Athletes who’ve Won the Most Olympic Medals

15th July 2019
Olympic medals are proof of sport superiority, but also of dedication and sacrifice. Therefore, those athletes who've obtained at least one medal deserve our acknowledgment and appreciation. The following athletes are the ones who've won the highest number of awards so far.

We know that professional swimmer Michael Phelps takes all the records, from the number of Olympic medals he’s won in total to the number of awards he’s won in a single edition of the games. However, he’s not the only athlete that deserves to stand out for his performance in the Olympic Games. We’ll tell you about some other athletes in this article.

Which athletes have won the most Olympic medals?

In the next list, we’ll cover the athletes who’ve won the highest number of Olympic medals in total. It’s worth mentioning that we’re not only considering gold medals but silver and bronze as well. These are the names that stand out:

1. Michael Phelps (swimming), a world record in Olympic medals

Unless we’re surprised by an athlete from ‘another planet’, it’ll be very hard for someone to beat the records of the American swimmer, Michel Phelps. He’s won no more and no less than 23 gold, three silver, and two bronze medals, for a total of 28 Olympic awards.

But his achievements don’t end there. This swimmer, who announced his retirement after Rio 2016, won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. In doing that, he became the athlete with the highest number of winning medals in a single edition of the Olympic games. He’s also set records that no other swimmer has been able to beat.

2. Larisa Latynina, the woman with the highest number of Olympic medals

Her participation in the Olympic games began in Melbourne 1956 and ended in Tokyo 1964 (three editions later), but she was still able to win 18 medals during that period: nine gold, five silver, and four bronze medals.

Latynina was born in the former Soviet Union in 1934, and she retired in 1966, at 31 years of age. Up until London 2012, she was the athlete who had won the most Olympic medals in history; it was precisely Michael Phelps who dethroned her.

Larisa Latynina during an Olympic performance that got her several medals
Image: Marca.

3. Nikolai Andrianov (gymnastics)

Even though he ‘only’ won seven golds throughout his career, the late Soviet athlete managed to obtain a total of 15 medals during his participation in the Olympic Games (Munich 1972, Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980). To complete that number he won five silver medals and three bronze medals in these events: Floor Exercise, Vault, and Still Rings, both in teams and individuals.

Nikolai Adrianov during a Still Rings Olympic event
Image: NY Times.

4. Boris Shajlín (gymnastics)

He was another Soviet gymnast -Soviets absolutely dominate this sport– who won 14 Olympic medals throughout his career. Eight of those medals were gold, while four were silver and the remaining two were bronze. He competed in the Melbourne Olympics 1956, Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964.

5. Edoardo Mangiarotti (fencing)

He’s not only one of the athletes with the highest number of Olympic medals, but also one of those who have competed in the highest number of Olympic Games (a total of five between Berlin 1936 and Rome 1960). He was the son of an international fencer and competed in two modalities: foil and épée.

The best swordsman of all times won six gold medals, five silver medals, and two bronze medals, for a big total of 13 awards. He retired in 1961 and died in 2012, when he was 93 years old.

6. Paavo Nurmi (athletics)

There are several Olympic medalists who have won 12 awards. However, the ‘Flying Finn’ (his nickname) is the one who won the highest number of gold medals (a total of 9). He also won another 3 silver medals.

Nurmi competed in Antwerp 1920, Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928. He mastered the athletic events and set no less than 22 international records. After his career as an Olympic competitor, he decided to try his luck in long-distance running.

Other Olympic medal records

The other athletes who also won 12 Olympic medals were German kayaker Birgit Fischer (between Moscow 1980 and Athens 2004, with 8 gold medals); Japanese gymnast Sawao Kato (between Mexico 1968 and Montreal 1976, with nine gold medals); American swimmer Jenny Thompson (between Barcelona 1992 and Athens 2004); and American swimmer Ryan Lochte (between Athens 2004 and Rio 2016, he’s still active and has won 6 gold medals).

We can also talk about athletes who won nine gold medals throughout their history. They are:

1. Mark Spitz (swimming)

The American swimmer Mark Spitz competed in the 1968 Summer Olympic Games and in Munich 1972. He won nine golds, one silver, and a bronze medal as well. ‘Mark the Shark’ held the record with seven medals in a single edition of the Olympics until Michael Phelps surpassed it with his eight medals.

2. Carl Lewis (athletics)

The ‘Son of the Wind’ specialized in speed running and won a total of 10 Olympic medals (nine gold and one silver). He competed in Los Angeles 1984 and Atlanta 1996.

Usain Bolt at the end of an Olympic race

3. Usain Bolt, the man of speed and Olympic medals

We can’t talk about athletes with a lot of Olympic medals without mentioning Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world. Born in Jamaica, the ‘Lightning Bolt’ (another one of his nicknames) has won nine gold medals between the Beijing games of 2008 and Rio 2016; he also holds several records for the 100 and 200 meters.

Beyond the numbers and data, it’s worth mentioning that all of these medalists have trained incredibly hard to receive so many awards and honors. That’s why we want to notice and congratulate them!

  • Los ganadores más recordados de los Juegos Olímpicos. Clarín. https://www.clarin.com/entremujeres/juegos-olimpicos-rio-2016/ganadores-recordados-Juegos-Olimpicos_0_By287XGY.html
  • Silvia Coronilla Muñoz; Eugenio M. Fedriani Martel; María del Carmen Melgar Hiraldo. Análisis temporal de los resultados obtenidos en los Juegos Olímpicos. Universidad Pablo de Olavide. https://www.cafyd.com/HistDeporte/htm/pdf/5-1.pdf