What's The Record For The Most Times An Athlete Has Competed In The Olympics? More Than You'd Guess

This year in Rio, several American Olympians are making a second (or more) appearance at the Games. Two Olympic gold medalist gymnasts are back, after having won big in London in 2012. Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman were both part of the "Fierce Five" that nearly swept that competition, and their return is seen as extremely rare. But then gold medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps is back for the fifth time. So what's the record for the most times an athlete has competed in the Olympics?

As you might guess, the amount differs quite a bit depending on the sport the athlete is competing in. The current record holder regardless of the sport goes to a Canadian, Ian Millar, who competed in equestrian events for 40 years, through 2012. That's 10 Olympic games! He started at age 25 and last competed at 65, winning one silver medal at the Beijing games in 2008. This year he was set to compete, too, which would have been 11 in total, but his horse had some sinus problems, and he had to sit out.

The American that has competed in the most Olympics also competed in equestrian events. His name is John Michael Plumb, and he won two golds and four silvers over the course of his seven Olympic games. His last Olympics were the 1992 games in Barcelona, Spain. He was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008. Other sports highly participated in lots of times include sailing, shooting, fencing, and luge.


Obviously a sport like gymnastics takes a lot more physical endurance than others, in addition to skill and expertise. As a body gets older, it's harder to meet the physical demands, plus there are a lot of younger gymnasts vying for a spot on the American team. That's what makes Raisman and Douglas' accomplishment all the more remarkable. They are the first Americans to make the team twice since 2000.

As for Phelps, he's the first American male swimmer to make the team a fifth time. But he's also father to a new baby boy, so this could be his last trip. He told USA Today that he wants to finish on his own terms. "Just being able to finish how I want to is so important to me. Getting on this team is what I wanted to do," he said.

There are many more returning athletes to Rio, including Serena Williams. Watching their continued success may be one of the most enjoyable aspects of this year's summer Olympics. Their accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable.