Over the past 12 years of some of the world’s biggest swim meets, Michael Phelps has cemented his status as one the best Olympians of all time. Few can forget his unprecedented eight gold medal haul in Beijing and the 39 world records that he has set during his athletic career, surpassing the previous record of 33.
Although Phelps was relatively well-known among swimmers, he first burst onto the international stage in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney when he was only 15, making him the youngest male swimmer to make the United States Olympic swim team in 68 years. Phelps finished 5th in his sole event, the 200-meter butterfly. Prior to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, it was rumored that Phelps was attempting to break Spitz’s record of seven gold medals set in the 1972 Games in Munich. However, Phelps fell short, winning bronze in two of his eight events. While Phelps did not manage to break Spitz’s record, only winning six gold medals, Phelps did successfully manage to become the second male swimmer ever to win more than two individual titles in a single Games. These Games was merely a hint to what this magnificent athlete would later accomplish.
For the next four years, Phelps trained furiously to prepare for his unforgettable appearance in the 2008 Beijing Games. During these Games, Phelps broke seven world records and one Olympic record. With the record of eight gold medals from a single Games, Phelps has left a massive legacy in the sports realm. Few, if any, will be able to surpass the Phelps’ numerous feats.
The London Games this past summer was Phelps’ last time ever swimming competitively. The 27-year old swimmer managed to medal in six out of his seven events, an impressive feat considering that he took a two-year hiatus following the 2008 Olympics. Despite this, Phelps emerged as the most decorated Olympian, winning his historic 19th, 20th, and 21st Olympic medals in these Games. These medals guaranteed that Phelps would smash gymnast Larisa Latynina’s 48-year old record of winning 18 medals. After swimming his race ever on an international stage, Phelps received an award from the international swimming federation, FINA, commemorating his prominence as the most decorated Olympian ever. However, to many, Phelps is not regarded as merely the most decorated Olympian, but rather, the best athlete that the world has seen.
With Phelps’ 22 Olympic medals, he actually has more hardware than 154 other countries do. That means that his medal haul is bigger than approximately 75% of the world’s countries, cementing Phelps as the world’s greatest Olympian. With his hard work, dedication, perseverance, and will power, Michael Phelps is undeniably the world’s greatest athlete of all time.