Top 10 Most Decorated Olympians

decorated olympians
Source: NBC

To win an Olympic medal is an enormous accomplishment. First, an athlete must prove him or herself against the most talented competitors in their home country. Then, having made their country’s team, they must go through grueling qualifying rounds. Finally, they arrive at the Olympics, the largest stage in all of sports, a tradition going back thousands of years to the days of the ancient Greece. Then they go toe-to-toe with the world’s best and perform feats of athleticism that are studied by scientists.

The athletes on this list not only achieved the impossible by winning a medal, they did so time after time, tournament after tournament. In honor of the upcoming Rio Olympics, we researched the 10 most decorated Olympians who have won more medals than anyone else.

  • Michael Phelps– 22 Olympic medals: 18 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze
    • This team USA swimmer is off to his 5TH OLYMPIC GAMES this August as, undeniably, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 Olympic medals (and soon to be more judging by his Olympic trials).  
  • Larisa Latynina: 18: 9 gold, 5 silver, 4 bronze  
    • The reigning champion on the medal count until 2008- when Phelps knocked her off her throne- this Soviet gymnast competed in the 1956, 1960, and 1964 summer games. She still holds some serious records though: she is 1 of 3 women ever to win the same event in the games 3 times, and 1 of 4 athletes to have won 9 gold.
  • Nikolai Andrianov: 15: 7 gold, 5 silver, 3 bronze
    • This USSR gymnast competed in 1972, 1976 and 1980 summer games, winning more medals than any male gymnast to date. Once his Olympic career came to a close he spent his time coaching: from the Soviet Union’s junior national team to Japan to his home town’s gymnastics school.
  • Ole Einar Bjørndalen: 13: 8 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze
    • This Norwegian is the single most decorated winter Olympian in history with 8 gold, 4 silver, and 1 bronze medal.  He has competed in 6, yes 6, Olympic Games: 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014. His sport of choice: the biathlon. Retired? Never.
  • Boris Shakhlin: 13: 7 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze
    • Another Soviet gymnast, Boris Shakhlin competed before Andrianov’s time in the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Olympic Games. He was known for his particular abilities on the pommel horse as well as the horizontal bar- an exercise that he was distinctly advantaged in due to his height. He retired when he turned 35 but remained close to the sport into his 60’s.
  • Edoardo Mangiarotti: 13: 6 gold, 5 silver, 2 bronze
    • An Italian fencer, Edoardo was the proud sporter of 13 medals. He practiced both the foil and épée styles of fencing. This Olympian had a whopping 4 (ish) decade athletic career from 1936 to 1960. Naturally, during this time he became the most decorated fencer in the sport’s history AND the most accomplished Olympian in Italy’s history.
  • Takashi Ono: 13: 5 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze
    • A surely proud member of the gymnastics hall of fame, Takashi Ono competed in four Olympic Games: 1952, 1956, 1960, and 1964. During the  1964 games, he actually took the Olympic Oath at the beginning of the games in his home country; being a representative of all athletes participating to follow the rules of the games and honor the sportsmanship of the event.
  • Birgit Fischer: 12: 8 gold, 4 silver
    • This Olympic kayak sprinter has competed under the flags of East Germany and Germany united during her appearances at the 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Games. After stepping away from her Olympic career, Fischer opened a paddle-training school. She still clutches the record for being both the youngest and the oldest Olympic paddler to get the gold.
  • Dara Torres: 12: 4 gold 4 silver 4 bronze  
    • A highly contended competitor in 5 Olympic Games- 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008- Dara Torres has inspired older athletes to remain dedicated in “the hunt” for the gold. In her final Olympic appearance in 2008, she was 41 years old AND she won not 1, not 2, but 3 silver medals. She is the first U.S. swimmer to compete in 5 Olympics. You can’t look at her and not feel inspired.   
  • Natalie Coughlin: 12: 3 gold, 4 silver, 5 bronze
    • An Olympic three-peat, Natalie has swum in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games. In her early days at Cal Berkeley she became the first woman in history to swim a sub-minute 100 meter backstroke at the age of 19. In Beijing, she became the first female athlete to win 6 MEDALS in a single Olympiad AND have a repeat gold in the 100 meter backstroke.   

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