MICHAEL PHELPS (U.S. 1985-)Michael Phelps is considered to be the greatest Olympian ever by many experts. He was phenomenal at the 2008 Beijing Games where he won 8 eight gold medal in eight events and created seven world records. During this dream run, the champion simmer equaled the record eight medals of any type at a single Olympics achieved by Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin at the 1980 Moscow Summer Games. He has 14 Olympic gold medals to his name, maximum by any athlete.
USAIN BOLT (Jamaica 1986-)Considered to be the fastest man on earth, sprinter Usain Bolt is five-time World and three-time Olympic gold medalist. He went unnoticed at the 2004 Athens Olympics as he finished fifth but he was back with a bang with Olympic records in both the 100 m and 200 m events at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Many reckon that the Jamaican is gifted with long legs which complete a 100 m race in just 41 steps, but he has often reckoned that it is the result of his rigorous training sessions and hard work which provides him lightning speed on the tracks.
CARL LEWIS (U.S. 1961-)He is considered to be one of the most recognized track and field athletes in U.S. and Olympic history, winning nine gold medals in four different Olympiads.
The four gold medals he won at the 1984 Olympics equaled that of his hero and fellow Alabamian, Jesse Owens, in the 1936 Olympics. He achieved his first world ranking as an athlete at the University of Houston, and lasted until the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he won his final gold medal.
By the time he retired, he had nine Olympic and eight world titles to his name.
NAIM SULEYMANOGLU (Turkey, 1967-)He was fondly named as "The Pocket Hercules", who was to become a national hero in Turkey after he defected from Bulgaria at the 1986 world weightlifting championships in Melbourne.
4 feet 10 inches Suleymanoglu won three Olympic Championships, seven World Championships and six European Championships and earned 46 world records to his name.
Suleymanoglu who created his first world record at the age of 16 was denied a certain gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when Bulgaria joined the eastern bloc boycott. His decision to defect followed oppression from the Turkish minority as the mosques were closed and the Turkish language banned.
Suleymanoglu finally competed at the Seoul Olympics after Turkey had handed over $1 million dollars to Bulgaria to waive the nationality rules. The little champ broke his world records and lifted more than three times his bodyweight overhead.
Twice in 2000 and 2004, he was elected member of the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.
TEOFILO STEVENSON (CUBA, 1952-)At the age of 20, Stevenson won his first gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics, an event where for the first time Cuba demonstrated its dominance in amateur boxing with their first three titles, plus a silver and a bronze.
Stevenson won on a walkover after his injured Romanian opponent loin Alexe failed to appear.
His second gold at the Montreal Olympics excited the interest of American promoters, who offered him $5 million to challenge Ali as a professional. He denied the offer as he staunchly opposed to the professional circuit which he reckoned produced fighters.
MARK SPITZ (United States, 1950-)The swimmer bagged a record seven gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres freestyle, the 100 and the 200 butterfly and three relays, each in world record time.
Mark Spitz was a Jewish athlete who had competed at the Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv in 1965. He recorded his final victory hours before Palestinian guerrillas captured and eventually murdered 11 Israeli athletes. Unfortunately, he left West Germany under armed guard and could not attend the closing ceremony.
In 1992, he came out of retirement in an unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the Barcelona Olympics.
LARISA LATYNINA (Soviet Union, 1934-)Larisa Latynina is credited to have marked Soviet Union on the world map for dominating in gymnastics.
In the 1956 Summer Olympics, she dueled with Hungarian Agnes Kelet. Latynina won a record 18 medals in three Games for the Soviet Union.
She was equally successful in Rome and Tokyo as she finished her Olympic career with nine gold, five silver and four bronze medals.
Latynina retired after the 1966 World Championships and went on coach the Soviet national gymnastics team.
FANNY BLANKERS-KOEN (Netherlands, 1918-2004)Fanny Blankers-Koen participated at the 1936 Berlin Games, finishing out of the medal place in the long jump and 4x100 metres relay.
30-year-old and a mother, Fanny Blankers-Koen surprised everybody at the 1948 London Games by winning the 100 and 200 metres, the 80 metres hurdles and anchored her country to victory in the 4x400 metres relay.
JESSE OWENS (United States, 1913-80)Owens has the record of breaking five world records and equaling a sixth within the space of an extraordinary hour in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 25, 1935.
In the next year at the Berlin games, Owens equaled the Olympic record winning the 100 metres, broke the Olympic record he had earlier set in the 200 metres final and defeated the home favourite Lutz Long in the long jump category.
Owens’ fourth gold medal came in controversial circumstances. At a Games watched by Adolf Hitler and his henchman, who exploited the propaganda opportunities at an Olympics, two Jewish members of the original 4x100 metres relay were excluded and Owens included in the winning four member team.
SPIRIDON LOUIS (Greece, 1873-1940)From being a water carrier to winning the first modern-day Marathon at the 1896 Summer Olympics, Spiridon Louis had seen it all. The Greeks had turned up in huge numbers to watch the particular race in which Louis became the national hero. They all erupted at the Panathinaiko stadium as he finished the race first.
PAAVO NURMI (Finland 1897-1973)The sprinter is widely regarded as a man who revolutionised distance running. His obsessive training routine combining speed and endurance racing was years ahead of its time.
At the 1920 Antwerp Games he won gold medals in the 10,000 metres and in the individual and team cross country events.
Later on, Nurmi bagged five more at the 1924 Paris Games and reckoned he would have won a sixth had the Finnish team allowed him to compete in the 10,000 metres. At the Amsterdam Games four years later, he won a ninth gold in the 10,000 metres category.
His commendable efforts received a fitting tribute to the man who had set 29 world records when he bore the torch into the stadium at the 1952 Helsinki Games to tumultuous applause. His stature stands to this day outside the Olympic stadium.
JOHNNY WEISSMULLER (United States, 1904-84)He was the first athlete to break the 60 seconds for the 100 metres freestyle. In the year 1924, he won 400 and 100 metres freestyle at the Paris Olympics and retained 100 title in Amsterdam four years later. He finished unbeaten with five Olympic titles and 67 world records.
He was regarded as the finest male swimmer in the first half of the 20th century. After his retirement he played the role of Tarzan alongside Maureen O`Sullivan as Jane for several Hollywood movies.