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How Many Olympic Medals Are Available To Be Won? (2016)

Many people believe that Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever based on the record number of medals he was won. However, a criticism of this is that there are many more swimming medals available to be won compared to most other sports, therefore it is easier for him to win multiple medals at each Olympic Games.

Total Number of Medals

At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games there were 28 sports with 41 disciplines, and a total of 306 events. Therefore you would expect that there were 306 medal sets (gold/silver/bronze) to be awarded, a total of 918 medals. However, it is not as simple as that. In boxing (13 disciplines), judo (14), taekwondo (8), and wrestling (18), two bronze medals are awarded in each event, resulting in 53 additional bronze medals. Then there are the occasional event ties, were two of one medal may be awarded, such as in the 2016 men's 100 meter butterfly swimming event were 3 silver medals and no bronze medal were awarded for a second-place tie. Consequently, in 2016, there were 307 gold medals, 306 silver medals, and 358 bronze medals, making it 971 medals in total awarded.

Number of Medals Per Sport

The number and range of sports on the Olympic program has varied over time, and therefore the number of medals that could be won is different for each Olympiad. Here is the breakdown of the available gold medals per sport from the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Clearly the opportunity to win multiple medals is greater for athletics and swimming, and in swimming it is more likely for athletes to compete in more than one event.

Number of Gold Medals in 2016

47 Athletics
34 Swimming
15 Shooting and Weightlifting
14 Artistic Gymnastics, Judo, Rowing
13 Boxing
12 Freestyle Wrestling and Canoeing Sprint
10 Cycling Track, Sailing, Fencing
8 Diving, Taekwondo
6 Equestrian, Greco-Roman Wrestling
5 Badminton and Tennis
4 Archery, Canoeing Slalom, Cycling Road, Table tennis
2 Synchronized swimming, Water polo, Basketball, Cycling BMX, Cycling Mountain biking, Field hockey, Football, Golf, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampoline, Handball, Modern pentathlon, Rugby Sevens, Triathlon, Volleyball Indoor, Beach Volleyball.

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Olympics Extra

The next Olympics will be in Paris 2024, followed by the Winter edition in Milan-Cortina 2026. Check out the list of Olympic Games sports, as well as discontinued and demonstration sports.

Major Events Extra

The largest sporting event in the world is the Olympic Games, but there are many other multi-sport games. In terms of single sport events, nothing beats the FIFA World Cup. To see what's coming up, check out the calendar of major sporting events.

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