Greatest Olympic Stars

As the XXI Winter Olympics continue, we present the greatest Olympians in history.

42 photos
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The XXI Winter Olympics will be in Vancouver. NBC begins coverage on Feb. 12. In anticipation, check out these photos of the greatest Olympians in history. American figure skater Kristine "Kristi" Yamaguchi was the 1992 Olympic Champion in women's singles. In 2005, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
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A three-time Olympian, Picabo Street first joined the U.S. Ski Team in 1989 and earned a silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in ­the downhill. The Sun Valley native left her mark in Olympic history in 1998, taking gold in the Nagano super G by a mere hundredth of a second.
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Speed skater Bonnie Blair won five Olympic gold medals between 1988 and 1994.
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Shaun White is the dominant snowboarder of his generation and claimed gold in his event at the 2006 Turin Winter Games. In the first run of the final, White stole the show. He impressed the judges, who awarded him 46.8 points out of a possible 50.
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Figure skater Katarina Witt of Germany performs in the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Witt won two Olympic gold medals in the 1984 Olympics.
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Lars Bystol of Norway competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, winning a gold medal on the individual ski jump event.
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Carl Lewis of the USA accelerates down the runway of the long jump during the 1984 Summer Olympics at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. He won a gold medal in this event and 8 more golds during his Olympic career.
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Michael Phelps of the US competes in the men's swimming 200 m individual medley final during the Athens Summer Olympic Games. He took home 14 career gold medals, the most of any Olympian.
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Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia set a world record by becoming the first woman to clear 5m in the pole vault event. She won two gold medals in the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing and the 2004 Olympics held in Athens.
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Greg Louganis of the US sets himself before attempting a dive during the springboard event at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Louganis won two gold medals in Seoul and two more at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
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Nadia Comaneci of Romania balances on the beam during the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Soviet Union. Comaneci won the gold medal on the Beam and on the Floor. She also won three more gold medals in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
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Bjorn Daehlie of Norway competes in the men's 50 kilometer free cross country race during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Daehlie won the gold medal for the event.
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Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) took home the gold in the Light Heavyweight in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, beating out Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (silver) and Giulio Saraudi and Anthony Madigan (joint bronze). In 1996 Ali returned to the Olympics in Atlanta to have the honor of lighting the flame.
Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia runs through Tokyo, on his way to winning the marathon at the 1964 Olympic Games. In 1960 in Rome little-known Bikila ran barefoot to become the first black African to win an Olympic title. Four years later, he wore shoes and won by an even greater margin, five weeks after having his appendix removed.
American Mark Spitz competes at the 1972 Olympics Games in Munich, Germany. Spitz achieved medal-winning fame at the games when he won seven golds.
Paavo Nurmi of Finland crosses the finish line to win a race at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Throughout his lifetime, he earned nine Olympic gold medals. His nickname was the "Flying Finn."
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Usain Bolt of Jamaica reacts after breaking the world record with a time of 19.30 to win the gold medal in the Men's 200m Final at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. He won two other gold medals in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
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Florence Griffith Joyner of the US celebrates her 100m win during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. She won two more gold medals in other track events at the 1988 Olympics.
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Jacob Tullin Thams, representing Norway, won a gold medal in the individual large hill ski jump event in the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix.
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Georg Hackl competes in the men's single luge during the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Hackl would later win the gold in 1992, 1994, and 1998. He was the only singles luger to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals.
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Chad Hedrick of the US won a gold medal in the 5000m speed skating event at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. Hedrick developed a special skating technique, dubbed the double push, that is used by other speed skaters.
Steven Redgrave (left) and Matthew Pinsent of Great Britain row to victory in the semifinal round of the men's coxless pairs rowing at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Redgrave also won gold medals in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000.
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Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the US competes in the heptathlon event at the 1988 Summer Olympics at Seoul. She went on to win the gold in this event and the long jump event. Joyner-Kersee also won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Jesse Owens of the USA (right) leads Sasaki (#365) of Japan during the preliminary heat of the 100m event at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Owens went on to win the gold medal in this event and three more in other track events.
Florence Baverel-Robert of France took the gold medal in the 7.5 km sprint event at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.
Alberto Tomba of Italy took home two gold medals at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and one more medal when he participated in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.
Fanny Blankers-Koen, far right, of the Netherlands finishes first in the Women's 100m during the XIV Olympic Games in London, England. She won three more medals in other track events at the 1948 Olympics.
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Alexander Karelin (left) of Russia squares up for a wrestling match during the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia. He won a gold medal in this event and two more at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
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Osleidys Menendez of Cuba won a gold medal in the javelin throw at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. She broke a world record with her throw and later broke that record with a throw at the 2005 World Athletics Championship in Helsinki, Finland.
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Alexei Nemov of Russia is on his way to gold in the Men's Horizontal Bar at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. He won two gold medals in 2000 as well as two others in 1996. Nemov has won 12 Olympic medals throughout his career.
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Australian swimming champion Dawn Fraser broke a 100m record clocking the first ever female time under a minute. During her career, Fraser won eight free style medals (four gold) and beat 27 world records.
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Birgit Fischer (left) and Katrina Wagner of Germany celebrate their Gold Medal win in the K2 500m final at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Fischer won eight Olympic gold medals total for her rowing prowess.
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Tara Lipinski of the US finishes her routine in the free skate competition at White Ring Arena during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. Lipinski won the gold medal in the event. She was the youngest gold medal winner in Olympic history at the age of 15.
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Edwin Moses of the US clears a hurdle en route to his victory in the men's 400m hurdles final at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
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Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske of Germany compete in the Two Man Bobsleigh Final in Torino. He earned two gold medals for the two and four-man bobsleigh events in 2006.
Stephanie Rice of Australia competes in the Women's 400m Individual Medley Final event held at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, winning three gold medals for her swimming performance.
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Sebastian Coe of Great Britain raises his arms in celebration as he crosses the finish line to win the men's 1500m race at the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. He won another gold at the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles.
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Bradley Wiggins of the United Kingdom pedaled his way to victory, winning three gold medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
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Ludger Beerbaum of Germany competes in the individual show jumping event during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games. He didn't pick up the gold in Athens, but he won four gold medals competing in the Olympic Games in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000.
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Daley Thompson of Great Britain clears the bar during the high jump event of the decathlon at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Thompson won the decathlon with a World Record of 8,847 points. Thompson also won a gold medal in the decathlon event at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Skater Apolo Anton Ohno became the most-decorated U.S. Winter Olympian at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
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