Every little league player dreams of winning a World Series one day, and plenty of high school football stars wonder what it would be like to win the Super Bowl.
These are common aspirations for all kinds of athletes of all ages. Many of them dream about such championship titles, but only a few make it to the top. Even fewer end up becoming world-famous Olympic athletes, where the best of the best competitors from all over go head to head.
The Olympics are what every serious athlete works towards but not all get to experience. Some Olympic athletes, though, end up becoming a legend of sorts. These are people who have won the most Olympic medals in their sport, for their country, or in one year of Olympic games alone.
If you’re wondering who these people are, check out the lists below.
Athletes Who Won the Most Olympic Medals in Recent Years
There have been 10 Olympic games (Summer and Winter) since 2000. In that time, athletes from various countries have surpassed the record of most Olympic medals ever won.
Here’s a closer look at who these people are and the sports they excel in. If you see an athlete who particularly inspires you – or plays the same sport that someone you care for does – consider getting custom metal medallions of this player.
Michael Phelps, USA
Michael Phelps is an American swimmer who shook the world in his first Olympic games in Beijing, 2008. He passed all previous Olympic gold medal winners that summer by taking home eight gold medals for individual events.
Today, after the summer of 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio, Phelps holds a total of 28 Olympic medals. Of those, 23 are gold, 3 are silver, and 2 are bronze. Most of his medals are from individual events, although a few are from team races.
Whichever way you spin it, though, there’s no denying Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete of all-time.
Marit Bjorgen, Norway
Marit Bjorgen is a Norwegian Winter Olympic athlete with 15 medals to her name. She’s competed in five Olympic games, which have resulted in 8 gold medals, 4 silver, and 3 bronze. These accomplishments are a mix of individual races and women’s relays that she’s competed in over the years.
Ole Einar Bjorndalen, Norway
This next modern-day star is another Norwich Winter Games athlete. He holds the most medals of any male Winter Olympic athlete ever, with 8 gold, 4 silver, and 1 bronze – just a few behind Marit Bjorgen.
Bjorndalen has done this over a course of six Olympic games. He didn’t qualify for the 2018 Olympic games, but that doesn’t take away from all this athlete has accomplished leading up to this year.
Jenny Thompson, USA
Just as the two Norwegians on the list do the same sport, the other American is also a swimmer. Jenny Thompson comes in fourth for the most Olympic medals won in modern-day times with 12 medals to her name.
Her first medal was in the 90s as part of the women’s relay team, and since then, she grew into her own spotlight. Thompson competed in a total of four Olympics, from 1992-2004, earning eight gold medals along the way.
Stefania Belmondo, Italy
Last but not least, Stefania Belmondo from the beautiful country of Italy. She has 10 medals in cross-country skiing, which she won from 1988-2002. She was pretty much the greatest until Marit Bjorgen came along and continued competing. Still, it was Belmondo who set the bar for Bjorgen to pass her in the first place.
What about all the other great athletes that came before these people, though? While these athletes have more Olympic medals than those listed below, the ones mentioned in the next section are the people who paved the way, inspiring future athletes to work harder and do better for more medals.
Athletes with the Most Olympic Medals of All-Time
There can’t be someone greater than Michael Phelps without there first being a Phelps to beat. Before him, though, there was Larisa Latynina, Paavo Nurmi, and Carl Lewis.
Larisa Latynina, Russia
Larisa Latynina competed for the Russian (Soviet Union) gymnastics team throughout the 1950s and ’60s Olympics. Throughout this time, she racked up a total of 18 Olympic medals, both individually and as a team.
This was the most anyone had ever done until Phelps came along some 40 years later. But, Larisa does still hold the number one spot for Olympic medal winners who have the most individual medals. Of all her winnings, she has 9 gold medals, 5 silver, and 4 bronze.
Paavo Nurmi, Finland
Some Olympic games before Larisa Latynina entered the scene, Paavo Nurmi was racing his way towards 12 Olympic medals in the early twentieth century. He was a champion of long-distance races, setting over 20 world records and maintaining a successful career for about 14 years.
In the Olympics, most of his winnings were individual. Nurmi finished his career with seven individual gold Olympic medals and three silver medals. The other two medals accredited to his time at the Olympics were gold medals won in team efforts.
Carl Lewis, USA
Last but not least, Carl Lewis – one of the best track and field athletes of all time. While Nurmi’s niche was long-distance, Carl Lewis could pretty much do it all.
He excelled in the 100m and 200m sprints but is arguably best known for his performance in the long jump. Lewis had 65 consecutive victories in the long jump at all kinds of competitive events (Olympic and non-Olympic), a streak he built over ten years! All in all, he has 10 Olympic medals to his name in addition to a few world records.
Inspiring the Athlete in Your Life
The Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event, either as a fan or an athlete. It’s a huge rush to be able to be in the stands and watch all your favorite events in real-time.
It’s an even bigger honor to be one of the athletes competing, especially if you’re trying to rank among people who have won the most Olympic medals!
Do you know a young athlete who’s dreaming about such an accomplishment? If so, click here to find a few quotes and sayings to offer them motivation and support!