The Best Olympic Athletes From Each Sport

There is plenty of evidence that multiple gold medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympic Games athlete of all time, from all sports. However, because sports such as swimming, gymnastics and athletics have many events and therefore many medals available to win, athletes from these sports have an advantage when counting total medals won. This is particularly true if you compare athletes from those sports to team sports such as football, handball and hockey where there is only one of each medal available at each Olympiad.

Not taking anything away from the very successful athletes such as Phelps, Nurmi and Latynina, there is an unfair advantage to athletes from the sports which have many more medals available. The very talented and maybe just as great athletes from other sports may be missing out of just accolades. Therefore we have compared only athletes from within each sport, to get a list of the greatest Olympian of all time from each sport.

olympic poster from LAWe have ranked the athletes from each sport including results from the 2016 Olympic Games. To determine the top ranked athlete form each sport, we have used the Topend Sports Weighted Ranking System to order the athletes, as this appears to give fair credit for winning both gold medals and the minor placings.

Top Olympic Athlete From Each Sport

Here are the top ranked athletes from each Olympic sport (including results from 2016). Both current and past sports are listed, though of the past sports only included are those that have been present for at least three Olympiads. Golf is not listed as there are no multiple medalists.

Table: The Top Ranked Athletes from Each Olympic Sport (current sports)

Sport Athlete Country Gold Silver Bronze total
medals
Archery Hubert Van Innis Belgium 6 4 0 10
Athletics Paavo Nurmi Finland 9 3 0 12
Badminton Gao Ling China 2 1 1 4
Basketball Teresa Edwards USA 4 0 1 5
Boxing László Papp Hungary 3 0 0 3
Félix Savón Cuba 3 0 0 3
Teófilo Stevenson Cuba 3 0 0 3
Canoeing Birgit Fischer Germany 8 4 0 12
Cycling Chris Hoy Great Britain 6 1 0 7
Jason Kenny Great Britain 6 1 0 7
Diving Wu Minxia China 5 1 1 7
Equestrian Isabell Werth Germany 6 4 0 10
Fencing Edoardo Mangiarotti Italy 6 5 2 13
Field Hockey Leslie Claudius &
Udham Singh
India 3 1 0 4
Football Christie Rampone USA 3 1 0 4
Gymnastics Larisa Latynina USSR 9 5 4 18
Handball Andrey Lavrov Russia 3 0 1 4
Judo Tadahiro Nomura Japan 3 0 0 3
Modern Pentathlon András Balczó Hungary 3 2 0 5
Rowing Elisabeta Lipă Romania 5 2 1 8
Rugby Daniel Carroll Australia/USA 2 0 0 2
Sailing Ben Ainslie Great Britain 4 1 0 5
Shooting Carl Osburn USA 5 4 2 11
Swimming Michael Phelps USA 23 3 2 28
Synchronized Swimming Anastasia Davydova Russia 5 0 0 5
Natalia Ishchenko Russia 5 0 0 5
Svetlana Romashina Russia 5 0 0 5
Table Tennis Wang Nan China 4 1 0 5
Taekwondo Steven López USA 2 0 1 3
Hwang Kyung-Seon South Korea 2 0 1 3
Hadi Saei Iran 2 0 1 3
Tennis Venus Williams USA 4 1 0 5
Triathlon Alistair Brownlee Great Britain 2 0 0 2
Volleyball (beach) Kerri Walsh USA 3 0 1 4
Volleyball (indoor) Ana Fernández Cuba 3 0 1 4
Water polo Dezső Gyarmati Hungary 3 1 1 5
Weight lifting Pyrros Dimas Greece 3 0 1 4
Wrestling Kaori Icho Japan 4 0 0 4

Table: The Top Ranked Athletes from Each Olympic Sport (past sports)

Only past sports included are those that have been present for at least three Olympiads.

Sport Athlete Country Gold Silver Bronze total
medals
Baseball Pedro Luis Lazo Cuba 2 2 0 4
Polo John Wodehouse UK 1 1 0 2
Softball Laura Berg USA 3 1 0 4
Tug of War Frederick Humphreys, Edwin Mills &
John Shepherd
Great Britain 2 1 0 3

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