Michael Phelps is an American swimmer who has won 22 Olympic medals (18 Gold, 2 Silver, & 2 Bronze). He is an Olympic legend who broke the record for most medals while participating at the London 2012 games. His individual haul of medals over the past 3 Olympics has surpassed the totals of most countries in all of the combined Olympic games of the past century so his achievement is truly astonishing. Although Michael is still fairly young and could easily add to his medal count in the Summer Games in Rio de Jinero, Brazil in 2016, he has announced his retirement from competition in 2012.
Phelps was born June 30, 1985 in Maryland to a mother who is a middle school principal and a father who almost made a professional football team. Phelps won six gold and two bronze medals at the Olympics held in Athens in 2004. He was a perfect 8 for 8 in Beijing bringing in eight gold medals in 2008. In London he gained 4 more Golds, a Silver, and a Bronze. He holds the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympic year, breaking the record of American swimmer Mark Spitz who won seven gold medals in Munich in 1972. His total medal count of 22 is also a record. Soviet gymnast Larissa Lalynina who won 18 medals over three Olympics including nine gold ones is a distant second.
Phelps has won many awards including World Swimmer of the Year six times and American Swimmer of the Year Award eight times. He has taken part in many international competitions and has won 59 medals from these competitions. Of these, 50 were gold, seven silver, and two bronze. In addition, Michael Phelps received the Sportsman of the Year Award from Sports Illustrated magazine.
Phelps heads the Michael Phelps Foundation which was established to promote healthy lifestyles and the sport of swimming. He is regularly tested for drugs since he is a member of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and their “Project Believe” program. Testing is to ensure that his body is free from performance-enhancing drugs. During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Phelps was suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs because of his superior performance in the competitions, but he tested negative nine times.
At six feet, four inches, Phelps’ body seems to be made for swimming. His long torso and arm span of six feet, seven inches help him paddle through the water quickly and efficiently. His arm span is longer than expected for a person of his height. Also, he has short legs that also enable him to swim quickly. His size 14 feet act as flippers. Phelps can extend his ankles more than a ballet dancer would be expected to do, and this helps him flip his feet through the water at great speed.
Phelps is especially great at the butterfly. At age 15, he broke the record in the 200 meter butterfly and was the youngest man ever to set the swim record. He later broke his own record to become world champion. In the 2008 Olympics, Michael Phelps won gold medals in the 100 m butterfly, 200 m butterfly, 4×100 m freestyle relay, 4×200 m freestyle relay, 4×100 m medley relay, plus a silver medal for the 200 m freestyle. Again at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships, Phelps won five more gold medals for the 100 m butterfly, 200 m butterfly, 4×100 m freestyle relay, 4×200 m freestyle relay, and the 4×100 m medley relay.
Bob Bowman, Phelps’ swimming coach, has trained Phelps since he was 11 years old. Bowman previously swam for Florida State University. American swimmer Ryan Lochte has emerged as at least an equal to Phelps in recent events so it appears it is up to him to carry on the tradition of American swimming dominance going into Rio 2016.