How many Olympians have there been?

You’d think that one of the easier questions for us to answer would be: “How many Olympians have there been”? This simple question is actually quite hard to answer. We do have an answer, of course, but it’s also definitely wrong.

As with many statistical issues, one first has to define what an Olympian is. We could look to the World Olympians Association (WOA), which defines an Olympian as:

An Olympian is an athlete who has been accredited to participate in the Olympic Games in a full medal sport.

This is a useful starting point: it explicitly names athletes (so no coaches, doctors, team leaders, etc.) and also excludes competitors in demonstration sports (which have not been held since 1992), exhibitions (last held in 2008) and other side-events. However, the “accredited” part of the definition is a bit less useful for us.

Among accredited athletes are of course those who eventually compete, but also those who fail to start for any reason (injury, disability, left off the team) or are only brought on a substitutes. In some sports, there are even various levels of accreditation. For example, in football (or soccer if you prefer), each team is nowadays allowed to enter 18 players, which are allowed to stay in the Olympic Village. However, if one of these gets injured, they are allowed to replaced them by one of four players on a separate list. Many of these alternate players don’t actually go to the Olympics, but they do have an accreditation. It seems to us that  being present at the Olympics would be a minimum to qualify as an Olympian.

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The 18 Mexican football players that were handed an Olympic gold medal in London 2012.

We could then, of course, use that criterion to decide who is an Olympian. But this is pretty hard. Finding entry lists or accreditation lists is one, but these never say if a person was actually in town or not, which means we would have to figure this out for each athlete personally. And not just for recent years, but also for entrants from 1896, making this a virtually impossible task.

So instead of following the WOA, we’ve used our own definition:

An Olympian is an athlete who has competed in the Olympic Games in a full medal sport.

But that definition still isn’t complete. What exactly is a full medal sport? And what are Olympic Games, even?

Turns out that you can debate about both. While the Olympic Games of the modern era are pretty well-known, there’s an odd-one-out: the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens. While organized and approved by the IOC at the time, the IOC later decide not to recognize these Games as official – despite their importance to the Olympic Movement. Many Olympic historians disagree with this view, and so do we, so we include these Games in our figures.

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Ray Ewry won a total of 10 Olympic gold medals, including two at the 1906 Intercalated Games, which are not currently recognized by the IOC.

Regarding the full medal sports, there is also debate about the early Olympics. In 1900, the Olympics were held in conjunction with the sports events at the World Exposition in Paris. Many events did not use the predicate ‘Olympic’, despite the fact that the we consider them to have been part of the Olympics. Four years later, when the Olympics were a side-show of yet another major exhibition (the Louisiana Purchase Exposition), the organizers did the opposite, and labelled every sporting event “Olympic”, including e.g. track and field championships for elementary school boys from St. Louis, handicap races, and other competitions hardly word the predicate “Olympic”.


One of the more shameful “Olympic” events in St. Louis were the Anthropology Days in St. Louis, were so-called ‘savages’ competed against one another.

Some historians indeed consider all events held in Paris and St. Louis to have been Olympic. The IOC has never officially made a list of Olympic events in 1900 and 1904, although the list of medallists on their website can be taken as such. A clear method by the IOC to decide which events are Olympic, however, is unknown to us. The approach we use was set up by one of us, Bill Mallon, in the late 1990s when writing books about those early Olympics. He applied four criteria to events:

  1. the events must be open to amateurs only (this was the IOC opinion at the time)
  2. all competitors must compete equally (disallowing handicap events)
  3. the events must be open to competitors from all nations (even if only competitors from one nation competed)
  4. the events must be open to all (no limitations on age, origin, competency, etc. such as “junior”, “novice”)

This gives a list that excludes many of the fringe events held in these years, but is also slightly longer than the one used by the IOC.

