Ranking the most dominant gold medalists at the Olympics, statistically speaking, max. one entry per sport …
7) Sarah Nurse, Canada, Hockey
1 gold in 1 event
Canadian teammate Brianne Jenner was tournament MVP, and Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice in the semifinal and final, but here’s the argument for Nurse: she had the most tournament points despite playing fewer minutes than Jenner and Poulin, led all forwards in plus-minus and had a slightly higher faceoff percentage than Jenner.
6) Irene Schouten, Netherlands, Speed Skating
3 gold, 1 bronze in 4 events
Teammate Ireen Wuest received more press for winning her 12th and 13th career medals. So did Swede Nils van der Poel for winning the 5000m (barely) and 10,000m (world record) and then publishing a 62-page training journal – “the hardest flex I’ve ever seen in speedskating,” NBC Olympics analyst Joey Cheek tweeted. But Schouten had the best overall performance on the oval – starting with Olympic records in both of her races against the clock (3000m and 5000m). She then dropped off a little in the team pursuit. Schouten anchored the team in the medal rounds, but the Dutch lost time in each race while she led the last three laps (granted the lead in the bronze-medal race was pretty insurmountable by the time she moved to the front). But Schouten bounced back to win the mass start, showing the best blend of versatility and stamina over one Olympics in speed skating since Eric Heiden.
5) Francesco Friedrich/Thorsten Margis, Germany, Bobsled
2 gold in 2 events
Friedrich drove German two- and four-man bobsleds to gold medals, with Margis in the sled in both events. Together (and with two more pushers in the four-man), they clocked the fastest runs in three of the four heats in each race. They would be higher on this list if they had the fastest runs in every heat, but Friedrich still became the second driver in the last 38 years to win the two- and four-man outright at one Olympics (he tied for two-man gold in 2018). You can argue that Margis was more dominant than Friedrich: Friedrich’s sleds had the fastest start times (outright) in all eight heats between two- and four-man, and that’s the only part of the race that Margis had any control over.
4) Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, Norway, Biathlon
3 gold, 2 bronze in 6 events
Roeiseland won her two individual golds by large margins (30.9 seconds, 96.5 seconds) and had the fastest time on each of her two relay legs. She would have won her other two individual races if she went clean in her final shooting sessions, but that’s the nature of biathlon and she still made the podium each time. Frenchman Quentin Fillon Maillet and Norwegian Johannes Thingnes Boe also won five biathlon medals, splitting the men’s individual golds. Unlike Roeiseland, each of them had an individual race where they missed the medals entirely. Roeiseland missed the medals in the women’s relay largely because teammate Tiril Eckhoff had a disaster shooting and the slowest leg of anybody on the Norwegian team by more than a minute.
3) Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron, France, Figure Skating
1 gold in 1 event
Nathan Chen and the Chinese pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong were similarly dominant as the French ice dancers. Papadakis and Cizeron get the nod because they broke the world record for total score, which Chen did not do. Papadakis and Cizeron broke the ice dance total record by 0.37, while Sui and Han broke the pairs’ total record by 0.08. Papadakis and Cizeron won by 6.47 points, the largest margin in ice dance history under the scoring system in place since 2006. Sui and Han won by 0.63, the second-smallest margin of any figure skating event since 2006. It’s hard to know where to fit Papadakis and Cizeron on a list with athletes who competed in multiple events, but they shouldn’t be penalized for doing one event. Though maybe I am by not putting them higher.
2) Eileen Gu, China, Freestyle Skiing
2 gold, 1 silver in 3 events
That Gu became the first freestyle skier to win three medals at one Olympics isn’t that impressive because it wasn’t realistically possible until these Games with the addition of big air. What was impressive is that Gu came up clutch, taking gold on her last big air run and silver on her last slopestyle run. Her winning margin in halfpipe, her best event, was the largest in the event’s short Olympic history for men or women (since 2014). She posted the two highest scores of that final in her first two runs and made her third and final run a victory lap. Gu was 0.33 points shy of triple gold, costing her the No. 1 spot on this list.
1) Therese Johaug, Norway, Cross-Country Skiing
3 gold in 4 events
The only knock against Johaug was that she won her shortest event by a small margin (0.4 seconds in the 10km), but the bronze medalist was 31.5 seconds behind. Johaug won the opening 15km skiathlon by 30.2 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from seventh place. It certainly wasn’t Johaug’s fault that Norway then missed the medals in the women’s relay. She had the fastest split of the 35 women who completed classic legs. Johaug, banned from the 2018 Olympics over lip cream, won the last race of the Games – the 30km mass start – by 1 minute, 43.3 seconds. That was greater than the margin separating second place from ninth place.