10 Greatest Male Gymnasts in History
Men’s artistic gymnastics are made up of six apparatus, namely floor, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high/horizontal bar. To be considered the greatest, one has to be strong and consistent in all of them. So here are my top 10 greatest male gymnasts of all time.
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My criteria for making the list are: a.) the gymnast must have won at least one all-around World or Olympic title; and b.) he must also have at least two World or Olympic titles on any apparatus. (For those who are dissatisfied that their beloved idols were not included, I apologize for I know there are many gymnasts who did not both criteria but are very much regarded as great gymnasts as well, like Andreas Wecker, Valeri Belenky, Koji Gushiken, Li Ning, Valeri Liukin, Li Xiaoshuang, and many more.)
Vitaly Scherbo (USSR/Unified Team/Belarus)
The greatest gymnast of all time, having won World/Olympic gold medals in the all-around and on every apparatus. In fact, he won six gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics (Team, all-around, pommel horse, rings, vault and parallel bars) and the 1993 World all-around, floor exercise and parallel bars title. His brash personality and strange capability to come up with exceptional performances when it most mattered gained him instant popularity with worldwide audiences.
Alexei Nemov (Russia)
The 2000 Athens Olympic all-around and high bar champion. Having won a total of twenty five World championship and Olympic medals (nine golds, six silvers and 10 bronzes), he is surely one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. His showmanship and his well-rounded gymnastic routines which were characterized by complicated acrobatic skills, elegance and flawless technique had gained him a lot of fans.
Nikolai Andrianov (USSR/Russia)
A three-time Olympian (1972, 1976 and 1980). He won a total of fifteen Olympic medals, including gold in the all-around, floor exercise, rings and vault in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Described as a natural gymnast, he won every major competition there was, including the World Cup, European Championships, and the World Championships (1978).
Boris Shakhlin (USSR/Russia)
One of the most successful Olympians, having won thirteen medals in three successive Olympics (1956, 1960 and 1964), seven of which are gold including the 1960 all-around, pommel horse, vault, parallel bars and high bar titles. He was also the 1958 World all-around champion. He got the nickname “Man of Iron” for his strong determination and consistent performance.
Vladimir Artemov (USSR/Russia)
His impressive career spanning a period of six years from 1983 to 1989 includes a combined total of eighteen World and Olympic medals, ten of which are gold medals that include the all-around, parallel bars and high bar titles at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He is well remembered for his impeccable technique on parallel bars, an event in which he won three world titles (1983, 1987, and 1989). He also finished second in the all-around at the 1985 World Championships and 3rd in the all-around at the 1987 World Championships.
Dmitry Bilozerchev (USSR/Russia)
The boy wonder of gymnastics. By winning the 1983 world all-around, vault, rings, and pommel horse title at a tender age of sixteen, he became the youngest ever male world champion in the history of gymnastics. He also made a miraculous comeback by winning the 1987 world all-around, high bars and rings title after two years recuperating from a serious auto accident that crashed his leg, proving his determination and love for the sport. In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, he earned bronze in the all-around and gold medals on both pommel horse and rings.
Yuri Korolev (USSR/Russia)
One of the most gifted gymnast that the former Soviet Union ever produced. He won the 1981 and 1985 World all-around championship including titles on floor exercise, rings and vault. With his individual World Championship and World Cup medals tally of twenty one, he is without question the most decorated non-Olympian (male or female) gymnast of all time. He could have been the greatest gymnast in history had not the USSR boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and an Achilles tendon injury prevented him from competing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Alexander Dityatin (USSR/Russia)
At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, he medalled in every gymnastics events, eight in all (including gold medals in the all-around and rings), setting the Olympic record for the most medals won in one Olympic games, a record that still stands today, tied only with Michael Phelps, who achieved the feat at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He was also the 1979 World all-around, vault, and rings champion.
Yuri Titov (USSR/Russia)
The 1962 World all-around and rings champion and the 1958 World champion on vault. During the course of his competitive career that span three Olympics (1956, 1960 and 1964), he won a total of nine Olympic medals, ten World championship medals and an astonishing fourteen European medals.
Sawao Kato (Japan)
The 1968 and 1972 Olympic all-around champion. Participating also in three Olympics, he earned a total of twelve medals, eight of which are gold medals that include titles on floor exercise and parallel bars, making him one of the most successful gymnasts in Olympic history and the best Japanese Olympian.
More articles on Greatest Athletes series:
- (Almost) Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Male Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- Greatest American Female Gymnasts
- Greatest American Male Gymnasts
- 10 Greatest Female Figure Skaters of All Time
- 10 Greatest Male Figure Skaters of All Time
Articles on the Olympics:
- Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Moments of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
- Unforgettable Moments of The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
- Michael Phelps: The Greatest Olympian of All Time
Golden Olympic Performances:
- Men Singles Figure Skating
- Ladies Singles Figure Skating
- Men’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise
- Men’s Gymnastics – Pommel Horse
- Men’s Gymnastics – Still Rings
- Men’s Gymnastics – Horizontal Bar
- Men’s Gymnastics – Parallel Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Uneven Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Balance Beam
- Women’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise