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Greatest Olympic Athlete of All Time

Search online for "the greatest Olympian of all time" and undoubtedly the answer will predominantly be swimmer Michael Phelps, though with the success of Usain Bolt in Rio he is not a sure fire winner. Phelps has been labeled the greatest ever Olympian due to his record number of gold medals won, but medal count should not be the only criteria for determining the greatest ever Olympian. He is the most decorated athlete, but is he the greatest?

Phelps and Bolt are also on everyone's mind as they competed in the most recent Olympic games, however there are many greats that are not in our recent memory. The Olympic Games has showcased some great athletes over a long time period, from a large range of international sports. A close look at the facts and figures of all Olympians will throw up many other athletes that should also be considered for the title of the Greatest Olympian.

Greatest Criteria

The number of medals should not be the only criteria for the greatest Olympian. Here are some other factors which should be considered:

What Do You Think?

In the first poll on this site about the greatest Olympian, I narrowed it down to a list of nine athlete for you to vote as the greatest. Out of these athletes - Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis, Steve Redgrave, Paavo Nurmi, Mark Spitz, Larissa Latynina, Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe, Nadia Comaneci - it was Phelps the clear winner, with a significant lead over Steve Redgrave, Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis. This poll was run up until the 2016 Olympics. With Phelps adding to his record medal haul, and Bolt adding to his greatness with another sprint treble, it has come down to a race between these two athletes. The current Greatest Olympic Athlete Poll (started after Rio) gives you only a choice between these two athletes.

Greatest Olympian Lists

Though it is easy to place Phelps or Bolt as the greatest ever, they have not always ranked on top of other similar lists, particularly for lists created before 2016.

Greatest Olympic Athlete?

In a slightly different twist, a poll on ESPN Sport Science conducted in 2012 looked at the Greatest Olympic Athlete of All Time. The voting was based on the best athlete (not player) who has a combination of strength, speed, endurance, quickness, durability and the other attributes that make an athlete elite. The winner was Michael Phelps with 82% of the votes.

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