The Olympics are a time for the world to come together to celebrate incredible individual and team sporting achievements. There may be a few countries who dominate the medal tables every four years, but every country has its own heroes, whose stories and achievements are legendary, even if they might not be household names globally.
Ahead of the delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Rave has decided to celebrate every country’s top Olympians, assigning them points for each medal they’ve won. Predictably, US swimmer Michael Phelps has come out on top overall with his incredible 23 Gold medals, with the less well-known Larysa Latynina from the Soviet Union coming in second overall as the top female Olympian, having won 9 Golds, 5 Silvers and 4 Bronze medals.
The USA and Russia/Soviet Union dominate the top 10 Olympians, with only Finland’s long distance ‘Flying Finn’ Paavo Nurmi, Germany’s canoe champion Birgit Fischer and Japanese gymnast Sawao Kato joining them.
Along with Michael Phelps it’s no surprise to see Usain Bolt appear here as Jamaica’s top athlete as well as the runner-up in North America, not a position he’s been used to with his 8 Gold medals for sprinting. Other national heroes featured are the Canadian rowing pair of Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle, as well as Cuban fencer Ramon Segundo and Pauline Davis-Thompson from the Bahamas.
In some countries, the most successful Olympian turns out to have been a whole team full of them. In South American, the Paraguayan and Uruguayan soccer teams feature strongly, along with Argentinian player Javier Mascherano who is his country’s top Olympian. Soccer may be Brazil’s national sport, but its star performer and the top medal-earner from the region is sailing star Robert Scheidt.
Women feature prominently in Europe’s top Olympians, including Larysa Latynina and Birgit Fischer as well as Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, who are all in the continent’s top five. Team GB’s legendary cycling pair of Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny are their top medal-winners, while there’s a broad range of sports represented across Europe, from archery to judo to shooting and fencing.
Middle East & Central Asia
Some regions have been under-represented in the medal tables over the history of the Olympics but their heroes are getting their moment in the sun here, including Dilshod Nazaroz, whose hammer-throwing Gold medal makes him the top Olympian from Tajikistan while Abdul Wahid Aziz’s Bronze for weightlifting in 1960s makes him the only medal-winner from Iraq.
Rest of Asia & Oceania
There’s more successful teams here in the form of the Gold-medal winning Fijian Rugby Sevens team from 2016 or the Indian Field Hockey team who dominated the sport in the 1940s and 50s. Sawao Kato is the top Olympian from this region overall, closely followed by legendary Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe and Chinese diving star Wu Minxia, the most successful woman diver ever.
Long and middle-distance running medals dominate here, with the top Olympians from Mozambique, Burundi, Botswana, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Algeria, Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco all joining Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba. However, the most successful African Olympian is actually Kirsty Coventry, a swimmer from Zimbabwe who won 2 Golds, 4 Silvers and 1 Bronze medal.
Why not have a look into some more of the amazing achievements of Olympians from around the world while you wait for this year’s contests to begin?