Greatest Olympic athlete ever?
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Greatest Olympian ever?

Greatest Olympic athlete ever?
Many are saying Michael Phelps, left, is the greatest Olympic athlete of all time. But is he? He surpassed Mark Spitz, top right, in career swimming gold medals, but there are some other notable athletes who could be ranked ahead of him. (AFP)
Carl Lewis
For example, Carl Lewis of the U.S. won nine gold medals, including four straight in one event: the long jump. (Lynne Sladky / AP)
Paavo Nurmi
Track legend Paavo Nurmi of Finland won nine gold medals over three Olympics at distances from 1,500 to 10,000 meters. (Getty Images)
Larisa Latynina
Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union won nine gold medals and 18 total medals in gymnastics. (Getty Images)
Birgit Fischer-Schmidt
Birgit Fischer-Schmidt of Germany won her first of eight Olympic kayaking gold medals in 1980, and her last in 2004 as a 42-year-old mother of two. (Koji Sasahara / AP)
Steven Redgrave
Steven Redgrave of Great Britain won gold medals in five consecutive Olympics while rowing in three different boat types. (Allsport UK)
Emil Zatopek
And what about Emil Zatopek of Czechoslovakia, probably best known for his amazing feat of winning three gold medals in athletics at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki? He won gold in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter runs, then decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life and won that too.  (Associated Press)
Eric Heiden
Eric Heiden won all the men’s speedskating races, and thus an unprecedented five gold medals, and set four Olympic records and one world record at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid.  (TONY DUFFY, xx)
Michael Phelps
Or is it Phelps, and his 11 (as of Wednesday) gold medals? (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)