was in Sydney in 2000, at the age of 15, which broke the record when it comes to the youngest member of the American team.

He was closest to the podium in the 200-meter butterfly, in which he finished fifth. His absolute domination will start at the next edition of the games.

Phelps won six gold and two bronze medals at Athens 2004 and continued raising the bar at Beijing 2008, setting a record, which probably no one will ever be able to break.

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He won eight gold medals in the eight events he competed in, and doing so broke the world record seven times!

In London in 2012, he also achieved outstanding results - four gold and two silver. After these Olympics,he decided to retire. However, he changed his mind.

He returned for the Rio 2016 games, winning five more golds and one silver, and then, nevertheless, decided to retire eventually.