Michael Phelps, aquatics (USA, 2004-2016): America’s Michael Phelps, arguably the most dominant athlete in Olympics history, smashed records with an undisputed 23 gold medals from four Olympic Games. Phelps’ record-spree began in the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he won six gold medals. He went on to add a record eight in 2008 (Beijing) and four in 2012 (London) before bidding farewell to the sport at the Rio Olympics in 2016 while winning five more golds.
Carl Lewis, athletics (USA, 1984-1996): American sprint sensation Carl Lewis dominated three of the Olympic track and field events - the 100m sprint, 200m sprint and the long jump - over a 17-year career. In four Olympic Games, Lewis won nine Olympic golds - the joint-most in athletics. Lewis finished his first Games (1984, Los Angeles) with four golds (100m, 200m, 4*100m relay, long jump) and added two each (100m, long jump) in 1988 (Seoul) and the 1992 Barcelona Games (long jump, 4*100m relay). In his final Olympic appearance at the 1996 Atlanta Games, Lewis added a record fourth consecutive long jump gold to raise his final gold tally to nine.
Paavo Nurmi, athletics (FIN, 1920-1928): Finland’s Paavo Nurmi dominated the early years of Olympics athletics with nine gold medals across three appearances. The middle and long-distance champion won three golds (10,000m, individual cross country, team cross country) in his first Games at Antwerp in 1920. "The Flying Finn" added five golds in his next appearance at the 1924 Paris Games, winning in the 1500m, 5000m, individual cross country, team cross country and 3000m team events. Nurmi’s final Games - the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics - saw him add another gold in the 10,000m to raise his tally to nine gold medals, well ahead of his peers.
Mark Spitz, aquatics (USA, 1968-1972): American swimming stalwart Mark Spitz dominated the Olympics pool with a sensational nine gold medals in just two appearances. Mark, the “Pool Shark”, made his Olympics debut in the 1968 Mexico Games at the age of 18 and won two golds in the 4*100m and 4*200m relay events. A record-breaking 1972 Munich Olympics saw Spitz rack up seven gold medals - a record that stood until his countryman Michael Phelps surpassed it with eight golds in 2008.
Usain Bolt, athletics (JAM, 2004-2016): Jamaica’s sprint legend Usain Bolt - the fastest man ever on the planet - lit up the Olympic stage with eight medals across four appearances. After failing to impress in the 2004 Athens Games, Bolt returned to the spotlight in Beijing four years later to snatch the gold in 100m and 200m with world record times. Bolt retained the medals in London (2012) while adding a third with a 4*100m relay gold. Bolt ended his prolific Olympics career on a high in Rio in 2016, emulating his 2012 medal tally with three golds (100m, 200m, 4*100m relay). He also became the only athlete to win the 100, 200m sprint double in three consecutive Games.
Other men to win eight gold medals: Mathews Biondi (USA, aquatics, 1984-1992); Ray Ewry (USA, athletics, 1900-1908), Sawao Kato (in picture) (JPN, gymnastics, 1968-1976)
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