With the Rio Olympics fast approaching, there are two big topics that everyone wants to discuss. Firstly, what new stars will emerge at this year’s Olympics and, secondly, who are the greatest Olympians of all time.
When it comes to the latter the list is rather extensive so we’ve put together a list of five of the greatest American Olympians both past and present. Let us know in the comments who you would have added to the list.
5. Greg Louganis
Arguably the greatest diver of all time, Louganis even held the record for the highest platform score at 710.91 points. Although the Californian diver only won four gold medals and one silver during his career, it is thought that he would have won more if it were not for the American boycott in 1980.
Louganis is regarded as one of the all-time greats not only for his record scores but also for his sheer bravery. Especially when considering that Louganis, in 1988, received a concussion after hitting his head on a springboard but still competed on to win gold.
4. Al Oerter
Al Oerter is one of only three men who managed to win a gold medal in the same event at four consecutive Olympic Games – this is an American athlete who never lost.
Indeed, at his first Olympic games, when he was completely unknown, Oerter won the discus throw by an astonishing five feet.
Like Louganis, Oeter was another athlete who played through the pain – in the 1964 Olympics he competed despite suffering from torn cartilage in his ribs and still managed to beat his personal best.
3. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jackie Joyner-Kersee was an incredible all-around athlete. She not only competed in the heptathlon at the Olympics but was also one of the best basketball players to play for UCLA.
The track star competed over nearly two decades winning medals in the heptathlon, hurdles, the long jump and the 200 meters – an incredibly impressive accomplishment. In fact, she was named the greatest female athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated.
2. Carl Lewis
Carl Lewis is a man so talented and athletic that he was chosen to be drafted by both the NFL and NBA in the same year (1984), yet he turned down both opportunities for athletics.
Lewis was talented in many fields, but none more than the long jump where he won gold in every Olympic Games from 1984 until 1996. Lewis also competed in the 100m and 200m and with eight gold medals and one silver, he is the greatest American track athlete ever.
1. Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is perhaps one of the most famous Olympians ever, and it’s little wonder why. The swimmer has an astonishing 22 gold medals from his career. He’s broken records over various Olympic Games and he won three consecutive golds in both the butterfly and the 200m individual medley – the only swimmer to have ever achieved such an amazing record.
It will be a long time before another Olympian will ever reach the superstardom that Phelps managed to achieve in his short career and for that he gets the top spot as the greatest American Summer Olympian!