Happening once every four years, the Olympics is quite simply the mecca of sports. Every athlete wants to be a part of the extravaganza - not only to compete but also to experience the atmosphere in all its glory. The event isn't just special for athletes but also the fans, who get to witness iconic sporting moments and drama of the highest order. Throughout the Games' history, there have been superstars who have always put on a show and dominated their event. There have also been athletes who captured the hearts of fans with their story or personality that lives long in the memory. These are the 3 most adored Olympic medalists.
1. Michael Phelps
The American swimmer is arguably the greatest Olympian of all time. There are a couple of other names on this list who might call that into question, but for the sheer number of medals won - 28 in total, 23 of them gold - he is lengths ahead. The lanky, loveable Phelps first arrived on the Olympic scene in Sydney 2000, at just 15 years old, becoming the youngest man in the USA team for the Games in 68 years. Although 15-year-old Phelps didn't earn any medals, he did finish a respectable 5th in the 200m butterfly - a true sign of things to come. The Baltimore-born sensation would go on to dominate the next four Olympic Games, finishing each one as the most decorated athlete. This included a post-retirement comeback at Rio 2016, where Phelps, aged 31, bagged an incredible five golds and one silver. Since retiring from the pool, family man Phelps has set up his own charitable foundation, which focuses on the mental health of children. A true champion.
2. Usain Bolt
If Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympian in terms of medal haul, then surely Usain Bolt is the Games' highest-profile star of the modern era. A true global superstar, the Jamaican sprinter has been the face of the last three Olympic Games, living up to huge expectations on every single occasion - and always with a smile on his face. Bolt has won gold multiple times in every event he's participated in, winning the 100m and 200m crowns a staggering three times, as well as two golds in the 4x100m as part of an electric Jamaican team. The charismatic fan-favorite also remains the fastest person on the planet, after clocking a 100m speed of 9.58 seconds at the World Championships in 2009. A true lightning bolt.
3. Larisa Latynina
From the track to the gym floor, another adored Olympian is the staggeringly successful Larisa Latynina. The gymnast from the former Soviet Union burst onto the scene at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and, at just 21, fought off stiff competition to win gold in the all-around event. It was four years later at the Rome Games where Latynina really asserted her dominance, defending her all-around title and adding another goal in the team event. She also took gold in the floor exercise, silvers on the uneven bars and the balance beam, and a bronze in the vault. Like Bolt and Phelps, Latynina returned for a third successful Games at Tokyo 1964, where she added to her outrageous haul - bowing out with 18 Olympic medals. Larisa was a truly loveable legend.