Gymnast Latynina collects six more medals en route to record haul

Few athletes have come to an Olympic Games with such a strong track record as the legendary Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who was on her way to becoming the most successful Olympian in history – an honour she would hold until 2012.

Latynina had won six medals at the 1956 Games. Brilliant though she was, few imagined that she could match that level of success four years later. Now aged 25, she had to deal with rising standards in the sport, a crop of new challengers and the pressure of meeting the lofty expectations. And yet somehow, she thrived once more.

To make her achievements in Rome even more impressive, she had become a mother since the last edition of the Games. In 1958 she had competed at the World Championships despite being several months pregnant, and won five out of six titles. Now, the Rome Games would be a test of how well she had recovered from the rigours of childbirth.

Her team-mates pushed her hard. In the all-around competition Soviet athletes took the top four positions, but it was Latynina who came out on top to retain her title. That Soviet dominance meant that the team all-around gold was also secured, while Latynina then retained her floor exercise title to win gold number three.

There were also silver medals in the uneven bars and on the balance beam and a bronze on the vault meaning that, remarkably, Latynina did match her previous tally of six medals. It also meant she had won a medal in every category that she entered.

She repeated that triumph four years later with a further six medals at the Tokyo Games to give her a total of 18 Olympic medals, a record haul that stood for 48 years until it was surpassed by Michael Phelps in 2012. However, her record of 14 medals from individual events still stands to this day.