The Greatest Swimmer at the Olympic Games

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

The best all-time overall performance in swimming at the Olympic Games is by USA swimmer Michael Phelps. His haul of 23 gold medals between 2004–2016 is the most out of all sports. The highest ranked female swimmer is Jenny Thompson, also from the US, with 12 medals including 8 gold. 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 Swimming

Here are the top ranked athletes from the sport of swimming for performances at all Olympiads (including 2021), based on medals won 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). This list only includes swimmers who have won at least four gold medals.

Table: The Top Ranked Athletes from Swimming at the Olympic Games (including 2021)

rank name country gender Gold Silver Bronze total
medals
rating
1 Michael Phelps Germany M 23 3 2 28 146
2 Mark Spitz United States M 9 1 1 11 57
3 Jenny Thompson United States F 8 3 1 12 55
4 Matt Biondi United States M 8 2 1 11 53
5 Katie Ledecky United States F 7 3 0 10 48
6 Ryan Lochte United States M 6 3 3 12 45
7 Caeleb Dressel United States M 7 0 0 7 42
8 Gary Hall, Jr. United States M 5 3 2 10 38
  Emma McKeon Australia F 5 2 4 11 38
10 Ian Thorpe Australia M 5 3 1 9 37
11 Kristin Otto East Germany F 6 0 0 6 36
  Amy Van Dyken United States F 6 0 0 6 36
  Dara Torres United States F 4 4 4 12 36
14 Aaron Peirsol United States M 5 2 0 7 34
  Nathan Adrian United States M 5 1 2 8 34
  Alexander Popov Unified Team, Russia, USA M 4 5 0 9 34
17 Krisztina Egerszegi Hungary F 5 1 1 7 33
  Tom Jager United States M 5 1 1 7 33
  Dana Vollmer United States F 5 1 1 7 33
  Allison Schmitt United States F 4 3 3 10 33
21 Don Schollander United States M 5 1 0 6 32
  Kornelia Ender East Germany F 4 4 0 8 32
  Dawn Fraser Australia F 4 4 0 8 32
24 Missy Franklin United States F 5 0 1 6 31
25 Johnny Weissmuller United States M 5 0 0 5 30
  Inge de Bruijn Netherlands F 4 2 2 8 30
  Jason Lezak United States M 4 2 2 8 30
  Roland Matthes East Germany M 4 2 2 8 30
29 Cate Campbell Australia F 4 1 3 8 29
30 Matt Grevers United States M 4 2 0 6 28
  Charles Daniels United States M 4 1 2 7 28
  Kosuke Kitajima Japan M 4 1 2 7 28
  Libby Trickett Australia F 4 1 2 7 28
34 Murray Rose Australia M 4 1 1 6 27
  Ryan Murphy United States M 4 1 1 6 27
36 Janet Evans United States F 4 1 0 5 26
  Yana Klochkova Ukraine F 4 1 0 5 26
  John Naber United States M 4 1 0 5 26
39 Jon Olsen United States M 4 0 1 5 25
40 Tamás Darnyi Hungary M 4 0 0 4 24
  Lenny Krayzelburg United States M 4 0 0 4 24
  Vladimir Salnikov Soviet Union M 4 0 0 4 24

notes: initial data from wikipedia of multiple Olympic gold medalists (with at least 4 gold medals, including results from 2021). For the ranking order, we have used the Topend Sports Weighted Ranking System.

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Olympics Extra

The next Olympic Games are the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022, followed by the Summer version in Paris 2024. 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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