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Who Are The Most Successful Winter Olympians of All Time?

Updated on February 11, 2014

Despite not being as popular worldwide as its summer counterpart, the winter olympics is ever growing and evolving. The winter olympics in Sochi, has been the most expensive olympic games to host out of any olympic games.

What's more interesting though, is watching the sports in the winter olympics evolve year on year. The 2014 winter olympics is the first to include the slopestyle event for skiing and snowboarding. This brings the total number of different events in the winter olympics to 88. Although still not as many as its summer counterpart, we are continually seeing advancement in winter sport as a whole.

In this article, we are going to take a look at who are the most successful winter olympians of all time.

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5. Lyubov Yegorova (Russia)

To start off our list we have Russian cross country skier Lyubov Yegorova who managed to win 9 olympic medals (6Gold, 3 Silver) throughout her career. Born in 1969, she competed at 2 olympic games and managed to earn the title of being the most successful athlete at both of these. In the 1992 winter olympics in Albertville, she managed to win 3 Gold medals and 2 Silver and, at the 1994 winter olympics in Lillehammer she managed to attain 3 Golds and 1 Silver. This is a truly amazing feat for anyone to achieve.

Her career was however cut short when in the 1997 world championships she tested positive for an anabolic steroid. Consequently, the gold medal that she had won three days earlier in the 5km event was stripped off of her and given to fellow Russian Yelena Välbe. It is such a shame that she had to do this. She had the potential to be much greater than she managed to achieve.

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4. Stefania Belmondo

At number four, we have Italian cross country skier Stefania Belmondo. Throughout her career, Belmondo managed to win 10 olympic gold medals including 2 Gold, 3 Silver and 5 Bronze. This makes her one of only two women to have won 10 or more winter olympic gold medals. As such, she is also considered one of the greatest female winter olympians of all time.

Like many others, she also competed in the world championships managing to have just as much success. She won, 4 Golds, 7 Silver and 2 Bronze medals throughout her time competing in the world championships.

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3. Raisa Smetanina (Soviet Union)

At number three we have legendary cross country skier Raisa Smetanina who represented the Soviet Union in this sport throughout the 1970's and 80's. She took part in five winter olympics and managed to win an impressive 10 medals (4 Gold, 5 Silver, 1 Bronze). This would make her the first woman in history to win 10 winter olympic medals.

What is perhaps more impressive is that her last olympic gold medal was won right at the end of her career in the 1992 when she was aged 39. At the time, that would have also meant that she was the oldest woman ever to win a winter olympic gold medal.

As well as her olympic successes, Smetanina also managed to have many victories in the Cross Country Skiing World Championships. Throughout her career she managed to win 12 medals in the world championships (4 Gold, 4 Silver, 4 Bronze).

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2. Ole Einar Bjørndalen (Norway)

Coming in at number two on our list of the most successful winter olympians we have Norwegian Ole Einar Bjørndalen. Born on 27th January 1974, Bjørndalen is a professional biathlete who has taken part in the olympics 6 times (1994-2014).

From this he has thus far managed to win 12 olympic medals (7 Gold, 4 Silver 1 Bronze). This would tie him at the top of our leaderboard with number 1 on our list. Rightly so, he can claim to be the most successful winter olympian of all time.

The height of his career came in 2002 at the Salt Lake olympic games where he managed to win 4 Gold medals in the individual, sprint, group & relay biathlon events. These 4 Golds would help his country Norway obtain the most gold medals of any team at that olympics. However, their overall medal tally was still less than that of Germany and the US.

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1. Bjørn Dæhlie (Norway)

At number one on the list of the most successful winter olympians of all time we have norwegian legend Bjørn Dæhlie with 12 medals. He is regarded by some as one of the best cross country skiers of all time. In 3 olympic games (1992, 1994, 1998) he managed to win 8 Gold medals and 4 Silver ones. This is a truly amazing feat by any olympian.

In addition to this, he also managed to win 17 world championship medals including 9 Gold, 5 Silver, 3 Bronze. In particular he will be remembered for his performance in the 1997 where he managed to earn 3 Gold medals, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze.

Dæhlie's career however did end early due to an injury picked up whilst he was roller skiing in August 1999. The injury was enough to make him take an early retirement from the sport in 2001. If he had not had to do this, who knows how many medals he could have gone on to achieve.

Rank
Name
Sport
Number of Medals
5
Lyubov Yegorova
Cross Country
9
4
Stefania Belmondo
Cross Country
10
3
Raisa Smetanina
Cross Country
10
2
Ole Einar Bjørndalen
Biathlon
12
1
Bjørn Dæhlie
Cross Country
12

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