The Most Successful Olympian From Every Country

With the Tokyo 2021 Olympics set to commence in late July, RAVE Reviews wants to honor the most prolific medal-getters from every country.

RAVE Reviews ranked Athletes based on the Olympic medals they won using an exponential points system (gold = four points, silver = two points, bronze = one point).

Olympic athletes and their medals won for representing countries that no longer exist (e.g., Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, East, and West Germany) were counted as representing the historical successor countries, i.e., Russia, Czech Republic, Serbia, and Germany. The medal count for any given individual Olympic athlete only includes medals they won while representing the same country.

The maps below reveal the best Olympic athlete in almost every country around the world.

The most successful Olympians from every country
World map of the most successful olympians
The most successful female Olympians from every country
World Map of the Most Successful Female Olympians
North America
Map of the most successful Olympians from North America
South America
Map of the most successful Olympians from South America
Europe
Map of the most successful Olympians from Europe
Middle East and Central Asia
Map of the most successful Olympians from the Middle East and Central Asia
Asia and Oceania
Map of the most successful Olympians from Asia and Oceania
Africa
Map of the most successful Olympians from Africa
Top athletes

Of the top 15 athletes, six are gymnasts, and five are swimmers, owing partly to a great many disciplines and events within each sport.

Six of the top 15 athletes are American, while five represent Russia or the Soviet Union.

Only four of the top 15 most successful athletes in modern Olympic history are women: the Soviet gymnast Larys Latynina, German kayaker Birgit Fischer, American swimmer Jenny Thompson, and the Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska

AthleteGenderCountrySportGoldSilverBronzeTotalPoints
Michael PhelpsMUnited StatesSwimming233228100
Larisa LatyninaFRussiaGymnastics9541850
Paavo NurmiMFinlandAthletics -Long Distance9301242
Nikolai AndrianovMRussiaGymnastics7531541
Birgit FischerFGermanyCanoeing8401240
Mark SpitzMUnited StatesSwimming9111139
Sawao KatoMJapanGymnastics8311239
Jenny ThompsonFUnited StatesSwimming8311239
Carl LewisMUnited StatesAthletics -Sprints9101038
Boris ShakhlinMRussiaGymnastics7421338
Matt BiondiMUnited StatesSwimming8211137
Vera CaslavskaFCzech RepublicGymnastics7401136
Edoardo MangiarottiMItalyFencing6521336
Viktor ChukarinMRussiaGymnastics7311135
Ryan LochteMUnited StatesSwimming6331233

In 41 countries, top athletes compete in various disciplines within Athletics, most notably Long-distance (11 countries) and Sprints (8 countries).

Outside Athletics, swimming is the sport of the top athletes in 10 countries, most notably the United States, Australia, Ireland, and Ukraine. Wrestlers are top athletes in a further 10 countries, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Weightlifting, Shooting, and Boxing are sports of choice for athletes in eight countries each.

In addition to identifying the most decorated Olympians, RAVE Reviews also determined which sport is the biggest medal-earning sport for every country in the world.

The most dominant Olympic sport in every country

To determine each country’s most dominant sport, the same principle was applied. Athletics was subdivided into Sprints, Middle-distance, Long-distance, Hurdles, Relays, Jumps, Throws, and Combined Events. In the event of a tie on points, an athlete or sport with more total medals was deemed the most successful in that country.

Map of the most dominant Olympic sports in every country

Key Findings

  • 135 countries have won at least one Olympic medal, but 38 of those have never won gold.
  • The most successful athlete is male in 104 countries out of 135 (77%), and female in 27 (20%) (the rest are tied).
  • The most successful male national athlete is US swimmer Michael Phelps with 100 points from 28 medals (23 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze).
  • The most successful female national athlete is Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina with 50 points from 18 medals (9 gold, 5 silver, 4 bronze). Also held the record for individual event medals with 14 for 52 years.
  • Finnish athlete Paavo Nurmi set 22 world records at distances between 1500 and 20 kilometers. Went undefeated for 121 races and remained unbeaten in cross-country events and the 10,000 meters.
  • Russian gymnast Nikolai Andrianov won the most medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics with 6 individual medals and one team medal. Also holds the men’s record for most individual Olympic medals (12) and shares the male record for most individual Olympic gold medals in gymnastics (6)
  • German athlete Birgit Ficher Won eight gold medals over six different Olympic Games, a record she shares with Aladar Gerevich. Has been both the youngest- and oldest-ever Olympic canoeing champion (ages 18 and 42).

Could looking at this historical data help us guess who will be walking home with medals this year?


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