The Most Dominant Olympians of All Time

This is part of the discussion on The Greatest Olympic Athlete of All Time. Acknowledging that determining the greatest Olympian ever requires too much subjectivity, Andrew Mooney at relied purely on selected stats of Olympians to determine who was the most dominant. Just because Michael Phelps has the record number of gold medals, once individual event medals and medal winning opportunities were factored in, he wasn't considered the most successful.

This list was determined using the following criteria:

  1. Credit for medals won in Individual events only (ignoring relays, doubles sports, and team events)
  2. More points for gold medals. Calculated by giving 4 points for a gold medal, 2 for a silver and 1 for a bronze, an exponential points system described in the New York Times in 2008 (though we prefer to use the 6-2-1 system, which gives a greater emphasis on gold medals).
  3. Less points for more medal chances. The medal score from above was divided by the number of different events in which the athlete participated.

Who are the most dominant Olympians of all time?

As in another list of The Greatest Olympian Ever, US athlete Ray Ewry, winner of standing long jump, triple jump and high jump events between 1900 and 1908 was determined to be the most dominant Olympic athlete. Here are the top 5.

  1. Ray Ewry — athletics, United States - 10 Golds from three individual events between 1900-1908.
  2. Gert Fredriksson canoeing, Sweden - 5 Golds, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze from two individual events between 1948-1960.
  3. Carl Lewis, athletics, United States - 7 Golds, 1 Silver from three individual events between 1984-1996.
  4. Michael Phelps, swimming, United States - 11 Golds, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze from five individual events between 2000-2012.
  5. Greg Louganis, diving, United States - 4 Golds, 1 Silver from two individual events between 1976-1988.



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