Moving forward in time, there’s another category of events that qualified as full medal events at the time they were held, but that are often omitted: the art, aeronautics and alpinism competitions. From 1912 through 1948, Olympic medals were awarded in art, and between 1924 and 1936, medals were also handed out in alpinism and aeronautics. These medallists are not found on the IOC website, but they definitely received medals, which is why we include them as well.

So, with all that defining out of the way, it’s finally time to give you a number:


Now, we do have to say that this number is – sadly – wrong. Records books of the Olympics aren’t always complete, and we know for certain that many athletes are missing. For example, the members of the Greek gymnastics teams in 1896 have so far never surfaced, and neither have the names of the art competitors in 1920 that didn’t win a prize. In some cases, we do even know the number of athletes that we’re missing, but we don’t know if these are all “new” Olympians or not.

Even for more recent Olympics, information on who competed isn’t always clear-cut. In handball, all players on the team are listed on the match roster, even if they didn’t play. For recent years, detailed substitution information is available, but this is lacking for earlier years, leaving us to rely alternative sources such as video footage, contact with the athlete in question, etc.

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Some of the 128,420 Olympians during the opening of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Apart from missing data in the sources, we are of course only human, and therefore make errors. For example, we recently figured out we had missed two substitutes in the 1964 4-man bobsled competition (although both were already known as Olympians) – even though this information was in the Official Results.

To compensate for that, we sometimes unearth information that isn’t even in the Official Results. For example, last year, we found out two missing divers in the 1960 women’s diving event, and an hitherto unknown substitute in the 1920 water polo match Brazil – Sweden.

So, it is with full confidence we can say that 128,420 is the wrong number. But we dare you to come up with a better one!

Individual and Team Olympic Medal Records

So we know who holds the Olympic records for most medals won and most gold medals won – that’s an easy one, Michael Phelps, who has won 22 medals and 18 gold medals (and is probably not done yet).

But Phelps won 9 medals in relay races, winning a medal in every swim relay race in 2004, 2008, and 2012, so he had a little help. What about winning individual medals? Who has won the most individual medals and individual gold medals? Is it still Phelps?

Not quite. The most individual medals title still belongs to Larisa Latynina, the Soviet gymnast who won 18 medals in all, the records that Phelps broke in London. Latynina won 14 of those medals by herself. Here is the list of all those winning 9 or more individual medals, and women who won 8 or more:



14,Larysa Latynina,F,S,URS,GYM

13,Michael Phelps,M,S,USA,SWI

12,Nikolay Andrianov,M,S,URS,GYM

10,Borys Shakhlin,M,S,URS,GYM

10,Takashi Ono,M,S,JPN,GYM

10,Aleksey Nemov,M,S,RUS,GYM

10,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH

9,Ole Einar Bjørndalen,M,W,NOR,BIA

9,Paavo Nurmi,M,S,FIN,ATH

9,Bjørn Dæhlie,M,W,NOR,CCS

9,Sawao Kato,M,S,JPN,GYM

9,Viktor Chukarin,M,S,URS,GYM

9,Vitaly Shcherbo,M,S,BLR,GYM

9,Martin Sheridan,M,S,USA,ATH

8,Věra Čáslavská,F,S,TCH,GYM

8,Claudia Pechstein,F,W,GER,SSK

8,Karin Enke-Kania,F,W,GDR,SSK

8,Gunda Niemann-St’mann-Kleemann,F,W,GER,SSK


Larysa Latynina
As you can see, Latynina is the only woman with more than 8 individual medals, with 4 women tied at that level. Two people on this list, Ray Ewry and Martin Sheridan, won some of their medals in 1906 (Ewry 2, Sheridan 5), so purists may demur and drop them from this list.

