Aged just 21, Latynina made her Olympic debut at the 1956 Melbourne Games. She fought off fierce competition to win gold in the all-around event. In the apparatus finals she finished first in the vault, second on the uneven bars and in the floor exercise, and fourth on the balance beam. She also led the Soviet Union to victory in the team event.
At the 1960 Rome Games, Latynina defended her all-around title and won another gold medal in the team event. She also earned a second gold medal in the floor exercise, picked up silver medals on the uneven bars and the balance beam, and a bronze medal in the vault. Yet despite winning seven Olympic gold medals, her hunger for success was not diminished.
Four years later, Latynina won her third Olympic team gold medal and a silver medal in the all-around event. In the apparatus finals she won a silver medal in the vault, bronze medals on the uneven bars and the balance beam, and won the floor exercise for the third straight time.
Latynina’s incredible achievements make her the holder of several Olympic records. Until Michael Phelps broke her record in London, she was the only athlete in any sport to have won eighteen Olympic medals. She is one of only four athletes to have won nine gold medals and one of only three women to have won the same event at Summer Games three times.