Here are the 10 most bemedalled living Olympians and what they’re up to now

The GOAT Michael Phelps amassed a total of 28 Olympic medals, including a record 23 gold.

We are but a few weeks away from the biggest sporting event in the world. The 2024 Paris Olympics will see us witnessing athletes competing at the elite level, honed by years of training and competitions, discipline, and hard work. 

But even among these athletes—the best of the best—there are those that are just built differently and occupy a completely different league. This group of athletes are Olympians—gods among mortals—in the truest sense of the word.

The Post rounded up the most bemedalled living Olympic athletes of all time, and checked in on what they’re up to now.  

1. Michael Phelps

American swimmer Michael Phelps has a mind-blowing 28-medal haul in the Olympics. Photo from the official Olympics website

Leading the pack—and by the widest margin imaginable—is Phelps, the most-decorated athlete in Olympic history with a mind-blowing 28 medals, including a record 23 gold. At the 2008 Games in Beijing, he became the first athlete to win eight gold medals at a single Olympics.

Even before his last Olympics appearance in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Phelps has already been a passionate philanthropist. After the 2008 Olympics, for instance, the American swimmer used his US$1 million Speedo bonus to set up the Michael Phelps Foundation that focuses on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthier lifestyles.

In addition to his foundation, Phelps joined the board of Medibio, a company focused on diagnosis of mental health disorders, in 2017.

2. Larisa Latynina

Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina has 18 Olympic medals. Photo from the IOC

The Ukraine-born Soviet gymnast is the first woman athlete to win nine Olympic gold medals and was the most decorated competitor in the history of the games until Phelps surpassed her record in the 2012 London Olympics. In fact, then 77, she was in the crowd when Phelps finally broke her medal total by claiming gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Her total of 18 Olympic medals was a record that stood for 48 years, and to this day, Latynina remains the most bemedalled female Olympian.

The now 89-year-old Latynina retired after the 1966 World Championships and took on coaching duties for the Soviet national gymnastics team, a position she held until 1977. Under her tutelage, the Soviet women’s team won gold in the 1968, 1972, and 1976 Olympics. She also organized the gymnastics competition at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

3. Marit Bjørgen

Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen has 15 Olympic medals. Photo by Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix

The Norwegian cross-country skier is widely considered the greatest female athlete in the sport and is also the most-decorated Winter Olympian in history. Her record 15 medals included a remarkable eight golds. Bjørgen made the last competitive appearance of her stellar career at the Norwegian Championships on April 6, 2018, where she announced that at the age of 38 she no longer had the motivation “to compete 100% for another season.”

Now 44, Bjørgen lives with her partner Fred Børre Lundberg, also a former Olympic champion, and their two children in Oslo. 

4. Ole Einar Bjørndalen

Ole Einar Bjørndalen, a Norwegian biathlete, has 13 Olympic medals. Photo from DPA

The Norwegian-born Bjørndalen is widely considered the greatest biathlete of all time, whose 13 Olympic Games medals are the most for any male Winter Olympian. He is also the most successful biathlete of all time at the Biathlon World Championships, having won a staggering 45 medals. Biathlon is a winter sport combining cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship.

Nicknamed the “King of Biathlon” and the “Cannibal,” he hung up his skis and rifle at the age of 44 in April 2018, leaving behind a legacy for biathlon and for sports in general, as per his biography on the official Olympics website. 

The now 50-year-old Bjørndalen is married to Belarusian biathlete Darya Domracheva with whom he shares a daughter.

5. Ireen Wüst

Speed skater Ireen Wüst from the Netherlands has won a total of 13 Olympic medals. Photo by Getty Images

The most decorated Olympic speed skater of all time with 13 medals in all, Wüst is also the Netherlands’ most successful Olympian ever. She has won gold medals at every Winter Games since making her debut in Turin during the 2006 Olympic Games at 19 years old, where she became the Netherlands’ youngest ever Olympic champion in her sport. 

Adding to her long list of achievements, at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, she won a gold medal in the 1500 meters, setting a new Olympic record time and becoming the first athlete to earn individual gold medals at five different Olympics which span 16 years. She has also collected an unprecedented four consecutive medals in the 1,500m event alone.

