There is plenty of evidence that multiple gold medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympic Games athlete of all time, from all sports. However, because sports such as swimming, gymnastics and athletics have many events and therefore many medals available to win, athletes from these sports have an advantage when counting total medals won. This is particularly true if you compare athletes from those sports to team sports such as football, handball and hockey where there is only one of each medal available at each Olympiad.
Not taking anything away from the very successful athletes such as Phelps, Nurmi and Latynina, there is an unfair advantage to athletes from the sports which have many more medals available. The very talented and maybe just as great athletes from other sports may be missing out of just accolades. Therefore we have compared only athletes from within each sport, to get a list of the greatest Olympian of all time from each sport.
We have ranked the athletes from each sport including results from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. To determine the top ranked athlete from each sport, we have used the Topend Sports Weighted Ranking System to order the athletes, as this appears to give fair credit for winning both gold medals and the minor placings.
Top Olympic Athlete From Each Sport
Here are the top ranked athletes from each Olympic sport (including results from 2021). Both current and past sports are listed, though of the past sports only included are those that have been present for at least three Olympiads. Golf is not yet listed as there are no multiple medalists.
Table: The Top Ranked Athletes from Each Olympic Sport (current sports)
|Archery||Hubert Van Innis||Belgium||6||3||0||9|
|Cycling||Jason Kenny||Great Britain||7||2||0||9|
|Field Hockey||Leslie Claudius &
|Lidewij Welten & Eva de Goede||The Netherlands||3||1||0||4|
|Handball||Michaël Guigou, Nikola Karabatic and Luc Abalo||France||3||1||0||4|
|Modern Pentathlon||András Balczó||Hungary||3||2||0||5|
|Sailing||Ben Ainslie||Great Britain||4||1||0||5|
|Synchronized Swimming||Svetlana Romashina||Russia||7||0||0||7|
|Table Tennis||Ma Long||China||5||0||0||5|
|Hwang Kyung-Seon||South Korea||2||0||1||3|
|Triathlon||Alistair Brownlee||Great Britain||2||0||0||2|
|Volleyball (beach)||Kerri Walsh||USA||3||0||1||4|
|Volleyball (indoor)||Ana Fernández + 5 others||Cuba||3||0||0||3|
|Water polo||Dezső Gyarmati||Hungary||3||1||1||5|
|Weight lifting||Pyrros Dimas||Greece||3||0||1||4|
Table: The Top Ranked Athletes from Each Olympic Sport (past sports)
Only past sports included are those that have been present for at least three Olympiads.
|Baseball||Pedro Luis Lazo||Cuba||2||2||0||4|
|Tug of War||Frederick Humphreys, Edwin Mills &
- The ranking systems compared, and the comparison of the top countries in 2008
- About Olympic Medal Ranking Systems
- medal tables from all Olympic Games
- About Olympic Medals
- Looking forward to the updates to this table. Some new names after London 2012: Cycling Chris Hoy: 5G, 1S (+ 1 event to go) or Bradley Wiggins: 4G 1S 2B, sailing: Ben Ainslie: 4G, 1S. All 3 are from Great Britain, BTW (from kieran, Aug 2012) - UPDATED!
- Tug of war in the Olympics? What? I don't even think tug of war is a sport let alone an OLYMPIC SPORT! What?