On August 21st, 2004, Michael Phelps won his eighth medal of the 2004 Athens Olympics. He left Athens with six gold and two bronze medals. He was a brash, 19-year old swimmer at the time. He later got caught doing naughty things like smoking weed and driving while intoxicated. He spent time in disciplinary exile at swim meets. Despite his immense physical talents, Michael Phelps was not expected to last.
But Michael Phelps was born to swim. He has a narrow torso for speed through water. He has large hands that act like paddles. His arm span is six feet and seven inches, disproportionate to his six foot and four inches in height. His size 14 feet behave like flippers. His ankles have the flexibility of a ballet dancer. His lungs hold twice the capacity of normal human lungs. He's like an aquatic superhero. Above all, he is determined to win.
That's why Phelps owns every event he swims in. He set his first world record at the age of 15, becoming the youngest swimmer ever to break a world record. At the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, Phelps won eight gold medals, constantly breaking his own world records, and also breaking Mark Spitz's record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympic games (Mark Spitz won 7 golds back in the 1970s, and it was Michael's intention to break Spitz's record at this event). Phelps, with 39 world records to his credit, also breaks Mark Spitz's previous record of 33 world records.
Phelps has been tested, voluntarily and repeatedly, for performance enhancing drugs. He tested negative every time. In 2008, the much awarded Phelps was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
His comeback was swift and strong. Nobody thought he could outperform himself as a 19-year old, now at the age of 31. But Michael Phelps shows no sign of weakening yet, and recently entered the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. He had said he was retiring in 2012, but came out of retirement in 2014 to swim, train and qualify for the 2016 Rio games. He was selected to be America's flag bearer in the 2016 Olympic parade.
At the time of this writing, Michael Phelps has already won three gold medals in his fifth Olympic games, with three events still left on his agenda. “Everything he had was in there,” said Bob Bowman, who is Phelps' lifelong swim coach. Phelps has been coached by Bowman since the age of eleven. He had already been swimming for a few years at that time.
Phelps has also won golds in the World Championships and the Pan Pacific Championships.
Only the second athlete (and only the first male athlete) to qualify for five Olympics, Michael Phelps is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, with 25 Olympic medals to his name, 21 of them gold. He has more than twice the Olympic gold medals of the second most gold medaled Olympian.
Phelps may even have three more golds to his name before the 2016 Olympic Games are done.