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Top 10 Greatest Winter Olympic Athletes of All Time

VO: RB WRITTEN BY: Spencer Sher
Written bySpencer Sher These athletes have become living legends in the world of the Winter Olympics! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Greatest Winter Olympic Athletes of All time! But what will take the top spot on our list? Will it be Sonja Henie, Ole Einar Bjørndalen, or Bjørn Dæhlie? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Have an idea for our next video? Submit your idea on our suggest page here: https://www.WatchMojo.commy/suggest.php

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They’re the best of the best when it comes to ice and snow. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Greatest Winter Olympic Athletes of All Time.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the most impressive competitors to ever participate in the Winter Olympic Games, as ranked by the Active Times in their article “The 50 Greatest Winter Olympians.” We’re basing our list on overall medal count, as well as the types of medals won. So, if your favorite Winter Olympian only won a couple of silvers, they won’t make the cut.

#10: Apolo Anton Ohno

From 2002 to 2010, Apolo Anton Ohno dominated the world of short track speed skating. During that span he won eight Olympic medals – 2 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze – which means he’s tied for the most by a short track speed skater in Olympic history. While he competed in three Olympic games (Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver) he is arguably most famous for the first: in Salt Lake City, Ohno won a gold and a silver, while also being a key cog in two famous – or infamous – finishes. Of course nowadays, most people know him best for his on-screen accomplishments, what with his 2007 win on “Dancing with the Stars” and for his time hosting “Minute to Win It.”

#9: Kjetil André Aamodt

As will soon become apparent, Norwegians and winter sports go together like peanut butter and jelly. The first Scandinavian athlete to make our list is Kjetil André Aamodt; and boy, did he ever clean up between 1992 and 2006. As the most decorated ski racer in the country’s illustrious sporting history, Aamodt brought home eight medals during his time on the Olympic slopes, four of which were gold. Add to that another 12 World Championship medals and you have one seriously impressive athlete. Incredibly, all of Aamodt’s medals were stolen from his home in 2003, but he was able to retrieve them shortly after. And if you’re wondering: no, he didn’t catch them on a ski slope thanks to his insane skills.

#8: Ricco Groß

Few biathletes have achieved the same level of success as Ricco Groß. A veteran of five Olympic Games between 1992 and 2006, Groß competed in four different competitive formats: individual, sprint, pursuit and relay. However, it was the latter where he made a name for himself as one of the greatest biathletes of his generation. He and his varied cast of teammates bagged four gold medals and one silver in the event over that 14-year span, making him the only biathlete to win four golds in the relay in the history of the Winter Olympics.

#7: Eric Heiden

If you’re basing your picks for the greatest Winter Olympic Athletes of all time solely on numbers, then Eric Heiden might not make the skating cut, seeing as how he only won five during his time as a long track speed skater. However, context is everything; and the way the legendary Heiden won his medals is crucial when discussing his insane achievements. He won all five of his medals at the 1980 games in Lake Placid when he was just 21 years old. Oh, and they were all gold. In fact, that year Heiden won more gold medals himself than all but two countries!

#6: Claudia Pechstein

Claudia Pechstein’s Olympic stats are the stuff of legend. As a speed skater, she competed in six Winter Olympics from 1992 to 2014, and in the process managed to win nine medals (five gold, two silver, two bronze) and set two Olympic records. Her haul was good enough to make her the most decorated German Winter Olympian of all time, and the most decorated speed skater ever as well. It’s important to mention that she didn’t even compete at the 2010 Olympics due to a ban for blood doping; a charge she’s continually denied. But, in 2018, she made a return to the Olympics, competing at almost 46 years old!

#5: Raisa Smetanina

USSR and Unified Team
One word comes to mind when you think of Raisa Smetanina: “winner”. A cross-country skier, Smetanina competed for both the Soviet Union and the Unified Team (of former Soviet republics) between 1976 and 1992. It was during those years that she became the woman of “firsts” that we know today. Smetanina is the first female athlete to win a whopping 10 Olympic medals, and when she won gold at the age of 39 in Albertville in 1992, she became, at that time, the oldest female winner in Winter Olympic history. So basically, Raisa Smetanina was badass.

#4: Stefania Belmondo

Remember when we said that Raisa Smetanina was the first Olympian to win 10 medals? Well guess who was the second? Standing at just 5’2”, Stefania Belmondo was considered quite small for the sport of cross-country skiing. But even so, she won 10 medals spread across five Olympics, making her the most successful Italian Winter Olympic athlete of all time. Her career included a multi-year hiatus brought on by a disappointing turn at the ‘94 Games; and by disappointing, we mean she only won a couple of bronze medals. The incomparable talent capped off her career in 2002 by winning gold in Salt Lake City.

#3: Ole Einar Bjørndalen

Bear with us here, because Ole Einar Bjørndalen has accomplished a lot. The Norwegian biathlete holds the record for most medals won by a Winter Olympian with 13, and is tied with Bjørn Dæhlie for the most gold medals all time with 8. Bjørndalen’s Olympic career began in 1994 but he didn’t get his first taste of gold until four years later. From there, he slowly began to amass medals at an alarming rate until one day he found himself looking down on every other biathlete in history. Unfortunately, he didn’t qualify for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang so he won’t be adding to his totals.

#2: Sonja Henie

Quick, what were you doing when you were 11 years old? If your answer was competing at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, congratulations: you’re Norwegian figure skating legend Sonja Henie! That’s right, Henie competed in her first Olympic games at the tender age of 11, and although she finished dead last, she just kept on trucking (well, skiing). She eventually won gold in 1928, 1932 and 1936 and finished her career as the most decorated female figure skater. She went on to achieve success in Hollywood as well, starring in numerous films before her untimely death in 1969.

#1: Bjørn Dæhlie

Norway? Yes, way! If our list were an Olympic podium, then Norway just pulled off the sweep. Coming in at number one is Bjørn Dæhlie, winner of 12 Olympic medals between 1992 and 1998. Tack on an additional 17 World Championship medals and you have the most medalled cross-country skier in history. As mentioned, Dæhlie is tied with Ole Einar Bjørndalen for the most gold medals in Winter Olympics history, but even with the tie Dæhlie is often considered one of the greatest Olympians of all time, Winter or Summer. He’s managed to translate his success on snow into even greater success in business, as his companies have made him one of the 400 richest people in Norway! Bjørn to win!

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