Michael Phelps is an American swimmer who holds the record for the most Olympics medals won by any athlete at 28, including 23 gold medals and 13 individual golds. Phelps competed in his first Olympics at the age of 15, as part of the U.S. men’s swim team. He was the first American male swimmer to earn a spot on five Olympic teams and also made history as the oldest individual gold medalist in Olympic swimming history at the age of 28.
Early Life and Family
Michael Fred Phelps was born on June 30, 1985, in Baltimore, Maryland. The youngest of three children, Phelps grew up in the neighbourhood of Rodgers Forge. His father, Fred, an all-around athlete, was a state trooper and his mother, Debbie, was a middle-school principal. When Phelps’ parents divorced in 1994, he and his sisters lived with their mother, with whom Phelps grew very close.
Phelps began swimming when his two older sisters, Whitney (born 1978) and Hilary (born 1980), joined a local swim team. Whitney tried out for the U.S. Olympic team in 1996, at the age of 15, but injuries derailed her career. At age seven, Phelps was still “a little scared” to put his head underwater, so his instructors allowed him to float around on his back. Not surprisingly, the first stroke he mastered was the backstroke.
After he saw swimmers Tom Malchow and Tom Dolan compete at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Phelps began to dream of becoming a champion. He launched his swimming career at the Loyola High School pool. He met his coach, Bob Bowman when he started training at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center. The coach immediately recognized Phelps’ talents and fierce sense of competition and began an intense training regime together. By 1999, Phelps had made the U.S. National B Team.
University of Michigan
Phelps followed his coach to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where Bowman coached the Wolverines’ swim team, to study sports marketing and management. Meanwhile, Phelps continued to establish world records at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, British Columbia, and the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney
At the age of 15, Phelps became the youngest American male swimmer to compete at an Olympic Games in 68 years. While he didn’t win a medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, he would soon become a major force in competitive swimming.
First World Records
In the spring of 2001, Phelps set the world record in the 200-meter butterfly, becoming the youngest male swimmer in history (at 15 years and 9 months) to ever set a world swimming record.
Phelps then broke his record at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, with a time of 1:54:58, earning his first international medal.
Phelps continued to set new marks at the 2002 U.S. Summer Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, establishing a new world record for the 400-meter individual medley, and U.S. records in the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley. The following year, at the same event, he broke his world record in the 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:09.09.
Shortly after graduating from Towson in 2003, 17-year-old Phelps set five world records, including the 200-meter individual medley at the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, with a time of 1:56:04. Then during the U.S. trials for the 2004 Summer Olympics, he broke his world again in the 400-meter individual medley, with a time of 4:08:41.
2004 Summer Olympics in Athens
Phelps became a superstar at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, winning eight medals (including six gold), tying with Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin (1980) for the most medals in a single Olympic Games.
Phelps scored the first of six gold medals on August 14, when he broke his world record in the 400-meter individual medley, shaving 0.15 seconds off of his previous mark. He also won gold in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley, 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay and 4-by-100-meter medley relay). The two events in Athens, in which Phelps took bronze medals, were the 200-meter freestyle and the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay.
2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing
At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Phelps won his 14th career gold medal, the most gold won by any Olympian — surpassing swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven golds. He also set the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics by winning eight gold medals, in the 4-by-100-meter medley relay, 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter butterfly, 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter butterfly. Every gold medal performance set a new world record, except the 100-meter butterfly, which set an Olympic record.
2012 Summer Olympics in London
At the 2012 Olympic Games, held in London, Phelps’ Olympic medal count increased to 22, setting a new record for most Olympic medals (beating gymnast Larisa Latynina’s prior record of 18). He won four gold medals, in the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter individual medley, 100-meter butterfly and 4-by-100-meter medley relay; and two silver medals, in the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay and 200-meter butterfly.
Temporary Retirement in 2012
After the London Olympics in 2012, Phelps announced he was retiring from swimming. However, he gave some indication of a possible return in July 2013 and would not rule out a possible Olympic bid for the 2016 summer games. In April 2014, Phelps put the retirement rumours to rest and announced plans to compete at the Mesa Grand Prix in Arizona.
Meanwhile, the sports world continued to speculate whether Phelps would compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. His longtime coach Bowman told the Washington Post:
“I don’t know yet. Honestly, we’re kind of taking it day by day. I don’t think either one of us has real expectations other than to have fun, see what happens and go from there. Unlike previous years, there’s no long-term plan.
While Phelps did compete at the Mesa Grand Prix, he made a more impressive showing at the Pan Pacific Championships held that summer in Australia, winning three golds and two silvers.
