He has 38 national titles as of 2007 (15 records currently stand), 32 world records (7 records currently stand), 14 World Championship gold medals, and 8 Pan Pacific Championships gold medals. He was named the American Swimmer of the Year from 2001-2007 (and very likely, 2008) and the World Swimmer of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007 (and very likely, 2008). He has 6 gold medals from the 2004 Athens Olympics. And a humble 8 gold medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
He has a 6-foot, 7-inch wingspan, consumes 12,000 calories a day, listens to hip-hop music, has a boyish smile, swoon over by girls around the world, and has become media’s golden boy and a marketing icon on the level of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. He goes by the nicknames The Human Dolphin, The Baltimore Bullet, and The Flying Fish. He is one of the greatest Olympic swimmer. No, the greatest Olympian ever. An Olympic legend. He is none other than – Nah, you all know him.
Phelps as a boy
Michael Phelps was born on June 30, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland. As a young boy, he had trouble maintaining focus and struggled with some of the same issues faced by many American boys. Phelps was diagnosed to have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This means that he had excessive energy.
Because of this, and perhaps encouraged by his sisters who were also swimming competitively, the swimming pool soon became his outlet for all the excessive energy. He started honing his skills in the pool at age seven. At 10 years old, he had set a national age group record. Five years later, Phelps became a world-class swimmer, ready to compete on the world’s greatest stage, the Olympics.
2000 Sydney Olympics
Phelps became an Olympian at a young age of 15. He was among the youngest swimmers the country had ever sent to compete in the Olympics. In the 2000 Sydney Games, Phelps did not attempt to break Mark Spitz’s seven gold medals. He competed in the 200 m butterfly, his favorite event. The young Phelps was not the favorite, and finished a decent fifth in the finals. But five months following the Olympics, he set the 200 m butterfly world record.
2004 Athens Olympics
With his great improvement and amazing performance at the 2003 World Championships, Phelps became the favorite to dominate the pool at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. All eyes were on him who declared he would attempt to break Spitz’s record. To break the record, Phelps needed to win gold in every competition he entered. Some had said that the record, was untouchable and could never be matched. Phelps believed it could be done. However, he fell short of achieving his goal, with six gold medals and two bronze medals.
2008 Beijing Olympics
But the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the true test for Phelps who was in his prime of his career at 23. This would be perfect timing. And he delivered, achieving the almost impossible feat. He won the gold in the 400 m individual medley, 200 m freestyle, 200 m butterfly, 200 m individual medley, 100 m butterfly, 4 x 100 m freestyle relay, 4 x 200 m freestyle relay, and 4 x 100 m medley relay.
Two of his wins were not without drama. In the 4 x 100 m freestyle relay, the American team came from behind to beat the favorite French team. It was considered as the best race in that event in the Olympic history. In the 100 m butterfly, the crowd watched in disbelief as Phelps was losing the final meters to Serbian Milorad Cavic. But miracles happened when Phelps surged in the last meter and won by a fingertip, literally. He edged out his competitor by the slimmest margin possible, a hundredth of a second.
Phelps could retire anytime today and go down as the greatest Olympian ever. But he and his coach, Bob Bowman, are eyeing the 2012 London Olympics. Considering his talent, work ethics, and motivation, additional Olympic gold medals are possible to bag. Who knows, maybe he could break his own record. As Spitz once remarked, records are meant to be broken. And it would be very sweet if Phelps could break his own record.