Michael Phelps, left the Olympic pool for the last time on Saturday having fulfilled a childhood dream. The US swimmer’s career ended with his 23rd gold medal in the 4×100 medley relay at Rio 2016, which extended his record as the most decorated Olympian of all time.
With Michael Phelps being the most successful Olympian ever, in this article thus, we reflect on the seven most successful Olympians in history.
In 1952 at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Takashi Ono participated in his first Olympic competition. At the time, gymnastics was dominated by the Soviet team, led by Viktor Chukarin, a four-time gold medallist and double silver medallist at this same edition of the Games. Takashi Ono was a member of a Japanese team that included some promising young gymnasts. They were particularly prominent on the vault, which was won by Chukarin with a score of 19.20. Takashi Ono obtained a combined score of 19.1, coming joint third with his compatriot Tadao Uesako, behind another team mate, Masao Takemoto (19.15). For Ono, this first medal was far from being the last.In 1956 Olympics, won his first Olympic title on the horizontal bar. This gold medal was the first of a very large collection for Japan in this discipline. Takashi also won three silver medals and one bronze. In Rome for the 1960 Games, Takashi won six medals of the eight available in artistic gymnastics. In 1964, he won his 13th Olympic medal, and his fifth gold.
Mangiarotti grew up in a famous fencing family. His father Giuseppe was a fencing master who was 17 times national épée champion and represented Italy at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. He won his first Olympic gold in the team épée aged just 17. At London 1948, he won two silver medals, one in the individual foil and one in the team épée, to go with a bronze in the individual épée. Four years later in Helsinki he claimed his first individual gold, in the épée, and then repeated the feat in the team competition. Mangiarotti helped Italy to claim the team foil gold in Melbourne in 1956, and then another épée team gold on home soil at Rome 1960.
Between 1956 and 1964, he won a total of 13 medals (seven gold, four silver, two bronze) with his strongest individual event being the pommel horse in which he won gold in 1960 and 1964. His 13 Olympic medals was a record for men until it was bettered by fellow Soviet gymnast Nikolay Andrianov. He also won a total of 14 medals at the World Championships. Shakhlin won four individual titles at the 1958 World Championships: all-around, horizontal bar, parallel bars, and pommel horse. Unusually tall for a gymnast, his height and reach were a distinct advantage on the horizontal bar but caused him difficulty on the floor exercise.
At Sochi 2014, 40-year old Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen took his overall tally to 13 medals – including eight golds – to become the most medalled athlete in the history of the Olympic Winter Games. At Salt Lake City 2002, by now 28 and in his prime, Bjørndalen’s medal-winning exploits gained momentum, as, as he achieved a remarkable clean sweep of the biathlon golds, winning the sprint, the pursuit, the 20km individual and the 4×7.5km relay.By the time he arrived in Turin for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, he was already established at the top of his sport. However, there were no more gold medals this time. Instead he had to settle for silvers in the 20km individual and pursuit events, and a bronze in the new mass-start event.In Whistler at Vancouver 2010, the Norwegian took his Olympic medal tally to 11 as he won silver in the 20km individual before winning gold alongside Halvard Hannevold, Tarjei Bø and Emil Hegle Svendsen in the men’s relay.
With 15 podium finishes at three Olympic Games, seven of them as champion, Nikolai Andrianov has won more Olympic medals than any other male gymnast in history. At Barcelona 1992, Vitaly Scherbo won six gold medals, setting a new artistic gymnastics record for a single edition of the Games. Andrianov’s seven Olympic gold medals included two on floor (1972 and 1976), two on vault (1976 and 1980), one individual all-around (1976), one on still rings (1976) and one in the team all-around (1980). He also won five silvers and three bronze medals. In addition his Olympic haul, he also won 12 medals in the World Championships (four of them gold), and claimed the European title no less than 10 times.
Latynina made her Olympic debut at the 1956 Melbourne Games. She fought off fierce competition to win gold in the all-around event. At the 1960 Rome Games, Latynina defended her all-around title and won another gold medal in the team event. She also earned a second gold medal in the floor exercise, picked up silver medals on the uneven bars and the balance beam, and a bronze medal in the vault. Four years later, Latynina won her third Olympic team gold medal and a silver medal in the all-around event. In the apparatus finals she won a silver medal in the vault, bronze medals on the uneven bars and the balance beam, and won the floor exercise for the third straight time. Latynina’s incredible achievements make her the holder of several Olympic records. Until Michael Phelps broke her record in London, she was the only athlete in any sport to have won eighteen Olympic medals.
Diagnosed with Attention Deficit disorder, Phelps was directed towards swimming in 1992 at the age of just seven and he broke record after record as he rose through the age categories. Phelps became the youngest male swimmer to break a world record with a win in the 400m freestyle at the 2001 World Aquatics Championship. The next two years saw Phelps amass a haul of gold and silver medals at international swim meets and break numerous world records in the 200m and 400m individual medley races. His tally at the 2003 World Aquatic Championship of four golds and two silvers, along with five world records. In the Olympics in Greece 2004, In his first event, the 400-meter individual medley, hewon with a world record time of 4:08.26 to take his first Olympic gold medal. Six gold and two bronze medals meant Phelps had achieved the second-best performance at an Olympics Games. Come Beijing in 2008, He won his eighth Olympic gold medal in the 4x100m medley relay. In London 2012, A gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay, added to his 200m butterfly silver earlier that day, meant he had now surpassed Soviet-era gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record of 18 Olympic medals. He went on to win his fifth 200m individual medley gold among other medals in the Rio 2016 Olympics this year, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.