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Gold and glory at the Games – the five greatest Winter Olympians on earth

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 22:  Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway competes during the Men's 4 x 7.5 km Relay during day 15 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 22, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)|PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 05:  Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway competes in the Men's 4x7.5km Relay during the BMW IBU World Cup Biathlon 2017 - test event for PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Alpensia Biathlon Centre on March 5, 2017 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

There are some Winter Olympians who are not merely content with winning a medal or two. Some insist on finishing in the top three time and time, and time again…

Ole Einar Bjørndalen

13 – Ranked sixth overall across both Summer and Winter Olympic Games – and the highest-ranked at the Winter Games with 13, the Norwegian biathlete’s count has spanned five Olympiads. In all, Bjørndalen boasts eight gold medals, four silvers and a solitary bronze. He did, however, draw a blank at his first Games appearance all the way back in 1994, when he was 20.

Bjørn Dæhile

12 – A travelling member of the Norwegian team at the Olympic Winter Games Calgary 1988, he did not compete but sees that as the turning point for his country in cross-country skiing. When Dæhile made his Olympic competition debut four years on, he picked up three gold medals, a feat he repeated at Nagano 1998. He retired from the sport in 2001 by which time he had eight Olympic golds and four silver medals.

Marit Bjørgen

10 – Another Norwegian in the top five, Bjørgen is the most decorated woman in Olympic Winter Games history with six gold medals and 10 medals in all. Remarkably, the tally could have been infinitely higher had Bjørgen not fallen ill with bronchitis just a week before Turin 2006. Instead, her six golds span the subsequent two Games, picking up three apiece at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.

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Raisa Smetanina

10 – The Russian was the first woman to win 10 Olympic Winter Games medals. She is narrowly trumped in the all-time list by Bjørgen by virtue of golds – her tally of four being inferior to the Norwegian’s count of six. Smetanina’s final Olympic Games came in 1992 when she won gold at the age of 39 and at the time she was the oldest woman in history to win Olympic gold. She was just two weeks shy of her 40th birthday.

Stefania Belmondo

10 – A third 10-time Olympic medallist, the Italian’s tally involves two gold medals, three silvers and five bronzes in cross-country. Arguably her crowning glory came at her final Games at Salt Lake City 2002 when Belmondo won gold, silver and bronze, repeating a feat she’d first achieved a decade previously in Albertville 1992. Hailing from the tiny village of Pontebernardo, half the population of 1600 travelled to watch her in 1992. Had it not been for injury, surgery and a three-year hiatus from the sport, the medal count could have been even higher.


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