"Being the most successful Winter Games athlete is like a dream come true for me but it wasn’t my goal when I arrived at the Games."
Every four years, the Winter Olympics brings together some of the best athletes in the world to compete for the gold. While just making it to the Games is a major accomplishment in itself, actually earning a spot on the podium is a whole other feat. But for some exceptionally gifted athletes, they do it not just once, but multiple times during their career.
In fact, throughout the 23 editions of the Winter Olympics thus far, some athletes have brought home over a dozen medals. From speed skating to cross-country skiing, these talented athletes have shown off their incredible abilities time and time again -- and some are still aiming for more!
Read on to find out which athletes have made history…
Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen is the most awarded Olympian of all time, taking home 15 medals during her sporting career. She's attended the Olympics five different times from 2002 to 2018 while competing in multiple events including the 10 km, 30 km, sprint and pursuit.
"It's difficult to see yourself as a legend…When I arrived in PyeongChang, I knew I could beat the Winter Games medal record. But I also knew that I had to stay focused on each race. Being the most successful Winter Games athlete is like a dream come true for me. But it wasn't my goal when I arrived at the Games. I knew that it was possible, but it wasn't my main concern. Of course, now I’ve beaten this record, it is a massive thing. It’s difficult to know if you're a legend," Marit told the Olympics organization.
Ole Einar Bjørndalen -- 13 Medals
Biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen also hails from Norway and during his career, he took home 13 medals at the Winter Olympics. He competed in six different Olympic games from 1994 to 2014, taking part in several different races including the individual competition, sprint, pursuit, and relay. He competed until age 40, earning the title of "King of Biathlon," and now coaches in the sport.
"I was always hungrier for the next race. I love my sport so much, for me, it was never a job. Every year I was looking forward to the next one with a lot of enthusiasm. For me, it was very easy to continue to motivate myself…I like so much of the feelings when I was on the track, like flying feelings. That's what makes me happy and my biggest motivation. Of course, there was also a lot of tough training and hard work. I like to challenge myself and I like to have the feeling of satisfaction after a long period of hard training sessions, and then when you're coming to the competition, you are 100% focused," he said of his career.
During his career as a cross-country skier, Bjørn Dæhlie took home 12 medals at the Olympic games, including eight gold. He competed from 1988 to 1998 across several different events including the 10 km, 4x 10 km relay, sprint and pursuit. He says the greatest moment of his Olympic career came in 1994 during the final 100m of the 10 km when he entered the stadium to be cheered on by thousands of Norwegian fans.
"When I look through the whole of my career, at all my moments in cross country, this was the most fantastic," he said of the moment.
Ireen Wüst -- 12 Medals
Speed skater Ireen Wüst has been awarded 12 medals throughout her athletic career so far and she's still aiming for more! The Olympian, who hails from the Netherlands, has been competing since the 2005 games and her wins include five gold medals. Even though she says the 2022 Olympics will be her last, she's already taken home an additional gold, making her the first athlete to win individual gold at five Olympics.
"There's something magical that gets to me when it comes down to the Games. There's something that brings out the best in me," she said.
Cross-country skiing champion Raisa Smetanina had a career that spanned five Olympic games, from 1976 to 1992. The Russian athlete took home 10 medals during her time as a competitor at the games, which included four golds, five silvers and a bronze. She primarily competed in the 5 km, 10 km, 20 km and 4 x 5 km relay.
Stefania Belmondo -- 10 Medals
Italian cross-country skier Stefania Belmondo also took home 10 medals during her Olympic career which took place over the course of 5 games. From 1988 to 2002, she was awarded two gold, three silver and five bronze medals. Although she didn't compete at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, she was given the honor of lighting the Olympic Flame at the opening ceremony.
Lyubov Yegorova -- 9 Medals
Cross-country skier Lyubov Yegorova, who hails from Russia, was awarded nine medals during her Olympic career. She attended three games from 1992 to 2002, taking a step back from the 1998 Olympics during retirement due to a doping scandal. Her wins in 1992 and 1994 made her the most successful winter athlete at both games.
German speed skater Claudia Pechstein has competed in six Olympics during her career so far, beginning in 1992. She's taken home nine medals, five of which were gold, making her both the most successful German Winter Olympian of all time as well as the first female Winter Olympian to win medals in five consecutive games. Her qualification for the 2022 Olympics also makes her the oldest woman to compete at a Winter Olympics and the only woman to compete eight times.
"Almost everybody say[s] to me, 'It's amazing you're still competing on this level. It's crazy.' I like skating. Every day is harder to get motivated, especially when you feel not so great and the results aren't coming along but I’m still proud of myself. I can still compete with the world's younger girls," Claudia told AP.
Sixten Jernberg -- 9 Medals
Sixten Jernberg was a Swedish cross-country skier who competed in three Olympic games -- 1956, 1960 and 1964. He took home nine medals, including four gold, before retiring shortly after his last Olympic games. During his career at the Olympics, he never finished lower than fifth place and stood on the podium at almost every race in which he took part.
Sven Kramer -- 9 Medals
Dutch long track speed skater Sven Kramer has also taken home nine medals in his athletic career so far and is hoping for more at the 2022 games. He's won three gold medals in the 5000m and in 2018, he became the most decorated male speed skater in Olympic history.
"Anything is possible. It would be great to end my career after winning another Olympic gold medal," Sven said of the 2022 Olympics.
Swedish cross-country skier Charlotte Kalla has taken home nine medals during her athletic career which started in 2010 -- and she's still competing. Her wins have included 3 gold and 6 silver medals in events ranging from the 10 km individual, 15 km skiathlon, 4 x 5 km relay and the team sprint. She says it's "an honor" to be one of the most decorated Swedish athletes of all time.
"I have always dreamt of representing Sweden in the biggest sports event…Every victory is special to me and had a special meaning to it," Charlotte said.
Uschi Disl -- 9 Medals
German biathlete Uschi Disl is a five-time Olympian, competing in games from 1992 to 2006 across several different races including individual, sprint, pursuit, mass start and relay. She took home nine medals during her career, including two gold, four silver and three bronze before retiring after the 2006 games.