As to individual golds, yes, Phelps does lead this list with 11. And again, Ewry presents a problem with 10, including 2 in 1906, but he would still be second with 8, if you skip the 1906 Intercalated Olympics. Here is the list of all Olympians with 5 or more individual gold medals:



11,Michael Phelps,M,S,USA,SWI

10,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH

7,Věra Čáslavská,F,S,TCH,GYM

7,Carl Lewis,M,S,USA,ATH

6,Larysa Latynina,F,S,URS,GYM

6,Nikolay Andrianov,M,S,URS,GYM

6,Borys Shakhlin,M,S,URS,GYM

6,Paavo Nurmi,M,S,FIN,ATH

6,Bjørn Dæhlie,M,W,NOR,CCS

6,Lidiya Skoblikova,F,W,URS,SSK

5,Ole Einar Bjørndalen,M,W,NOR,BIA

5,Sawao Kato,M,S,JPN,GYM

5,Viktor Chukarin,M,S,URS,GYM

5,Vitaly Shcherbo,M,S,BLR/EUN,GYM

5,Martin Sheridan,M,S,USA,ATH

5,Nadia Comăneci,F,S,ROU,GYM

5,Gert Fredriksson,M,S,SWE,CAN

5,Krisztina Egerszegi,F,S,HUN,SWI

5,Clas Thunberg,M,W,FIN,SSK

5,Vitaly Shcherbo,M,S,EUN,GYM

5,Bonnie Blair,F,W,USA,SSK

5,Eric Heiden,M,W,USA,SSK


The women’s leader is Czechoslovak gymnast Věra Čáslavská with 7 individual gold medals, followed by Latynina, and Soviet speed skater Lidiya Skoblikova, both with 6. Among Winter Olympians, Skoblikova is tied with Norwegian cross-country skiier Bjørn Dæhlie, with 6 individual gold medals, followed by 4 Winter Olympians with 5: Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Finnish speed skater Clas Thunberg, and American speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden.

So who has won the most Olympic medals, without ever winning an individual medal? I dare say nobody in the twitterverse would ever get this trivia question correct, except for possibly the athlete herself, and even she may not know it. It is the Hungarian canoeist Katalin Kovács, who has won 8 Olympic medals from 2000-12, but never an individual one. Here are all those who won 6 or more Olympic medals, but never won an individual medal. As you would expect, they tend to be in sports with no, or few, opportunities to win individual medals.



8,Katalin Kovács,F,S,HUN,CAN

7,Willis Lee,M,S,USA,SHO

7,Bogdan Musiol,M,W,GDR/GER,BOB

6,Georgeta Damian-Andrunache,F,S,ROU,ROW

6,Steven Redgrave,M,S,GBR,ROW

6,Doina Ignat,F,S,ROU,ROW

6,Veronica Cogeanu-Cochelea,F,S,ROU,ROW

6,Wolfgang Hoppe,M,W,GDR/GER,BOB

6,Eugenio Monti,M,W,ITA,BOB


Katalin Kovács

Now who has won the most Olympic gold medals but never won an individual gold? This one some people may get, as Jenny Thompson won 12 medals and 8 golds in swimming for the United States and leads the list, and is fairly well known. Her frustration at not winning an individual gold was well publicized (as was the same for her frequent teammate, Dara Torres – of note, Thompson and Torres were, and are, not friends). In fact this is not even close, as she leads 5 athletes with 5 team gold medals, with another 21 winning only 4 team golds. Here is the list of all those with 4 or more Olympic gold medals, but no individual gold medals:



