The Greatest Track and Field Athlete of the Olympic Games

Who is the greatest Track and Field athlete of all time based on Olympic Games performances? We have used a weighted total medal count of each male and female Track and Field athlete from all modern Olympic Games to rank their overall performance, using data from all Olympics including the Tokyo 2020 Games.



The best all-time performing Track and Field athlete at the Olympic Games is Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi who competed between 1920 and 1928, and won 12 medals including 9 gold medals. He was only slightly ahead of US sprinter Carl Lewis who also won 9 gold medals. Jamaican Usain Bolt also won 9 golds, but a relay gold was taken off him later when a team-mate was found guilty of doping. The best performing female athlete is US sprinter Allyson Felix, who added another gold to her tally in 2021 to move up to third on this list. See the table below to see how other athletes ranked.

See also the best athlete from each sport, and the best overall.

Top Olympic Athletes From Track & Field

Here are the top ranked athletes from the sport of Track and Field for performances at all Olympiads, using the Topend Sports Weighted Ranking System to order the athletes, awarding points for both gold (6 points) and other medals (silver 2 pts, bronze 1 pt). All athletes who have won at least four gold medals have been included in this list.

Table: The Top Ranked Athletes from Track and Field at the Olympic Games

rank name country gender Gold Silver Bronze total
medals
rating
1 Paavo Nurmi Finland M 9 3 0 12 60
2 Carl Lewis United States M 9 1 0 10 56
3 Allyson Felix United States F 7 3 1 11 49
=4 Usain Bolt Jamaica M 8 0 0 8 48
=4 Ray Ewry United States M 8 0 0 8 48
6 Ville Ritola Finland M 5 3 0 8 36
7 Elaine Thompson-Herah Jamaica F 5 1 0 6 32
=8 Evelyn Ashford United States F 4 1 0 5 26
=8 Hannes Kolehmainen Finland M 4 1 0 5 26
=8 Mel Sheppard United States M 4 1 0 5 26
=8 Emil Zátopek Czechoslovakia M 4 1 0 5 26
12 Sanya Richards-Ross United States F 4 0 1 5 25
=13 Fanny Blankers-Koen Netherlands F 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Betty Cuthbert Australia F 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Harrison Dillard United States M 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Mohamed Farah Great Britain M 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Michael Johnson United States M 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Robert Korzeniowski Poland M 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Alvin Kraenzlein United States M 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Al Oerter United States M 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Jesse Owens United States M 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Lasse Virén Finland M 4 0 0 4 24
=13 Bärbel Wöckel East Germany F 4 0 0 4 24

notes: the initial data was collated from Wikipedia of multiple Olympic gold medalists (with at least 4 gold medals, including Tokyo 2020). For the ranking order, we have used the Topend Sports Weighted Ranking System.



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