When people debate who is the greatest Olympic athlete, many arguments can be made especially depending on what sport you are talking about. If you were to go by the number of medals won by an athlete, one name you have to seriously consider is Michael Phelps.
Michael Phelps is known for the number of medals he won competitively swimming in the Olympics. Michael Phelps has won a total of 28 medals. 23 of those medals are gold medals. If you were to compare other great Olympic swimmers, the people who won the most gold medals won a third of the gold medals Michael Phelps has won.
USA Team member at the age of 15
Michael Phelps first competed at the 2000 Olympics which took place in Sydney. At this time, Michael was only 15 and a member of the Team USA swimming team. When Michael joined Team USA, he made records because there hadn’t been a man as young as he was on Team USA in nearly 70 years.
While he didn’t have great success at the 200-meter butterfly event, he would go on in the next four games to win convincingly.
8 medals 4 years later
Four years later at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, he would win eight medals and six of those medals would be Gold medals. The other two were Bronze medals.
After his performances at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Michael Phelps was already coming close to matching the greatest Olympic swimmers when you compared the number of medals he had won to the number of medals earned by other swimmers.
Five world records in 2007
Before the 2008 Olympics, Michael competed in Melbourne in 2007. Michael would earn seven Gold Medals He also set five world records. After these victories, Michael Phelps had just as many victories as Mark Spitz at a major international meet.
8 Olympic gold medals in 2008
At the Beijing Summer Games in 2008, Michael Phelps earned eight more gold medals in different swimming events. With the other best swimmers having a total of seven or eight gold medals, Michael Phelps had earned more Gold medals than anyone who competed in swimming events in the Olympics.
Michael Phelps had also earned more Gold medals than anyone else had earned in a single set of Olympic Games.
The first three events Michael competed in and earned the gold medals were the 400-meter individual medley, the 100-meter freestyle relay, and the 200-meter freestyle. Michael set a new record in all three events in Beijing. Michael’s final gold medal in the Beijing Olympics by breaking his record in the 200-meter individual medley. Every event he competed in at the 2008 Olympics was a new record except for one.
Michael earned more medals in 2009 when he competed at the World Championships in Rome. Michael earned five gold medals and one silver medal in different swimming events.
Another 4 gold medals in 2012
At the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games, Michael Phelps competed in seven swimming events. He won four gold medals, and two silver medals and finished another event in fourth place. With the medals he earned in London, he had set a new record for most Olympic medals which previously had been held by a Soviet gymnast named Larisa Latynina.
Michael also set records in 2012 when he won the 200-meter individual medley, he became the first male swimmer to earn the gold medal at the same event in three Olympic meetings back to back. After his performance at the 2012 Olympics, Michael told the world he was retiring.
5 gold and 1 silver during his last Olympic appearance
Michael was gone from competitive swimming for less than two years when he returned in April of 2014 but he would face a suspension when he was caught driving under the influence of alcohol for the second time.
Phelps’s final Olympic Games appearance to date was at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic games. No other swimmer had competed in this many Olympic games. Michael would win five gold medals and one silver medal in 2016.
The event that caught the most attention was the 200-meter butterfly where he lost by five-hundredths of a second to Chad Le Clos in 2012. In 2016, Michael would defeat Chad Le Clos by four-hundredths of a second. This was the final time to date that Michael had competed in competitive swimming.
When you talk about competitive swimming or the Olympics, one name you can not leave out of the conversation is Michael Phelps. No other swimmer has won as many medals or championships as Michael Phelps has. Whether or not Michael Phelps will return to competitive swimming is something only Phelps knows. Even if Michael Phelps does not return to competitive swimming, he has earned his spot in history among the best swimmers of all time.