8,Jenny Thompson,F,S,USA,SWI

5,Tom Jager,M,S,USA,SWI

5,Willis Lee,M,S,USA,SHO

5,Georgeta Damian-Andrunache,F,S,ROU,ROW

5,Steven Redgrave,M,S,GBR,ROW

5,Anastasiya Davydova,F,S,RUS,SYN

4,Dara Torres,F,S,USA,SWI

4,Ricco Groß,M,W,GER,BIA

4,Jason Lezak,M,S,USA,SWI

4,Einar Liberg,M,S,NOR,SHO

4,Lloyd Spooner,M,S,USA,SHO

4,Katrin Wagner-Augustin,F,S,GER,CAN

4,Doina Ignat,F,S,ROU,ROW

4,Aleksandr Tikhonov,M,W,URS,BIA

4,Jayna Hefford,F,W,CAN,ICH

4,Kevin Kuske,M,W,GER,BOB

4,André Lange,M,W,GER,BOB

4,Oreste Puliti,M,S,ITA,FEN

4,Hayley Wickenheiser,F,W,CAN,ICH

4,Kathrin Boron,F,S,GER,ROW

4,Teresa Edwards,F,S,USA,BAS

4,Jon Olsen,M,S,USA,SWI

4,Viorica Susanu,F,S,ROU,ROW

4,Lisa Leslie,F,S,USA,BAS

4,Caroline Ouellette,F,W,CAN,ICH

4,Matthew Pinsent,M,S,GBR,ROW

4,Anastasiya Yermakova,F,S,RUS,SYN


So what does this all mean? Hell, we don’t know, but it was fun doing these lists!

Olympic Medal Record Progressions

We know that American swimmer Michael Phelps won 6 medals in London in 2012, giving him a total of 22 Olympic medals. We also know that this broke the record for the most Olympic medals all-time, breaking the record of 18 that had been held since 1964 by Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina. Who held the record before Latynina? In baseball, track & field, and several other sports, the list of record progressions is well studied. Is there such a list of the progression of most Olympic medals? Well, we’ve never seen one before but we decided to provide these lists for you, in various permutations.

Here is the overall list for most Olympic medals won. Note that everyone on the list was male except Latynina, so we have also provided the male progression by adding in Nikolay Andrianov.



6,Hermann Weingärtner,M,S,GER,GYM,1896

6,Bob Garrett,M,S,USA,ATH,1900

6,Anton Heida,M,S,USA,GYM,1904

6,George Eyser,M,S,USA,GYM,1904

6,Burton Downing,M,S,USA,CYC,1904

6,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH,1904

7,Léon Moreaux,M,S,FRA,SHO,1906

8,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH,1906

10,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH,1908

8,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH,1908

10,Hubert Van Innis,M,S,BEL,ARC,1920

11,Carl Osburn,M,S,USA,SHO,1924

12,Paavo Nurmi,M,S,FIN,ATH,1928

13,Edoardo Mangiarotti,M,S,ITA,FEN,1960

18,Larysa Latynina,F,S,URS,GYM,1964

15,Nikolay Andrianov,M,S,URS,GYM,1980

22,Michael Phelps,M,S,USA,SWI,2012


Two marks for men on this list lasted for 32 years – Paavo Nurmi’s 12 medals, which stood from 1928-60, and Nikolay Andrianov’s 15 medal mark for men, which stood from 1980-2012. Of course, Latynina’s mark lasted for 48 years until Phelps broke it in 2012.

Here is the list for women only, all at the Summer Olympics:



2,Charlotte Cooper,F,S,GBR,TEN,1900

2,Countess Hélène de Pourtalès,F,S,SUI,SAI,1900

2,Hélène Prévost,F,S,FRA,TEN,1900

2,Marion Jones,F,S,USA,TEN,1900

2,Hedwiga Rosenbaumová,F,S,BOH,TEN,1900

3,Lida Howell,F,S,USA,ARC,1904

3,Emma Cooke,F,S,USA,ARC,1904

3,Eliza Pollock,F,S,USA,ARC,1904

3,Ethelda Bleibtrey,F,S,USA,SWI,1920

3,Suzanne Lenglen,F,S,FRA,TEN,1920

3,Frances Schroth,F,S,USA,SWI,1920

5,Kitty McKane,F,S,GBR,TEN,1924

7,Mariya Horokhovska,F,S,URS,GYM,1952

10,Ágnes Keleti,F,S,HUN,GYM,1956

12,Larysa Latynina,F,S,URS,GYM,1960

18,Larysa Latynina,F,S,URS,GYM,1964


Latynina’s record for women, with 18 medals, will have stood for 52 years in Rio de Janeiro, and will likely stand for many more Olympiads.

