The most decorated Summer Olympians of all time, through time

Michael Phelps has won more Olympic medals than anyone else. But who held the record before him?
By Rory Jiwani

Question: Who is the most decorated athlete in the history of the Summer Olympics?

Answer: Michael Phelps

Question: How many medals does Michael Phelps have?

Answer: Phelps has 28 Olympic medals (23 gold, three silver, two bronze) in swimming from four Games (Athens 2004 through to Rio 2016).

Question: Who held the record for most Olympic medals before Phelps?

Answer: Erm....

Well, wonder no more.

The most decorated Olympian before Michael Phelps came along was Soviet artistic gymnast Larisa Latynina who won a total of 18 medals (nine gold, five silver, four bronze) from three Games - Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960, and Tokyo 1964.

Simone Biles currently has five (four gold, one bronze), and could get close to Latynina's gold haul with a dominant performance at Tokyo 2020.

But the American gymnast won't get anywhere near her overall medal tally unless she suddenly decides to keep going until Paris 2024..

And before Latynina? You'll just have to watch this video to find out.

Who could join the list?

There is just one candidate who, at Tokyo 2020, could make it up to the 'podium' of most decorated Summer Olympians of all time - Michael Phelps' team-mate Ryan Lochte.

The American has 12 medals - six gold, three silver, and three bronze - from the last four Games. He's back swimming after a turbulent time following Rio 2016.

Lochte was charged with falsely communicating a crime (he was later cleared), before checking into rehab for alcohol addiction, and serving a 14-month ban for receiving an intravenous transfusion, a photo of which he posted on social media.

The 35-year-old has just returned to action, and hopes to bounce back from his troubles out of the pool to make a fifth Games.

In order to draw level with the man who is currently third on the all-time list on 15 medals, another Soviet gymnast Nikolay Andrianov, Lochte would need to claim three medals in Tokyo.

Among active athletes, next is German equestrian dressage rider Isabell Werth.

Now 50, she has won 10 medals - six gold and four silver - at five previous Games.

While Lochte faces a tough fight to qualify for the American swim team, Werth is a warm favourite to regain the individual title she won at Atlanta 1996, and win her sixth team gold medal.

But those two medals would still only take her to 12, well short of the 15 required to make the current top three.

One more athlete who has a chance to move close to the top three is another American swimmer, Katie Ledecky.

The freestyle queen has six Olympic medals - five gold and one silver - with five of them coming at Rio 2016.

With the addition of the 1500m freestyle to the programme, Ledecky potentially has six medal chances at next year's Games.

As she will be only 23 in Tokyo, so could stick around for Paris 2024, presenting the opportunity of going third or even second on the all-time list.

It appears highly unlikely that anyone will get near Phelps' total of 28 anytime soon.

The most decorated Winter Olympian in history is Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen.

Her five medals at PyeongChang 2018 took her total to 15 - eight gold, four silver and three bronze.