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Coral’s 10 greatest athletes in Olympics history

Robbie Purves | July 27, 2016

The Olympics have produced some of the most stunning and awe-inspiring moments in sporting history. It is impossible to rank the greatest Olympians of all-time, so Coral sport writers have compiled a comprehensive list of some of the top sportspeople to have competed at the Olympic level in no particular order…

Jesse Owens (USA): Track and field athlete

Owens Medal Auction

Owens’ performance in 1936 was one of the most iconic and singularly brilliant moments at the Olympics. He won four events and set two world records in the most heated environment imaginable, with Nazism hanging over the games held in Berlin.

He won the 100m, 200m, the long jump and was part of the winning 4×100m relay team. Owens not only overcame the racism of his own country, the US, but battled the rising hatred in Germany – with Adolf Hitler in the stands. Owens is arguably the greatest Olympian of all-time.

Nadia Comaneci (Romania): Gymnastics

OLYMPICS COMANECI
Comaneci shot to fame in 1976 at the Montreal Olympics, claiming wins. The 14-year-old became the first gymnast in history to record a perfect score of 10 in Olympic competition.

The Romanian registered the perfect score on the uneven bars and went on to compete four years later in Moscow, collecting two more first places.

Michael Phelps (USA): Swimming

US Swim Trials Swimming

Phelps is by far the most decorated Olympian ever. With 22 first three places to his name and 18 of first, the American swimmer is the most dominant to ever take a dip in the pool.

He won eight events in Bejing 2008, the most of any Olympian in a single competition.

Larisa Latynina (Soviet Union): Gymnastics

London Olympics

Gymnast Latynina, is still the record holder for the most individual events won at the Olympics with 14. She triumphed in the individual all-around twice, in 1956 and 1960, and finished runner up in 1964. She placed three times in vault, three times in the floor exercise, and the same number on the uneven bars and two on the balance beam.

In context, Phelps won 11 individual events compared to Latynina’s 14 strong hoard.

Sir Chris Hoy (Britain): Cycling

London Olympic Games - Day 12

The track cyclist claimed six first places over three Olympics, and was recently voted the greatest British Olympian of all-time.

Hoy sits firmly top of Britain’s Olympics success leaderboard and was a phenomenon on the track. He was also the first British athlete to win three events in a single Olympics since Henry Taylor in 1908.

Usain Bolt (Jamaica): Sprinting

2016 Rio Olympics Package

Bolt is the fastest human being on the planet and smashed the 100m record in 2008. The feat was made even more impressive by the fact he slowed down with many metres left, registering a time of 9.69s. He beat the record again a year later at 9.58s.

The Jamaican is the winner of six events and swept the 100m, 200m and 4×100m relays at each of the last two Olympics, and could easily do it again in Brazil.

Mark Spitz (USA): Swimming

Beijing Olympics Swimming Mens 100M Butterfly

His historic performance in 1972 saw Spitz win seven events at the same Olympics. In triumphing in the seven, he broke as many world records.

Spitz’s recorded was only eclipsed by Phelps 36 years later.

Michael Johnson (USA): Sprinting

Chicago 2016 Olympics

Johnson’s first Olympics victory came in Barcelona 1992, winning the 4x100m relay. He continued his considerable success into the two subsequent Olympics, by crossing the line first in the 200m and 400m in Atlanta and 400m in Sydney.

He remains the only man to sweep the 200m and 400m in one Games.

Alexei Nemov (Russia): Gymnastics

Atlanta Olympic Games ... Men's Gymnastics - Rings

Nemov was a real force for Russia. The gymnast came out on top twice in 1996, and finished second and third in other disciplines.

He followed his performance up with a strong showing in Sydney, claiming six more podium finishes, including two wins. This took his tally up to 12 top three finishes and wrote him into sporting history.

Sir Steve Redgrave (Britain): Rowing

Sydney Olympics Redgrave medal

Redgrave’s sensational effort at five Olympics is unmatched by any other endurance athlete.

He won five consecutive events in men’s rowing between 1984 and 2000.

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For more on the athletics, check out our dedicated page.