Now at the Winter Games, the progression actually entails a combination of men and women:



2,Madge Syers,F,W,GBR,FSK,1908

2,Phyllis Johnson,F,W,GBR,FSK,1920

5,Clas Thunberg,M,W,FIN,SSK,1924

7,Clas Thunberg,M,W,FIN,SSK,1928

7,Ivar Ballangrud,M,W,NOR,SSK,1936

7,Veikko Hakulinen,M,W,FIN,CCS,1960

9,Sixten Jernberg,M,W,SWE,CCS,1964

9,Raisa Smetanina,F,W,URS,CCS,1988

10,Raisa Smetanina,F,W,EUN/URS,CCS,1992

12,Bjørn Dæhlie,M,W,NOR,CCS,1998

13,Ole Einar Bjørndalen,M,W,NOR,BIA,2014


Following are the winter lists for men and women separately:



1,9 athletes tied,M,W,—,FSK,1908

1,9 athletes tied,M,W,—,FSK,1920

1,24 athletes tied,M,W,—,ICH,1920

5,Clas Thunberg,M,W,FIN,SSK,1924

5,Roald Larsen,M,W,NOR,SSK,1924

7,Clas Thunberg,M,W,FIN,SSK,1928

7,Ivar Ballangrud,M,W,NOR,SSK,1936

7,Veikko Hakulinen,M,W,FIN,CCS,1960

9,Sixten Jernberg,M,W,SWE,CCS,1964

12,Bjørn Dæhlie,M,W,NOR,CCS,1998

13,Ole Einar Bjørndalen,M,W,NOR,BIA,2014




2,Madge Syers,F,W,GBR,FSK,1908

2,Phyllis Johnson,F,W,GBR,FSK,1920

2,Ludovika Jakobsson-Eilers,F,W,FIN,FSK,1924

3,Andrée Brunet-Joly,F,W,FRA,FSK,1932

3,Beatrix Loughran,F,W,USA,FSK,1932

3,Sonja Henie,F,W,NOR,FSK,1936

3,Trude Jochum-Beiser,F,W,AUT,ASK,1952

3,Mirl Buchner,F,W,GER,ASK,1952

4,Lyubov Kozyreva-Baranova,F,W,URS,CCS,1960

4,Radiya Yeroshina,F,W,URS,CCS,1960

6,Lidiya Skoblikova,F,W,URS,SSK,1964

7,Galina Kulakova,F,W,URS,CCS,1976

8,Galina Kulakova,F,W,URS,CCS,1980

9,Raisa Smetanina,F,W,URS,CCS,1988

10,Raisa Smetanina,F,W,EUN/URS,CCS,1992

10,Stefania Belmondo,F,W,ITA,CCS,2002

10,Marit Bjørgen,F,W,NOR,CCS,2014


Now what about gold medals and the progression lists for them? Here is the list for men at the Summer Olympics – here again we have the problem with the 1906 Olympics so we have listed Ray Ewry, both with and without those Games:



3,Hermann Weingärtner,M,S,GER,GYM,1896

3,Alfred Flatow,M,S,GER,GYM,1896

3,Paul Masson,M,S,FRA,CYC,1896

3,Carl Schuhmann,M,S,GER,GYM/WRE,1896

3,Carl Schuhmann,M,S,GER,GYM,1896

4,Al Kraenzlein,M,S,USA,ATH,1900

6,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH,1904

8,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH,1906

10,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH,1908

8,Ray Ewry,M,S,USA,ATH,1908

9,Paavo Nurmi,M,S,FIN,ATH,1928

9,Mark Spitz,M,S,USA,SWI,1972

9,Carl Lewis,M,S,USA,ATH,1996

14,Michael Phelps,M,S,USA,SWI,2008

18,Michael Phelps,M,S,USA,SWI,2012


One thing to note above, if one disregards the 1906 Olympics, is how long Paavo Nurmi’s record of 9 gold medals lasted, fully 44 years, until tied in 1972 by Mark Spitz.

