Participants at the Olympic Games have provided some of the greatest world sporting highlights for over 100 years. Here is just a selection of the greatest, popular and influential. See also our discussion of the greatest Olympian of all time.
- Royalty — there have been many royal participants throughout the history of the Olympic Games.
- Disabled Participants — even before there the Paralympic Games there have been athletes with disabilities joining the able bodies athletes at the Olympic Games.
- Olympic Cheats — there are many ways athletes have found to cheat throughout the history of the Olympic Games.
- Transgender Olympic Participants
- Oldest and Youngest Olympians
- Oldest Surviving Olympians
Significant Athletes and Performances
- Hélène de Pourtalès — the first female Olympic medalist
- Bob Beamon — his 1968 long jump is regarded as the most exceptional single performance in the history of athletics
- Eric the Eel — at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the slowest swimmer Eric Moussambani made quite a splash.
- Dimitrios Loundras — the youngest ever Olympian.
- Carl Schuhman — the most versatile athlete in the Olympics
- Frank Kugler — the only competitor to win a medal in three different sports at the same Games.
Some of the Greatest
- Usain Bolt — the world's fastest man
- Michael Phelps — winner of the most Olympic medals.
- Jesse Owens — ground breaking sprinter who competed at the Olympics just once, in 1936. He won 4 gold medals.
- Carl Lewis — US track and field star from the '80s and '90s. He won 10 Olympic medals for the U.S., nine of them gold, in the 100 meters, 200 meters and long jump in the '80s and '90s. The International Olympic Committee named him "Sportsman of the Century," and Sports Illustrated called him "Olympian of the Century."
- Steve Redgrave — five straight golds in rowing: 1984, 88, 92, 96 & 2000.
- Mark Spitz — 9 gold medals in swimming, as well as a silver and a bronze. He set world records in every event he competed in Munich, then retired from swimming at age 22.
- Larissa Latynina — Soviet gymnast from the 1950s and '60s. She won 18 medals, 14 of these in individual competition.
- Paavo Nurmi — won a total of 12 medals (nine gold and three silver medals) in twelve events he participated in the Olympiad
- Jim Thorpe (athletics) — all rounder in track and field.
- Paavo Nurmi — Finnish middle-distance runner from the 1920s, winner of 12 medals in track and field (9 of them gold).
- Nadia Comaneci — gymnast mostly known for achieving perfect 10s. She won nine Olympic medals in her two Games in 1976 and 1980.
- Birgit Fischer — won 12 Olympic canoeing medals between 1980 and 2004. She is both the youngest (18) and oldest (42) Olympic canoeing champion.
- Emil Zatopek — a Czech long distance runner. He won the 5000m, 10,000m and marathon in 1952, including breaking the Olympic record in all three events despite it being his first-ever marathon.
- Edoardo Mangiarotti — an Italian Olympic fencing champion who piled up a medal haul of six gold, five silver and two bronze from 1936 to 1956.
- Ray Ewry (athletics) — won eight gold medals in individual competitions
- Marion Jones (athletics)
- Ian Thorpe (swimming)
- Aladar Gerevich — hailed as the greatest swordsman in the Olympics of all-time
- Mark Spitz (swimming)
- Sawao Kato — gymnast who took home 12 Olympic medals (8 of them gold) from 1968 to 1976
- Reiner Klimke — an equestrian who won eight medals (six gold and two bronze) at the Olympics
- Gert Fredriksson — the most successful athlete of all-time in Olympic canoeing
- Top Olympic Medal Winners — two lists, ranking athletes by the most number of medals, and also by total gold medals won. Michael Phelps leads both lists.
- Oldest and Youngest Olympians
- More Athlete Profiles
- Discussion about who is the greatest Olympian of all time
- Poll: Who is the Greatest Olympian (Summer) of All Time?
- List of athletes who have competed in both the Paralympics and Olympic Games
- A short History of the Olympic Games