Of all of the Olympic athletes in the over 100 year history of the event, no one has more Gold Medals or total Medals than American swimmer Michael Phelps. Phelps absolutely dominated swimming and the Olympics between the years of 2004-2012, becoming one of the biggest Olympic heroes in the process. I will first take a look at how he got into the sport, and then detail how he became the most decorated swimmer in history.
Michael Phelps was born in Baltimore, Maryland on June 30th 1985 to a principal and a state trooper. Phelps began to swim at the age of seven, partially because of his sisters influence and partially as a way for him to utilize his boatloads of energy (he was later diagnosed with ADHD). By the age of 10, Phelps was already a great swimmer and already held a national record for his age group. More records soon followed and he quickly improved in a fashion never seen before. In fact, by the age of 15 he had actually qualified for the 2000 Olympics. Though he didn’t win any medals, the fact that he even qualified for the team at such a young age showed he had a very bright future and a ton of potential.
And boy, did he ever realize that potential. He won some tournaments and world championships prior to 2004, but the 20004 Olympics is when most people were introduced to Michael Phelps and when he became a legend. Despite being only 19 years old, Phelps won an amazing 6 Gold Medals and 2 Bronze Medals. This was the second most gold medals ever in a single Olympic games and Phelps wasn’t even 20 yet.
Now many thought this performance was hard to top, but Phelps did just that at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. By the end of the events, Phelps had won himself eight gold medals, finishing first in every event he took part in. This broke Mark Spitz’s record of 7 gold medals and on top of that, 7 of his eight victories were done in world record times. This all but cemented him as the most decorated and successful Olympic athlete of all time.
He followed up that performance with 4 more gold medals at the 2012 Olympics, giving him 18 for his career, which is twice as many as the next closest Olympian. After the 2012 Olympics, Phelps said they would be his last. However, this did not last very long as, in 2014, he said he would be coming back to the sport.
Sure enough, he came back and got right back to his winning ways in 2014 and 2015 and has said that he will attempt to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. If he comes back and does anything close to what he did in the past during the Olympics, it would be an amazing performance and further the gap even more in terms of two is the best Olympic swimmer of all time.