Now the women’s Summer Olympic gold medal record progression:



2,Charlotte Cooper,F,S,GBR,TEN,1900

3,Lida Howell,F,S,USA,ARC,1904

3,Ethelda Bleibtrey,F,S,USA,SWI,1920

3,Martha Norelius,F,S,USA,SWI,1928

3,Helene Madison,F,S,USA,SWI,1932

3,Rie Mastenbroek,F,S,NED,SWI,1936

4,Fanny Blankers-Koen,F,S,NED,ATH,1948

5,Ágnes Keleti,F,S,HUN,GYM,1956

7,Larysa Latynina,F,S,URS,GYM,1960

9,Larysa Latynina,F,S,URS,GYM,1964


Note that Latynina still holds this record, and has held it since 1960 – which will be 56 years in Rio.

Following are the gold medal record progressions for men and women at the Winter Games:



3,Clas Thunberg,M,W,FIN,SSK,1924

5,Clas Thunberg,M,W,FIN,SSK,1928

5,Eric Heiden,M,W,USA,SSK,1980

5,Bjørn Dæhlie,M,W,NOR,CCS,1994

8,Bjørn Dæhlie,M,W,NOR,CCS,1998

8,Ole Einar Bjørndalen,M,W,NOR,BIA,2014


Note here how long Clas Thunberg’s 5 gold medal record lasted – from 1928 until 1980 when it was tied by Eric Heiden, and until 1998 when it was broken by Bjørn Dæhlie.



2,Andrée Brunet-Joly,F,W,FRA,FSK,1932

3,Sonja Henie,F,W,NOR,FSK,1936

6,Lidiya Skoblikova,F,W,URS,SSK,1964

6,Lyubov Yegorova,F,W,EUN/RUS,CCS,1994

6,Marit Bjørgen,F,W,NOR,CCS,2014


Again, two long-lasting records, with Sonja Henie leading the list from 1936-64, and Lidiya Skoblikova leading the list from 1964 through 2014, although her 6 gold medals have been tied twice.

The unluckiest countries at the Olympics

We’ve written before about unlucky Olympians here on OlympStats – Olympic athletes who came closest to winning an Olympic medal, but never did. But which nations have come closest to winning an Olympic medal without actually doing so?

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Erick Barrondo’s silver medal removed Guatemala from the list of “unluckiest” nations at the Olympics

Until 2012, the clear number one was Guatemala. The Central American nation had raked up three 4th places (including one in the art competitions), four 5th places (adding a fifth in London) and four more places between 6th and 8th. But race walker Erick Barrondo ended his country’s medal drought and became the first Guatemalteco win an Olympic medal with a silver medal in the 20 km.

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Nan Aye Khine earned a 4th place for Myanmar (Burma), but was disqualified afterwards for steroid use.

With Guatemala out of contention, here are four nations that have finished 4th on one occasion. Of these nations, the one with the most 5th places is Myanmar, previously known as Burma. The South East Asian country is relatively strong in weightlifting and boxing. Win Kay Thi earned a 4th place in the 2000 women’s flyweight weightlifting, and two more weightlifters and two boxers have ranked 5th (or losing quarter-finalist) in the past. The nation lost another 4th place, achieved in 2004, when it was found that another female weightlifter, Nan Aye Khine, had used anabolic steroids.

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Alessandra Perilli took a shot at the medals in London, but narrowly failed.

Behind Myanmar, the unluckiest nation is San Marino. The tiny enclave republic, embedded within Italy, had its best result in London. Trap shooter Alessandra Perilli was involved in a three-way shoot-off for silver and bronze, but missed her second shot and fell outside of the podium. Prior to Perilli, other Sanmarinese shooters had also come close to the prizes: Francesco Nanni was 5th in 1984 (small-bore rifle, prone), while trap shooters Emanuela Felici (twice) and Francesco Amici had earned 7th places.

