The Summer Olympics are one of the greatest sporting events that takes place every 4 years. From it’s humble beginnings back in 1896 with a mere 241 athletes competing, to it’s now Goliath competitor numbers of 10,000 plus, there have been some amazing moments.
Some of these moments have not all been on the field or in the pool. With events like: the Great Depression reducing numbers to an all time low, or the 1972 Munich Massacre where Palestinian terrorists used the Olympics popularity to make a truly shocking statement.
But we are not here to focus on the darker moments of the Olympic Games, we are here to bring you the top 10 greatest athletes from the past hundred or so years. This list has not only come down to share number of medals, it’s also based on athletes that have polarized nations and shown immense adversity in the face of great obstacles.
Jesse Owen – 4 Golds in Berlin 1936. Set a long jump record which lasted a record 25 years but more importantly polarized the world and disgraced Hitler’s woeful theories of Aryan race superiority at the Berlin games.
Michael Phelps – USA:14 Gold and 2 bronze in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. There are no words to describe how one athlete can dominate the swimming world across two Olympic games .
Larisa Latynina – Ukraine (Soviet): 9 Gold, 5 Silver and 4 Bronze in Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960, and Tokyo 1964. Larisa is the holder of the most Olympic medals, standing at a total of 18.
Mark Spitz – USA: 9 Gold a Silver and Bronze in Mexico City 1968 and Munich 1972. One of the greatest athletes of all time and one of the first to to only embrace his celebrity as a pin up.
Carl Lewis – USA:9 Gold and 1 Silver in Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996. A great all round track and field star who brought Athletics to the fore front of the Olympics with his numerous rivalries.
Usain Bolt – Jamaica: 3 Gold in Beijing 2008. Touted as having the perfect running form with still more records to give. Usain has managed to excite and reignite the 100m and 200m running world like never before.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee – USA: 3 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze in Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996. One of the greatest track and field athletes whose skill and long jeopardy at top level was second to none.
Jenny Thompson – USA: 8 Gold, 3 Silver and 1 Bronze in Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. The greatest female swimmer of all time with 12 medals, spanning 4 Olympic games.
Bob Beamon – USA: 1 Gold in Mexico City. Bob get’s into this list due to the share brilliance in which he won his gold by smashing the long jump record by 0.6 m with his ‘perfect jump’ of 8.90 m (29 ft. 2½ in.). A record which stood for 23 years.
Paavo Nurmi – Finland: 9 Gold and 3 Silver in Antwerp 1920, Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928. One of the flying Finns, Paavo dominated middle distant running. He even won a gold medal in the 1500 m, then followed up 26mins later with a second gold in the 5000 m.