After a year-long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics will finally get underway from July 23. The Olympics has always been the pinnacle of sporting excellence, where some athletes attain immortal fame while a few are kept from greatness only by tantalising milliseconds and inches.
Sportstar takes a look at the top 10 male athletes who have won the most number of medals in the Olympics over its 31 editions since 1896.
28 medals - PHELPS, Michael (USA), aquatics, 2004-2016
Michael Phelps - one of the most decorated Olympians of all time - won 28 medals in a 16-year swimming career. He won a record 23 Olympic gold medals, competing at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. Phelps won a record 8 gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, overtaking Mark Spitz's single edition gold medal haul of 7. He retired after the London Olympics in 2012 but reversed his decision in 2014. He eventually bowed out after the 2016 Games.
15 - ANDRIANOV, Nikolay (URS), gymnastics, 1972-1980
Nikolai Andrianov held the men’s record for the most Olympic medals at 15 until Michael Phelps went past him at Beijing in 2008. Andrianov became the youngest Olympic champion in the floor exercise event at Munich in 1972. At the Montreal Olympics in 1976, he won seven medals (four golds, two silvers, one bronze). Four years later, he won five more medals at the Moscow Games.
13 - SHAKHLIN, Boris (URS), gymnastics, 1956-64
Boris Shakhlin won 13 medals from three Olympics. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, he won seven medals to be crowned the best athlete at the Games. He took four gold — all of them in individual events — as well as two silver and a bronze. Shakhlin held the record for being the male athlete with the highest number of medals till fellow-Soviet gymnast Nikolai Andrianov overtook him in Moscow in 1980. Shakhlin’s last Olympics was in Tokyo, where he clinched four medals.
13 - MANGIAROTTI, Edoardo (ITA), fencing, 36-60
Edoardo Mangiarotti's 13 medals were spread over five Olympics, on either side of WWII. When the world’s biggest sports show resumed at London in 1948 after the war, Mangiarotti picked up three medals. Four years later in Helsinki, he won four. He retired after winning the Epee Team gold and Foil Team silver at Rome. The name Mangiarotti returned to Olympic fencing in 1976 through his daughter Carola.
13 - ONO, Takashi (JPN), gymnastics, 1952-64
The 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki was Takashi Ono's first Olympic competition. He got a combined score of 19.1, coming joint third with his compatriot Tadao Uesako. Ono won five medals, including the horizontal bar gold at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He did even better four years later in Rome, winning six medals. Three of them were golds (horizontal bar, vault and team). That was the first of Japan’s five successive team golds at the Olympics.
12 - KATO, Sawao (JPN), gymnastics, 1968-76
Sawao Kato won 12 medals (8 golds, 3 silver and 1 bronze) in the Olympics. Kato was one of the athletes to have won eight or more Olympic gold medals. He was one of the most successful male gymnasts ever at the Olympics. In 2001, Kato was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
12 - NURMI, Paavo (FIN), athletics, 1920-1928
Paavo Nurmi won 12 medals (9 golds and 3 silver) in the Olympics. He was nicknamed the "Flying Finn" as he dominated distance running. Nurmi set 22 official world records at distances between 1500 metres and 20 kilometres. At his peak, Nurmi was undefeated at distances from 800 m upwards for 121 races. Throughout his 14-year career, he remained unbeaten in cross country events and the 10,000 m.
12 - NEMOV, Alexei (RUS), gymnastics, 1996-2000
Alexei Nemov won 12 Olympic medals in gymnastics, the most by any gymnast since the break-up of the Soviet juggernaut gymnastic teams of the 1960s and 1970s. He starred at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, clinching two gold, one silver, and three bronze medals both times. He has won three individual Olympic gold medals – 1996 horse vault, and 2000 all-around and horizontal bar.
12 - LOCHTE, Ryan (USA), aquatics, 2004-2016
Ryan Lochte is already one of the greats of the sport. His 12 medals, including six gold, make him the second-most decorated swimmer in Olympic history behind only Michael Phelps. Lochte had been banned from the sport for 10 months in September 2016 after falsely claiming he was robbed at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics. Lochte came up 2.7 seconds short in the 200-meter individual medley, his signature event, and failed to qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2021.
11 - OSBURN, Carl Townsend, shooting, 1912-1924
Carl Osburn competed in three Olympics (1912-24) to win five gold, four silver and two bronze medals, for 11 in all. Besides the Olympics, he also competed for the United States at the World Championships in 1921-24, bagging eight titles. In 1994 he was inducted into the US Shooting Hall of Fame.
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