The Olympics are considered the most prestigious sporting event across the globe. Athletes from all over the globe come together to compete in this event and leave their mark in the history books. The sporting event, whose modern edition was held for the first time in 1896 in Athens, is considered the foremost sporting event in the world.
Over the decades, several athletes have participated in this event however, some have created history in this. So, let us take a look at some of the most decorated and greatest Olympians ever.
10. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Starting the list of the most decorated Olympians ever, we have Jackie Joyner Kersee at Number 10. Widely considered the greatest female athlete, she established herself as a dominant force in heptathlon when she managed to secure gold medals back-to-back in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. She was also equally adept in the long jump in which she won the gold medal in 1988.
9. Florence Griffith-Joyner
At number nine is Florence Griffith Joyner and nicknamed ‘Flo Jo’. She is considered one of the most decorated Olympians ever. She managed to secure gold in the 100m and 200m in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. However, her promising career was tarnished by unsubstantiated drug allegations. It is widely believed that it is because of these allegations that she suddenly passed away in her sleep in 1998 at the age of 38.
8. Paavo Nurmi
Featuring at number eight is Paavo Nurmi. He, to this date, remains a dominant middle and long-distance runner in the history of the Olympics, wherein he managed to secure nine golds and twelve medals in total between 1920 and 1928. His status as a national hero and his feats in the 1924 Games are still talked about where he won both 1500m and 5000m golds.
7. Mark Spitz
At number seven is Mark Andrew Spitz, a nine-time Olympic champion. A former American competitive swimmer had set high benchmarks in the history of the games. Not being able to make any significant mark in 1968, Spitz returned in 1972 with the intent to dominate.
In the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, he bagged seven gold medals- a feat that would stand for 16 years and set seven world records. He announced his abrupt retirement at the age of 22 after the Munich Olympics.
6. Usain Bolt
This man needs no introduction. The fastest man on the planet has created numerous feats in Olympic history. At a time when the sports and games were mired and tarnished with drug controversies, Bolt emerged as a savior.
He made the sprinting events his own. Nicknamed ‘the Lighting Bolt’, he dominated in the 100m and 200m events. His notable success came in Beijing, where he clocked 9.69 seconds. The flamboyant Jamaican finally hung up his boots after securing eight gold medals to his name.
5. Carl Lewis
Before Bolt, there was Carl Lewis. Bolt made his name in the field of sprinting; the equally marvelous Carl Lewis dominated the track and field. He defended his Olympic 100m title in 1984 and 1988 and also claimed four consecutive golds in the long jump events.
However, like many other athletes of that time, towards the later stage, he also had to defend himself against the allegations of the use of banned stimulants.
4. Michael Phelps
Statistics-wise, there is no shadow of a doubt that Michael Phelps is the greatest and one of the most decorated Olympians of all time. He has to his name 28 medals, including 13 individual gold medals.
The eight gold medals he secured in swimming in 2008 finally broke the record of seven medals that was previously held by another fellow American swimmer, Mark Spitz. Phelps also managed to win five gold medals in the Rio Olympics.
3. Major Dhyan Chand
Major Dhyan Chand is regarded as one of the greatest hockey players that the world has ever witnessed. He served as the captain of the Indian hockey team at the Olympics and won a gold medal in three consecutive Olympics (1928, 1932, and 1936).
He was well known for his excellent ball control and goal-scoring feats. In India, his birthday is celebrated as National Sports Day. The highest sporting honor in India i.e. Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award is named after him.
2. Nadia Comaneci
Coming in at number two is one of the most gifted and talented Olympians and athletes ever. While others have won more and reigned far longer, few have attained perfection and left a mark like Nadia. This 14-year-old Romanian was so good that she broke the board; managing to score a perfect 10, becoming the first and only gymnast to ever do so in Montreal in 1976. Throughout her career, Nadia would go on to win five gold medals.
1. Jesse Owens
And topping the list of the greatest Olympians ever is none other than Jesse Owens. Just like Nadia, he may not boast of a lot of medals or such, but his contributions carry far more significance than that.
The African American’s four gold medals – including two world records – in front of Hitler in 1936 are feats that cannot be superseded in any capacity. He stood against racism and persecution in the manner he was best versed in; and for that, he deserves the title of the greatest Olympian ever.