Wüst joined a Dutch athlete development organization as a mentor after her retirement, as reported on NBC Sports

6. Takashi Ono

Japanese gymnast Takashi Ono also has 13 Olympic medals. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Ono competed at the 1952, 1956, 1960, and 1964 Olympics and won five gold, four silver, and four bronze medals. He was the flag bearer for Japan at the 1960 Olympics, and took the Olympic Oath at the 1964 Games. In 1998, Ono was inducted into the gymnastics hall of fame in recognition of his exceptional athleticism and for being a role model for a whole generation of Japanese gymnasts.

In 1958, he married Kiyoko Ono, a fellow Olympic medalist. They have two sons and three daughters, with their first two children born between 1961 and 1963 while both parents were actively competing. Ono is now 92 years old. 

7. Birgit Fischer

German kayaker Birgit Fischer has won a total of 12 Olympic medals. Photo from the
Associated Press

Fischer can only be described in superlatives. “Youngest,” “oldest,” “most,” and, finally, “greatest”—these have all been used to describe the German kayaker at one time or another, as per a Britannica article.

At age 18 she became the youngest-ever Olympic canoeing-kayaking champion when she won the gold medal in the 500-meter women’s singles kayak event at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. 24 years later, at 42, she became canoeing’s oldest Olympic champion as a member of the winning team in the 500-meter women’s fours kayak race at the 2004 Games in Athens.

She has a total of 12 Olympic medals, 8 of which are gold, the most for any canoer or kayaker. Given her achievements, she is considered by many as the greatest kayaker ever and greatest female German Olympian.

Fischer, who is now 62, is also a photographer who displays her work through Art of the Olympians (AOTO), an organization of Olympian and Paralympian artists that promotes the Olympic ideals of values, integrity, character, respect, honor, and work ethic through exhibitions and educational programs.

8. Bjørn Dæhlie

Norwegian cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie also has 12 Olympic medals. Photo from

The Norwegian-born athlete won more Olympic Games medals and gold medals than any other male cross-country skier. His Olympic success—with a total of 12 medals, 8 of which gold—combined with his record in World Cup competitions and world championships, made him arguably the greatest Nordic skier of all time. A back injury forced his retirement from competitive skiing in March 2001.

Now 57, Dæhlie is also an astute businessman. In 1996, he established Dæhlie  Sportswear which is known for its collaboration with athletes and innovative features in its cross-country skiing and running apparel.

9. Sawao Katō

Another bemedalled Japanese gymnast, Sawao Katō has 12 Olympic medals, with his eight gold medals the most of any other male gymnast in history. Photo from the official Olympics website

The Niigata-born gymnast won a total of 12 Olympic medals as a member of the Japanese team that dominated men’s gymnastics in the ‘60s and ‘70s. His eight gold-medal haul is more than any other male gymnast in history.

After retirement, he taught at the University of Tsukuba (formerly Tokyo University of Education), where he became professor emeritus in 2010. In addition, he was a gymnastics coach, and his student Tanaka Hikaru won the 1994 Japanese national championship. Katō, now 77, was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2001.

10. Jenny Thompson

American swimmer Jenny Thompson’s 12 overall medals make her the most bemedalled female swimmer in Olympic history. Photo by Al Bello /Allsport

With her eight gold medals and 12 overall medals, Thompson has won more Olympic medals than any other female swimmer in Olympic history. She competed at four Olympic Games, winning each of her eight gold medals in relay events. One of Thompson’s biggest accomplishments came in 1999, when she broke the world record in the 100-meter butterfly and broke a nearly 20-year record previously held by Mary T. Meagher. 

Even more remarkable, she made the 2004 U.S. Olympic Swim Team while studying as a medical student at Stanford University. Thompson won two silver medals at the Athens 2004 Games in the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays and retired afterwards. 

Thompson continues to practice as a physician, specializing as a pediatric anesthesiologist. A recreation center in Dover, New Hampshire, bears her name and she continues to help at an annual camp held there.

The new lifestyle.