Michael Phelps just closed out an amazing Olympic swimming career this year. He earned his 23rd Olympic Gold Medal on Saturday, August 13 in Rio de Janiero. Phelps, having said that London 2012 was going to be his last Olympics, had a different mindset heading into Rio. He said that he left London with unfinished business and, while serious about his comeback, he just wanted to have fun along the way, and he did. In Rio, he earned 5 golds and a silver (in a three-way tie). With 28 Olympic medals, Phelps said that he is satisfied with the result and he is now looking forward to retirement.
To honor the Greatest Olympian Of All Time, let's look back at all of his accomplishments throughout his career.
At just 15 years old, Phelps became the youngest male to qualify for the U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years. His Olympic medal collection did not start in Sydney, Australia sadly, but he did finish 5th in the finals of the 200-meter butterfly.
2001: A World Record OdysseyAt the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, Phelps, 3 months before his 16th birthday, became the youngest male ever to set a world swimming record, resulting in him winning gold in the 200-meter butterfly.
Athens, Greece was where Phelps qualified for 6 individual events and 2 relays. His first ever Olympic gold was in world record fashion in the 400-meter individual medley. He later accumulated 5 more golds, 3 individual golds, all in Olympic Record time, and 2 relays. He also earned 2 bronze medals, one in the 200-meter freestyle and the other in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. He left Athens with 8 medals, the most out of any Olympian.
This is where Phelps made history! Phelps qualified for 8 events, 5 individual and 3 relay. After Trials, when asked if 8 golds was a possibility, he said, "There is only so much I can do in a month and then I am going to prepare myself the best that I can."
And boy did all the preparation pay off. 4 of his individual victories were world record times, while his 5th individual gold included an Olympic record. His 2 relays had world record times as well. With 8 gold medals in Beijing, Phelps broke former US Olympic Swimmer Mark Spitz's record of 7 gold medals won in a single Olympics.
2009 Worlds, 2010 Pan Pacific, 2011 Worlds
Phelps collected 9 golds, 3 silvers, and 1 bronze at both the 2009 and 2011 World Aquatics Championships. He also earned 5 golds at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships, where he admitted he wasn't happy with his times in any of his individual events, but was happy to still be in shape after Beijing.
Phelps qualified for 7 events in London, where he first said it would be his last Olympics. Despite failing to medal in the 400-meter medley final, Phelps collected 4 golds, 2 individual and 2 relay. His gold in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay surpassed Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina to become the all-time record holder for most Olympic medals. He earned 2 silvers, one in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay and the other in shocking fashion. He lost to rival Chad le Clos of South Africa in his signature event, the 200-meter butterfly. Despite the loss, the 4x100-meter medley relay was considered his last Olympic race and is now considered the most decorated Olympian ever.
2014-2015: Out of Retirement and DUI
Phelps came out of retirement and won 5 medals in his first race back (2014 Pan Pacific Championships). The failures to win gold in the 4x100-meter free relay and 200-meter butterfly in London motivated Phelps to compete again. He got arrested for a DUI, but latered checked into a rehab clinic, where his treatments helped him realize how rough his life was, which included a turbulent relationship with his father. There, he developed mental clarity and stability and gave him motivation to be a better human being, something he lacked for most of his life, and that is a major accomplishment for Phelps.
Rio 2016 and Fatherhood
Phelps became a father to Boomer 2 months before the Olympics. He and Nicole Johnson, now engaged, couldn't be happier with their newest addition. Heading into Trials, Phelps said (and meant it) that Rio would be his last Olympics of his career.
In Rio, Phelps walked away with 5 golds and tied for a silver (in the 100-meter butterfly), where his silver was in his last Olympic individual race. He got redemption and earned gold in both the 200-meter butterfly and 4x100-meter freestyle relay (his 20th and 21st gold medal). He also got the gold in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. He became the first swimmer to win 200-meter individual medley in 4 consecutive Olympics. His 23rd and last gold medal came in the 4x100-meter medley relay, where he swam for the last time in his Olympic swimming career.
Thank you, Michael Phelps, for making history, for making the United States proud, and for splashing your way into our hearts.