A tiny part of the world population has appeared at least once in the Olympics, and an even smaller proportion has ever competed in several Olympic Games. In at least five Olympic Games from Athens in 1896 to Pyeongchang in 2018, 515 athletes (127 women and 388 men) participated, with the exception of the 1906 Intercalated Games.

More than one hundred of them have taken part in the Olympics at least for the sixth time. The number would have been even larger, but due to factors outside of their control, like the World Wars, since no Olympic Games took place in 1916, 1940, or 1944; political boycotts, financial difficulties, or eventual injuries.

Shooting, equestrian, sailing, and fencing are among the sports with the highest number of six-time Olympians. These sports are recognized for letting athletes compete for longer periods of time. Athletes who have competed in five Olympics may also be found in athletics and cross-country skiing.

Who has competed in the most Olympic Games?

Ian Millar of Canada riding Star Power in 2012. (Getty)

Canadian equestrian athlete Ian Millar has competed in a record of 10 Olympic Games. Nine Olympic appearances achieved both  Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl and Latvian shooter Afanasijs Kuzmin. who represented the Soviet Union three times until 1988. Then for the next six editions, he joined the Latvia Olympic team.

About a quarter of long-time competitors are women. The first woman to take part in eight Olympics was former West Germany and current Italy canoeist Josefa Idem Guerrini who finally reached the K1-500 meter finals at the age of 48. Prior to her, the closest a female athlete has come to appear in eight Olympics was when Jamaican-Slovenian sprinter Merlene Ottey. 

At the age of 48, she failed to achieve the qualification time necessary for participation at the 2008 Summer Olympics for just 0.028 seconds. The Bahamian sailor Durward Knowles (8 Olympics), Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom (8) have competed in the Olympics during a 40-year span.

Position Name and Nation Sport

Number of appearances

1. Ian Millar (Canada) Equestrian 10
2. Hubert Raudaschl (Austria) Sailing 9
3. Afanasijs Kuzmins (Soviet Union and Latvia) Shooting 9: Soviet Union 3, Latvia 6
4. Piero d'Inzeo (Italy) Equestrian 8
5. Raimondo d'Inzeo (Italy) Equestrian 8
6. Durward Knowles (UK) Sailing 8
7. Paul Elvstrom (Denmark) Sailing 8
8. Rajmond Debevec (Yugoslavia and Slovenia) Shooting 8: Yugoslavia 2, Slovenia 6
9. Josefa Idem Guerrini (West Germany and Italy) Canoeing 8: West Germany 2, Italy 6
10. Lesley Thompson (Canada) Rowing 8