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Ibrahim Kamal (Jordan) lost the bronze medal match in his taekwondo event, but still achieved his country’s best ever Olympic performance.

Similarly close has been Jordan, which has placed 4th, 5th and 7th in taekwondo. Samoa is closing in on these countries:in London 2012, they earned a 6th and two 7th places (weightlifting and taekwondo), adding to a 4th place won in Beijing.

Olympic Challenge Trophies

It is not well known, but in the early years of the Modern Olympic Games, from 1906-1920, a number of IOC Challenge Trophies were awarded. These were special trophies that were donated, usually by quite prominent persons, and the trophies were given to the winners of the various events on a temporary basis. The trophies were in addition to the gold medal awards, and had to be returned to the IOC prior to the next Olympic Games.

At the 1908 Olympic Games in London there were 12 challenges. Three more were donated at the 13th IOC Session (1910). When further challenges came to the IOC in 1911 it was then decided that no further Challenge Trophies would be accepted. Some of the challenge trophies were not awarded and strangely, a few of the challenges were for the same events. The last three challenge trophies that were donated were never awarded and the event for which they were to be given was also never announced.

At the 22nd IOC Session in Rome on 12 April 1923, the IOC discontinued the practice of awarding challenge trophies. Most of the trophies still reside in the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. In 1946, the Baroness de Coubertin, widow of Pierre de Coubertin, donated a final challenge trophy that was never awarded. The other two trophies that were never awarded were donated by the Czechoslovakian President and the Italian Gymnastics Federation.

The most well-known challenge trophy was that won by Jim Thorpe in 1912 for the decathlon, given by the Russian Emperor. When Thorpe’s medals were returned by the IOC in 1982, the family questioned if they should also receive the challenge trophy, but as stated, these were to be temporary and returned to the IOC at the next Olympics, so after 1920, Thorpe’s family had no official claim to them.

Here are the lists of all the Challenge Trophies awarded, from 1906-1920:


