Happy Olympic Day: Check Out The 20 Most-Decorated Olympic Swimmers Ever

June 23 marks Olympic Day, a holiday dedicated to the Olympic movement and its three pillars: move, learn and discover. To celebrate, we’re giving swim fans a chance to move (their mouse to scroll lower down this page), learn (about the most-decorated Olympic swimmers of all-time) and discover (some swimming legends they may not have previously known).

Of course, it’s no secret who’s atop this list. And the difference between #1 and #2 (a margin of 16 total medals and 14 golds) highlights just how historic Michael Phelps‘ achievements in the sport have been.

It’s also interesting to note that Team USA has the top 8 swimmers on this list. The only swimmer from outside the USA to ever crack double digits in total Olympic medals is Franziska van Almsick, who never won an Olympic gold, but racked up 4 silver and 6 bronze over a lengthy career that spanned the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.

Most-Decorated Olympic Swimmers of All-Time

Rank Swimmer Nation Total Medals Gold Silver Bronze Years
1 Michael Phelps USA 28 23 3 2 2004-2016
2 Jenny Thompson USA 12 8 3 1 1992-2004
2 Ryan Lochte USA 12 6 3 3 2004-2016
2 Dara Torres USA 12 4 4 4 1984-2008
2 Natalie Coughlin USA 12 3 4 5 2004-2012
6 Mark Spitz USA 11 9 1 1 1968-1972
6 Matt Biondi USA 11 8 2 1 1984-1992
8 Gary Hall, Jr. USA 10 5 3 2 1996-2004
8 Franziska van Almsick Germany 10 0 4 6 1992-2004
10 Ian Thorpe Australia 9 5 3 1 2000-2004
10 Alexander Popov Russia 9 4 5 0 1992-2000
10 Leisel Jones Australia 9 3 5 1 2000-2012
13 Nathan Adrian USA 8 5 1 2 2008-2016
13 Dawn Fraser Australia 8 4 4 0 1956-1964
13 Kornelia Ender East Germany 8 4 4 0 1972-1976
13 Roland Matthes East Germany 8 4 2 2 1968-1976
13 Allison Schmitt USA 8 4 2 2 2008-2016
13 Inge de Bruin Netherlands 8 4 2 2 2000-2004
13 Jason Lezak USA 8 4 2 2 2000-2012
13 Petria Thomas Australia 8 3 4 1 1996-2004
13 Shirley Babashoff USA 8 2 6 0 1972-1976
13 Susie O’Neill Australia 8 2 4 2 1992-2000

In This Story

Comments

  1. Matt says:

    It would be more interesting if you disregarded the relays – it favours the bigger countries. Swimming is an individual sport 🙂

  2. NornIron Swim says:

    I’m sure it’s on Wikpedia somewhere but a list with only individual medals would be cool too. Great comparison to see how much USA relays have dominated over the years.

  3. Dan Smith says:

    What is the reason adding cells for Coughlin’s medals totals 11?

  4. Catherine says:

    Kornelia Ender, not Elder

  5. Carly says:

    For those of you musing: these are outdated now (pre-Rio!) but here are a couple articles I did a while back that analyze individual AND individual + relay all-time medal counts: https://swimswam.com/revenge-nerds-time-womens-olympic-medal-winners/ (Women) and https://swimswam.com/revenge-nerds-part-2-time-mens-olympic-medal-winners/ (Men)

  6. Pvdh says:

    I wonder who #1 is

  7. BaldingEagle says:

    The top 5 and many of the top 20 won their medals after they were able to turn pro and swim beyond the typical college-age career.

    Other factors: swimmers shut out by boycotts, PED’s, and having citizenship outside USA or Australia.

    Considering these impediments, I wonder how Spitz, Caulkins, Meagher, Michael Gross, Egerszegyi, and a few others would have stacked up.

    Spitz has his 9 from ’68 and ’72. He knew his time was up after graduating from college. If he’d have had the opportunity to go pro, it’s very conceivable at he’d have returned for ’76, when the USA men crushed everyone else. Maybe another 5-7 golds?

    Caulkins and Meagher were shut out by the boycott. It’s completely possible that they’d have many more medals if they’d had the opportunity in 1980, plus going pro after ’84. Caulkins had chances in the IM’s, FR, and MR, while Meagher was unstoppable in the 100-200 fly, and would have won medals on the MR and FR. Those two were also emotionally wrecked by the boycott and having to hang on for another 4 years. Michael Gross, along with his medals in ’84, probably would have added a gold on the MR and maybe the 400 FR, and turned his 800 FR to gold, plus the MR and 800 FR in ’88. Egerszegyi, no relays. Add MR in 92 and 96, plus maybe a FR… Plus, the women didn’t have an 800 FrF until 1996, robbing Sippy Woodhead, Caulkins, Meagher from that gold.

    Things to think about.

  8. BaldingEagle says:

    Babashoff won the same number of medals in 76, but her’s should have been gold. The rest of the American women were effectively shut out. DDR doping efforts were unfair to a generation of swimmers.

  9. Riez says:

    Could not agree more. Egerszegi would have 7 golds, 100 back from Seoul and the same from Atlanta where she did not even enter the event because of the Chinese dopers.

  10. Carlo says:

    Swimming is a funny sport sometimes. I,m a fan but I,m honest. Medal inflation with the relays make relatively worse swimmer win more medals if he/she comes from a country with depth. Jenny Thompson is on the list while krisztina egerszegi is not.

    Katinka hosszu is nowhere to be found. We are talking about the most versatile female swimmer in history here.

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About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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