Ranking the 15 Oldest Medal Winners in U.S. Olympic History

Christopher AmickCorrespondent IMay 11, 2012

Ranking the 15 Oldest Medal Winners in U.S. Olympic History

0 of 15

    Age is one thing that is always working against you if you just so happen to be a world- class athlete. 

    For Olympians, its even harder to stay competitive when the premiere event in your sport only comes around every four years.

    Some Olympic sports see their athletes peak at 16, and others rely on an entire group to obtain glory, so ranking the oldest American Olympians was quite a task.

    One has to consider the type of sport, the historical relevance and the entire career of the athlete when comparing them to others.

    Here are the 15 best American medal winners, all of which could have been considered too old to become a champion.

No. 15: Bonnie Blair

1 of 15

    Gold: 4

    Silver: 0

    Bronze: 1

    Bonnie Blair is one of the top speed skaters ever and she competed for the U.S. in four different Olympiads. 

    Blair competed last in 1994, when she won two gold medals in Lilliehammer at the age of 30.

No. 14: Jesse Owens

2 of 15

    Gold: 4

    Silver: 0

    Bronze: 0

    Jesse Owens makes this list easily. Not only for his domination during the 1936 Olympics, but also his historical relevance.

    Owens was 22 when he won his four golds and due to his historical significance, he should make any list that includes great American Olympians.

    Owens won four gold medals in track and field while performing in the shadows of Adolf Hitler, who watched the games in Berlin.

No. 13: Eddie Eagan

3 of 15

    Gold: 2

    Bronze: 0

    Silver: 0

    The only person to win gold in both seasons of the Olympic games is Eddie Eagan.

    He won the top prize in 1920 as a light-heavyweight boxer, and then Eagan won the gold as a member of the American bobsleigh team as a 35-year old.

No. 12: Larry Bird and the 1992 Dream Team

4 of 15

    Gold: 1

    Bronze: 0

    Silver: 0

    It might of been fair to give the 1992 dream team a bronze and silver as well, seeing as they beat their opponents by over 40 points per game.

    It was tough to put an entire group on this list, but the greatest team ever assembled has to be a part of any collection of great American medalist.

    An aging Larry Bird, along with a host of other 30-something NBA basketball stars blitzed the entire field in Barcelona on their way to a historic gold medal.

No. 11: Dan Jansen

5 of 15

    Gold: 1

    Silver: 0

    Bronze: 0

    After suffering through countless tragedies during his career, Dan Jansen finally broke through in 1994 when he won his only gold at 29.

    29 may not be considered old, but in the world of speed skating--young talent rules the roost.

    Jansen overcame his sister's untimely death and many Olympic disappointments to become one of the most memorable stories in sports history.

No. 10: Florence Griffith-Joyner

6 of 15

    Gold: 3

    Silver: 2

    Bronze: 0

    Its incredibly hard to be competitive in track and field as the body ages, which makes the success of  Florence Griffith-Joyner and others even more impressive.

    She was touted as the "fast woman of all-time" and Griffith-Joyner won three gold medals at age 28, which is remarkable. Had she been on the other side of 30 when she won gold, Griffith- Joyner might be placed higher on this list.

No. 9: George Eyser

7 of 15

    Gold: 3

    Silver: 2

    Bronze: 1

    Gymnast George Eyser captured an astonishing six medals in one day during the 1904 games in St.Louis. 

    At age 33, Eyser also won those medals with a prosthetic leg. This proves Eyser had more than enough moxie to make this list.

No. 8: Al Oerter

8 of 15

    Gold: 4

    Silver: 0

    Bronze: 0

    Al Oerter dominated the discus throw in four consecutive Olympic games from 1956 until 1968.

    He was 32 when he won his final gold, and in the world of track and field-- that is a remarkable feat.

No. 7: Dan O'Brien

9 of 15

    Gold: 1

    Silver: 0

    Bronze: 0

    Dan O'Brien was 30 when he won a gold medal as a decathlon athlete in the 1996 summer games in Atlanta.

    O'Brien won a boatload of world championships as well, and was one of the most marketable athletes in Olympic history. His popular appeal was enough for him to crack the top ten.

No. 6: Jackie Joyner-Kersee

10 of 15

    Gold: 3

    Silver: 1

    Bronze: 2

    Jackie Joyner- Kersee is one of the most celebrated athletes in history and her six medals during her Olympic career are a track and field rarity.

    Joyner- Kersee proved that age is just a number in the 1996 Olympic games, when she won a bronze medal at age 36.

No. 5: Raymond Ewry

11 of 15

    Gold: 8

    Silver: 0

    Bronze: 0

    Ray Ewry

    Ray Emery won eight gold meals in the early 1900's, including two at the ripe age of 34. During his career he was known as the best standing jumper in the world.

    Emery won all three standing jump events in both 1900 and 1904, and his eight individual golds are a record that has only been bested by Michael Phelps.

No. 4: Jenny Thompson

12 of 15

    Gold: 8

    Silver: 3

    Bronze: 1

    Her career lasted for over twelve years and Jenny Thompson is one of the most decorated Olympic athletes in history. Thompson could have been rated even higher if she had won more individual medals as she got older, but her overall medal count comes into play here.

    Thompson won eight golds and when she was 31, she captured two silver medals at the 2004 games in Athens.

No. 3: Mark Spitz

13 of 15

    Gold: 9

    Silver: 1

    Bronze: 1

    He was only 22 when he dominated the 1972 Munich games by winning seven golds, but Mark Spitz is placed highly because of his remarkable comeback effort in 1992 and his amazing medal count.

    Spitz failed to qualify for the games in Barcelona but he remains one of the most honored Olympians in history.

No. 2: Carl Lewis

14 of 15

    Gold:9

    Silver: 1

    Bronze: 0

    During his 27 year career, Lewis won nine gold medals and participated in the Olympic games four times.

    There has never been a dominating force quite like Carl Lewis in the sport of track and field. Lewis won gold in the 1996 games at age 35, and his distinguished career was almost enough for him to be number one on this list.

No. 1: Dara Torres

15 of 15

    Gold: 4

    Silver: 4

    Bronze: 4

    Dara Torres was the story at the 2008 games in Beijing when she won three Silver medals at the age of 41.

    Torres has the hardware and the historical relevance to earn this top honor.

    She is also attempting to qualify for the 2012 London games to cap off an Olympic career that has spanned an amazing 18 years.