Donor (Event),1906

Unknown Donor (ancient pentathlon),Hjalmar Mellander



Donor (Event),1908

Mme. de Montgomery (discus throw),Martin Sheridan

Gold & Silversmiths (heavyweight wrestling),Richárd Weisz

The Football Association (football),Great Britain

Brunetta d’Usseaux (coxed eights rowing),Great Britain

Brunetta d’Usseaux (1500 swimming),Henry Taylor

Lord Westbury (clay trap shooting),Walter Ewing

King of Greece (marathon footrace),Johnny Hayes

The English Fencers (épée team),France

City of Prague (individual gymnastics),Alberto Braglia

French Government (6 metre yachting),Great Britain

Prince of Wales (100 km cycling),Charles Bartlett

Hurlingham Club (polo),Great Britain



Donor (Event),1912

Mme. de Montgomery (discus throw),Armas Taipale

Gold & Silversmiths (heavyweight wrestling),Yrjö Saarela

The Football Association (football),Great Britain

Brunetta d’Usseaux (coxed eights rowing),Great Britain

Brunetta d’Usseaux (1500 swimming),George Hodgson

Lord Westbury (clay trap shooting),James Graham

King of Greece (marathon footrace),Kenneth McArthur

The English Fencers (épée team),Belgium

City of Prague (individual gymnastics),Alberto Braglia

French Government (6 metre yachting),France

King of Sweden (pentathlon),Jim Thorpe

Swedish Calvary (overall equestrian),Sweden

Pierre de Coubertin (modern pentathlon),Gösta Lilliehöök

King of Italy (show jumping team),Sweden

Contessa Casa de Miranda (women’s platform),Greta Johansson

Russian Emperor (decathlon),Jim Thorpe

German Emperor (show jumping team),Sweden

Austrian Emperor (dressage individual),Carl Bonde

City of Budapest (sabre team),Hungary

Géza Andressy (show jumping individual),Jean Cariou



Donor (Event),1920

Mme. de Montgomery (discus throw),Elmer Niklander

Gold & Silversmiths (heavyweight wrestling),Adolf Lindfors

The Football Association (football),Belgium

Brunetta d’Usseaux (coxed eights rowing),United States

Brunetta d’Usseaux (1500 swimming),Norman Ross

Lord Westbury (clay trap shooting),Mark Arie

King of Sweden (pentathlon),Eero Lehtonen

Swedish Calvary (overall equestrian),Sweden

Pierre de Coubertin (modern pentathlon),Gustaf Dyrssen

King of Italy (show jumping team),Sweden

Contessa Casa de Miranda (women’s platform),Stefanie Clausen



New Year’s Olympic Ski Jumping

The first major sports event in any year is the New Year’s Ski Jumping competition at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, part of the prestigious annual Four Hills Tournament. It’s Olympic connections go back all the way to 1922.

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Birger Ruud jumps to Olympic gold in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Earlier that year he had also won the New Year’s competition.

On January 1st, 1922, the first New Year’s Ski Jumping competition was held in Garmisch – this was a separate town until it was forcibly merged with Partenkirchen for the 1936 Winter Olympics. It was part of a national German Olympic Games (Deutsche Winterkampfspiele), as Germany was not permitted to take part in the Olympic Games due to its role in World War I. Only at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz would Germany appear again at the Olympic stage. The jumping hill built for this occasion was used for a competition on January 1st, which was to become an annual tradition. When Garmisch-Partenkirchen was awarded the Winter Olympics of 1936, a new jumping hill was built, which was inaugurated in February 1934, and has been used for the New Year’s event since. It has been renovated several times, in 1950, 1978 and 2007, and is still used in competition today. The event became part of the Four Hills Tournament in 1953, the first edition of that tournament, and has been ever since. The other competitions are held in Oberstdorf (Germany), Innsbruck and Bischofshofen (Austria). Garmisch-Partenkirchen joined Munich in a bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, but the IOC elected South Korean Pyeongchang instead.

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Jens Weißflog won 4 times at Garmisch, and also earned 3 Olympic golds, two of them in Lillehammer 1994 (shown here).

Among the winners of the New Year’s Ski Jump have – naturally – been a lot of Olympians. In fact, all winners since Paavo Lukkariniemi in 1966 have competed at the Olympics. The person with the most wins is Germany’s Martin Neuner with five (1924-1928), and in his only Olympic appearance (1928), he placed 9th. Two Germans have won four times on January 1st: Sepp Weiler, who only attended the 1952 Olympics as he was blocked from competing in 1948 and Jens Weißflog. Weißflog won at Garmisch in 1984-85, in 1990 and, jointly, in 1992. In 1984 he also won a gold medal, adding two more in 1994.

Winners in Garmisch didn’t always do well at the Olympics – e.g. three-time winner Bjørn Wirkola (1967-69), but since the mid-80s, all but a handful of winners have won at least one Olympic medal. On 9 occasions did the winner of the New Year’s Jump also win Olympic gold, although the last two times (2002 and 2010) this was in the team competition rather than an individual event.


Year,Ski jumper,Country

1936,Birger Ruud,Norway

1964,Veikko Kankkonen,Finland

1972,Yukio Kasaya,Japan

1984,Jens Weißflog,East Germany

1988,Matti Nykänen,Finland

1994,Espen Bredesen,Norway

1998,Kazuyoshi Funaki,Japan

2002,Sven Hannawald,Germany

2010,Gregor Schlierenzauer,Austria


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The 2014 podium, with Austrian winner Thomas Diethart.

The winner of the 1962 competition was Georg Thoma of Germany. Two years earlier, he had won a gold medal, but not in ski jumping, but in the Nordic combined (which combines ski jumping with cross country skiing), becoming the first non-Scandinavian to win that title.