Slide 1 of 10
Michael Phelps, Swimming
Olympics: 2004, 2008, 2012
Medals: 18 gold, two silver, two bronze
Success secret: Stay laser-focused on your goals, despite what your skeptics may say.
Many experts thought it was impossible for any athlete to win eight gold medals in a single Olympics. Phelps never listened to the naysayers and managed to win gold in all eight events he swam in Beijing. He also holds the records for gold medals, gold medals in individual events, and Olympic medals in individual events for a male. He's considered the greatest Olympian of all time.
Image courtesy of London2012.com
UPDATE: This article has been revised to include the medals Phelps won in the 2012 London Olympics.
Slide 2 of 10
Mary Lou Retton, Gymnastics
Medals: One gold, two silver, two bronze
Success secret: Don't back down from the competition -- they will likely bring out the best in you.
Retton battled Romania's Ecaterina Szabó for the all-around Olympic title in 1984. Going into the final two disciplines, Retton trailed by 15 hundredths of a point. But, she managed to score perfect 10s on both the floor exercise and vault to become the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the Olympic all-around title.
Image courtesy of Celebslists.com
Slide 3 of 10
Greg Louganis, Diving
Olympics: 1976, 1984, 1988
Medals: Four gold, one silver
Success secret: Never give up. When great obstacles arise, pick yourself up and get back in the game.
In 1988, Louganis dramatically slammed his head into the springboard while completing a dive in the preliminary rounds, giving him a concussion. Astoundingly he was able to recover and went on to win the gold medal.
Image courtesy of Wired.com
Slide 4 of 10
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Track and Field
Olympics: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996
Medals: Three gold, one silver, two bronze
Success secret: Giving back goes a long way.
Joyner-Kersee has become known just as much for her philanthropic efforts as for her impressive long jump. In 1988, she founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation to teach children, adults and families athletic lessons that will improve their quality of life.
Image courtesy of Only A Game
Slide 5 of 10
Mark Spitz, Swimming
Olympics: 1968, 1972
Medals: Nine gold, one silver, one bronze
Success secret: Be nimble. When something isn't working, change your strategy quickly and get back on track.
Spitz predicted he would win six gold medals at the 1968 Mexico City games -- he walked away with just two relay team golds. Disappointed, he stepped up his training regimen and decided to swim at Indiana University for legendary coach Doc Counsilman. "Mark the Shark" came back four years later to win a then record-setting seven gold medals at the Munich games.
Image courtesy of About.com
Slide 6 of 10
Carl Lewis, Track and Field
Olympics: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996
Medals: Nine gold, one silver
Success secret: Always be promoting and selling yourself.
Due to his long, successful career and the increased television exposure, Lewis is credited with transforming track and field into its current mainstream status. This allowed top athletes in the sport to land endorsements and thus have more lucrative, longer-lasting careers.
Image courtesy of Sporting-heroes.net
Slide 7 of 10
Dara Torres, Swimming
Olympics: 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008
Medals: Four gold, four silver, four bronze
Success secret: It's never too late to realize your dreams.
After sitting out the 1996 and 2004 Olympics, Torres became the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic team in 2008. She competed in Beijing at the age of 41. Her Olympic career spans a staggering twenty-four years.
Image courtesy of Team Fenom
Slide 8 of 10
Jesse Owens, Track and Field
Medals: Four gold
Success secret: Never count out the underdog.
Owens surprised many by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. But, his victories were made even more poignant by quashing Adolf Hitler's intentions to use the games to show "Aryan racial superiority." Owens, an African-American sharecropper's son from Alabama, emerged as the games' top performer.
Image courtesy of Run Run.es
Slide 9 of 10
Michael Johnson, Track and Field
Olympics: 1992, 1996, 2000
Medals: Four gold
Success secret: Creating a unique, memorable identity will take you far.
With his unorthodox upright running style and custom-designed gold Nike racing spikes, "The Man With the Golden Shoes" was the talk of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games long after the closing ceremonies.
Image courtesy of Sporting Heroes
Golden shoes image courtesy of Wikmedia Commons/klew97
Slide 10 of 10
The Dream Team, Basketball
Medals: One gold
Success secret: Assemble a top-notch team.
This was the first American Olympic team to include active NBA players. Described by reporters as the greatest sports team ever constructed, The Dream Team defeated its opponents by an average of nearly 44 points, won the gold medal and became a cultural phenomenon.
Image courtesy of ew.com