2016 Summer Olympics in Rio
On June 29, 2016, Phelps celebrated a huge comeback when he became the first American male swimmer to earn a spot on five Olympic teams. His then-girlfriend Nicole Johnson, their baby, Boomer, and Phelps’ mother Debbie watched the Olympic legend break history from the stands in Rio.
On August 7, 2016, Phelps clinched his 19th Olympic gold medal in Rio swimming the second leg of the men’s 400 freestyle relay. He went on to win gold in both the 200-meter butterfly and in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay along with Conor Dwyer, Townley Haas and Ryan Lochte.
“Doing a double like that is a lot harder now than what it once was,” Phelps said about competing in the races at the age of 31. “That is for sure.”
Phelps went on to compete in the 200-meter individual medley, an event dubbed “the Duel in the Pool” because he faced off against a friend, teammate and rival Ryan Lochte, the world record holder in the race. Phelps dominated the race, winning gold in over a body-length at 1:54.66 seconds, right behind Lochte’s record of 1:54.00. Lochte failed to medal. Phelps’ victory made him the first swimmer to win four consecutive golds in the same event.
“I say this a lot, but every single day I’m living a dream come true,” Phelps told NBC Sports. “As a kid, I wanted to do something that no one had ever done before, and I’m enjoying it. Being able to finish how I won is just something very special to me and this is why you are seeing more and more emotion on the medal podium.”
Phelps then competed in the 100-meter butterfly, tying for the silver medal with Laszlo Cseh of Hungary and Chad le Clos of South Africa. Joseph Schooling of Singapore, a 21-year-old swimmer who idolized Phelps when he was a boy, won the gold.
In another emotional victory, Phelps took gold again in his final Olympic race, helping the U.S. team take the top spot in the 4×100-meter medley relay with teammates Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller and Nathan Adrian. Upon finishing, the most decorated Olympian in history received a standing ovation from the crowd.
In a huddle with his teammates following the race, Phelps felt the emotion of the moment, according to the New York Times. “That’s kind of when everything started to hit harder, knowing that was the last time I’ll wear the Stars and Stripes in a race,” he said.
Medals and Records
Phelps has accumulated a total of 28 medals at the Olympic Summer Games in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio — 23 gold, three silver and two bronze — setting the record for the most medal win by any Olympic athlete. At the 2016 Olympic Games, he won one silver and five gold medals, becoming the oldest individual gold medalist in Olympic swimming history, as well as the first swimmer to win four consecutive golds in the same event, the 200-meter individual medley. Phelps has set 39 world records, the most of all time.
Phelps has been described as independent, solitary, and focused. He had a reputation during each Olympics of not being a “joiner” and would often prefer solitude versus participate in social group activities. The 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony, his last Olympics, was the first one he ever walked in. His former coach has described him as “unbelievably kind-hearted” when it comes to interacting with fans and young children who look up to him for inspiration.
Michael married Nicole Johnson, former Miss California USA, on June 13, 2016. Their wedding was a secret and the marriage was not reported to the public until four months later. They have three sons: Boomer Robert Phelps (b. 2016), Beckett Richard Phelps (b. 2018), and Maverick Nicolas Phelps (b. 2019). They reside in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Phelps now volunteers as an assistant coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils, along with his former coach Bowman.
Phelps has revealed that he struggles with depression and ADHD and once contemplated suicide after competing at the 2012 Olympics. He has been outspoken about his issues and an advocate for people seeking help with their mental health when they need it. In 2017 he joined the board of Medibio, which focuses on the diagnosis of mental health disorders.
After the 2008 Olympics, Phelps set up the Michael Phelps Foundation using $1 million of his Speedo signing bonus. The foundation focuses on promoting healthier lifestyles. He co-founded Swim with the Stars, a nonprofit that holds camps for swimmers of all ages.
Phelps vs. Shark
For 2017’s Shark Week, Michael Phelps raced several breeds of sharks. The team developed a special device to measure each shark’s speed using bait. Phelps wore a monofin to approximate the movements of a shark (and get a bit of added propulsion). They did not swim the 100 meters side by side but rather individually in the same open water, with CGI images of the sharks displayed alongside Phelps as he raced. Their times were later compared.
“Honestly, my first thought when I saw the shark was, ‘There’s very little chance for me to beat him,'” Phelps said.
The hammerhead shark swam the distance at 15 miles per hour, while the great white shark swam at a whopping 26 miles per hour. Phelps only beat the reef shark by 0.2 seconds, clocking in at 6 miles per hour.
Michael Phelps net worth and salary:
Michael Phelps is a retired American Olympic swimmer and corporate endorser who has a net worth of 80 million dollars. Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete in history and holds a total of 28 Olympic Medals (23 of them gold) He is considered by many to be the greatest swimmer of all time.