Tokyo Olympics: Phelps, Spitz, Dressel and the most successful swimmers at a single Games

By Sports Desk July 31, 2021

When you're being tipped as the heir apparent to a legend like Michael Phelps you must be talented.

And there is no doubting Caeleb Dressel's supreme skills in the pool, which have been on display all week at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Dressel finished up on Sunday with a new Olympic record to win the 50m freestyle, while he and his United States team-mates broke the world benchmark in taking out the 4x100m medley.

In total, Dressel leaves Tokyo 2020 with five gold medals – collecting individual accolades in the 50 and 100m free races and 100m butterfly as well as winning two relay events.

Swimming has a proud history of producing athletes who leave a single Games with multiple gold medals and Stats Perform takes a look at some of the previous stars of the pool to have done so.

MICHAEL PHELPS – 8 (BEIJING, 2008)

Quite simply an Olympics legend. With a mind-boggling 23 golds and 28 medals in total, the American great is the most successful Olympian of all time.

His most lucrative Games came at Beijing in 2008, where Phelps won a remarkable eight gold medals in the pool – the most collected at a single Olympics.

Phelps' haul included the following events: 4x100m medley, 100m butterfly, 200m IM, 4x200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 200m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle and 400m individual medley.

It must have been one heavy carry-on bag on the way home! But Phelps made a habit of racking up the golds. He won six at the 2004 Games in Athens and earned five at his final Olympics at Rio 2016.

MARK SPITZ – 7 (MUNICH, 1972)

Before Phelps came along to destroy all the record books, it was Mark Spitz who held the benchmark for most golds at one Games with his incredible effort of seven at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

The American, who had earned a couple of relay golds in Mexico City four years prior, won every race he entered, setting a world record in each.

He took out the butterfly and freestyle in the 100 and 200m categories, while clinching relay golds in the 4x100m freestyle, 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle.

KRISTIN OTTO – 6 (SEOUL, 1988)

Representing East Germany at the 1988 Games in Seoul, Otto took home six golds – the most of any woman at a single Olympics.

Otto did so swimming three different strokes - freestyle, backstroke and butterfly. Her gold medals came in the 50 and 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley.

She retired a year later and Otto is now a prominent pundit in Germany.

MATT BIONDI – 5 (SEOUL, 1988)

At the same Olympics, another American legend of the pool Matt Biondi had a Games to remember.

Biondi won the 50 and 100m freestyle races and a further three relay golds, while he lost out by just one one-hundredth of a second when favourite in the 100m butterfly.

He famously said of that defeat: "One one-hundredth of a second - what if I had grown my fingernails longer?"

In total he won seven medals in Seoul, only Phelps and Spitz have won as many at a single Games.

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