The Most Decorated Winter Olympians in History

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REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

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For most athletes, winning a medal at the Olympics would be the pinnacle of their career. But these athletes didn't stop at just one. They excelled under pressure and earned themselves a spot in the annals of their respective sports as the Most Decorated Winter Olympians.

1. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, 13 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Biathlon

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

The 40-year-old won two gold medals at Sochi—in men's sprint biathlon and in the first Olympic mixed relay biathlon—to give him the lead in career-medal count. His hardware collection now includes eight gold medals, four silver, and one bronze. After the latest record-breaking addition, King Harald V of Norway personally congratulated Bjoerndalen.

2. Bjorn Daehlie, 12 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Cross-country skiing

When Bjoerndalen won his 13th career medal, he surpassed fellow countrymen Daehlie, who had held the record for most Olympic medals since his dominance in the '90s. Over three Winter Games Daehlie won eight gold and four silver medals before sustaining a career-ending injury as a result of a roller-skiing accident in 1999.

3. Marit Bjørgen, 10 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Bjørgen added three gold medals this year to bring her lifetime total up to six golds, three silvers, and one bronze -- making her the most successful female Olympian. After struggling with bronchitis through her first Games in 2006, she became the most decorated athlete at the 2010 Vancouver Games with five medals that year.

4. Raisa Smetanina, 10 Medals

Country: Russia
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Osetrov Yuri/ITAR-TASS/Landov

Although Bjørgen and Belmondo (#5) have since matched her, Smetanina was the first woman to win 10 Olympic medals. Her final, a gold medal, came at her fifth Olympic Games in Albertville in 1992. She was 39 years old—at that time the oldest woman to win a Winter Olympic gold.

5. Stefania Belmondo, 10 Medals

Country: Italy
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Belmondo's Olympic career spanned a decade—from the 1992 Albertville Games though the 2002 Salt Lake City Games—despite a devastating injury in 1993. She ended her career with two gold medals, three silver, and five bronze.

6. Lyubov Yegorova, 9 Medals

Country: Russia
Sport: Cross-country skiing

REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

Yegorova only made two Olympic appearances: at Albertville in 1992, and two years later at Lillehammer. She managed to squeeze nine medals out of those Games—six gold and three silver—before her career came to an end due to a doping scandal at the 1997 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.

7. Claudia Pechstein, 9 Medals

Country: Germany
Sport: Speed Skating

Although she left Sochi empty handed, Pechstein can take heart that she is the most successful Olympic speed skater—male or female—in the world, and also the most successful German Winter Olympian of all time. That said, she missed the chance to set herself even further apart in the 2010 Games after getting slapped with a two-year ban from the sport in 2009 for dopping accusations.

8. Sixten Jernberg, 9 Medals

Country: Sweden
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Jernberg (far right) was a blacksmith and a lumberjack before beginning his career as a cross-country skier. Over three Olympics in the 1950s and '60s, he earned four gold, three silver, and two bronze medals, never finishing lower than fifth.

9. Uschi Disl, 9 Medals

Country: Germany
Sport: Biathlon

This five-time Olympian is the owner of two gold medals, four silver and three bronze, and the 2005 title of German Sportswoman of the Year. She has been the most successful women’s biathlete at the Olympic Games, although she never won a gold in an individual event.

10 (tie). Viktor Ahn, 8 Medals

Country: South Korea/Russia
Sport: Speed skating

Several Olympians share the #10 spot, with eight medals each. But Ahn is the only Olympian on this list to have medaled for two different countries. He competed for his home country of South Korea until 2011 when, after a falling out with the South Korean coaches, he became a Russian citizen and started skating for their team. The decision paid off for Ahn. Having failed to qualify with South Korea for the 2010 Olympics, he is leaving Sochi with three gold and one bronze medal and a spot on this list.

All photos via Getty Images unless otherwise noted.

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