Michael Phelps of the USA created Olympic history by becoming the first athlete in the world to win 8 gold medals in one Games. He has altogether amassed a total of 16 Olympic medals, 14 of them gold. Phelps is clearly ahead of 4 other Olympians who have won 9 gold medals each. One of them is fellow countryman swimmer, Mark Spitz who won 7 golds in 1972 to add to 2 from 1968. Another is American sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis, who collected his medals at four Games between 1988 and 1996.
The two other nine-gold medalists are Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, nicknamed the "Flying Finn" who accumulated his medals between 1920 and 1928 and ballerina turned gymnast Larysa Latynina from the former Soviet Union who garnered her medals between 1956 and 1964. If Michael Phelps is considered as the greatest Olympian ever, who then are the greatest dancers? If you use the objective measurement of Olympic achievement which is gold medals or if you go by championship titles, then Donnie Burns and Gaynor Fairweather of Scotland should clearly be acknowledged as the best dancers in the world.
Donnie Burns and Gaynor Fairweather have won the Professional Latin World Championships an incredible 14 times from 1984 to 1996 and in 1998. Their closest rivals are Bryan Watson and Carmen Vincelj of Germany who were nine-times Professional Latin World Champions from 1999 to 2007 and who have since retired from competitive dancing. For the ballroom championship title, Marcus and Karen Hilton of England were nine-times Professional Standard World Champions from 1990 to 1998. Richard and Janet Gleave, also of England won the title 8 times from 1973 to 1980.
Will the record set by Donnie Burns and Gaynor Fairweather ever be broken? I don't see that happening in the near future as Bryan Watson and Carmen Vincelj have already hung up their competition dancing shoes. Mirko Gozzoli and Alessia Betti of Italy are the Professional Standard World Champions since 2005 and it would take them one decade to equal the record set by Donnie Burns and Gaynor Fairweather. Only time will tell.