The most decorated Olympian of all time. The most famous swimmer in the world. The G.O.A.T. Michael Phelps needs little introduction and he knows it. In this short 89-second video, Phelps begins by quickly rattling off his name, his hometown (Baltimore, MD), his club (North Baltimore Aquatic Club), and his coach (Bob Bowman). Phelps cites his older sisters Whitney and Hilary as his motivation to want to compete at an elite level when he was a kid, and mentions that Whitney was on a national team with some of his childhood idols. Of course, the free gear that athletes get for competing at major competitions and the Olympics doesn’t hurt either.
Phelps recalls that his first national team trip was to the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, in 2000. Now a team captain for the first time, the Olympics in Rio will be Phelps’ final national team trip. Traveling the world representing Team USA and becoming an Olympic gold medalist were two of Phelps’ goals when he was younger, and he has accomplished them in spades. Phelps notes that it is especially meaningful that his son, Boomer, will be present to see his final swims ever, even if he won’t remember them.
Michael Phelps has the lengthiest bio of anyone on SwimSwam, and for good reason. Below are just some of the highlights from his incredible career:
2000 OLYMPIC GAMES
Though Phelps struggled in school and was diagnosed with ADHD, he focused most when it came to swimming. In 2000, Phelps found himself in Sydney, Australia, having qualified in the 200-meter butterfly. At 15, he was the youngest male Olympian the United States had presented in nearly 70 years. While he did not medal at the meet, he competed in the finals against Tom Malchow, touching fifth. As a spectator at the event, Phelps gained another source of inspiration from observing the races of a bodysuit-clad freestyle legend, Australian Ian Thorpe.
2004 OLYMPIC GAMES
In the following years, Phelps built his repertoire, proving himself on multiple occasions as not only a butterfly guru, but also a freestyle, backstroke, and I.M. expert, focusing on the shorter end of middle distance swimming. At the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, he earned six gold and two bronze medals. On the first day of the meet, Phelps won one of the most grueling events, the 400 meter IM, in world record time. The following evening, Phelps and Team USA were upset by the South Africans and the Dutch, taking 3rd in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. During the highly anticipated 200-meter freestyle race, Phelps swam against Australian Ian Thorpe. Phelps medaled 3rd, behind Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands. Phelps went undefeated the remainder of the meet, taking home gold medals in the 200 fly, 4 x 200 freestyle relay, 200 IM, 100 butterfly, and 400 medley relay, all at only 19 years-old.
2008 OLYMPIC GAMES
August of 2008 was the pinnacle of Phelps’ career. Phelps reaped an unheard of 8 gold medals surpass fellow US Olympian Mark Spitz’s performance from the 1972 Munich Games. On the first day of racing Phelps dismantled the competition in the 400 IM, setting what is still the world record in the event, at a 4:03.84. On day 2, Phelps and company just held on to beat the French for gold in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, thanks to Jason Lezak’s unbelievable 46.06 anchor-leg. Phelps continued to shock the world as he won gold medals and set world records in the 200 freestyle, 200 butterfly (with goggles filled with water), 4 x 200 freestyle relay, 200 IM, and 4 x 100 medley relay. In the 100 butterfly, described as Phelps’ toughest event considering his competition, he won gold and set an Olympic record, beating Serbia’s Milorad Cavic by 1/100th of second.
2012 OLYMPIC GAMES
Lauded as Phelps’ swan song, the greatest swimmer of all time became the most decorated Olympian of all time at the London Games. Though Phelps got off to a rocky start with a 4th-place-finish in the 400 IM, he won two consecutive silver medals in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, where the Americans were upset by the French, and the 200 butterfly, where Phelps was out-touched by South Africa’s Chad le Clos. Phelps saw nothing but gold after the 200 fly, taking first in both the 200 IM and 100 butterfly, each for the third time, a feat no male swimmer had ever accomplished before. Phelps finished the Olympics and seemingly his career with a victory in the 4 x 100 medley relay, where he swam the butterfly.
Phelps got back in the pool in 2014, competing at the Pan Pacs in Gold Coast, Australia, where he placed 4th in the 100 freestyle, 1st in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay, 1st in the 100 fly, 2nd in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, 2nd in the 200 IM, and 1st in the 4 x 100 medley relay. Just a couple months later Phelps was arrested for DUI, his second in 10 years (his first came at age 19 just a few months after the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece). Phelps, after speaking with family and friends, checked into a rehabilitation clinic outside of Phoenix, AZ.
In rehab Phelps found ways to confront and exorcise his inner demons, and was finally able to make peace with his father, whom he had hardly spoken to since he was a teenager. Now, Michael and his father have a relationship and are a part of one another’s lives. Phelps also got engaged to Nicole Johnson in the months after he left rehab. Phelps and Johnson relocated to Tempe, AZ, where Phelps trains with long-time coach Bob Bowman, who is now the head coach at Arizona State University. Phelps and Bowman launched the “MP” swimwear brand on April 15th, 2015, with Aqua Sphere. Today, the MP line includes competition suits, goggles, caps, and training gear.
Due to his DUI arrest in late 2014, Phelps was not allowed to compete at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, so instead Phelps swam at US Nationals in San Antonio, TX. At Nationals Phelps posted world-leading times in the 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly, and 200 IM–times that would have won gold medals had he been allowed to compete in Kazan.
On May 5th, 2016, Phelps and fiancé Nicole Johnson welcomed their first son, Boomer Robert Phelps. Boomer’s middle name was inspired by Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, whom Phelps has known since age 11.
2016 US OLYMPIC TRIALS
At the 2016 US Olympic Trials, Phelps narrowed his focus to only his three best events: the 100 and 200 butterflies and the 200 IM. Phelps was victorious in all three events, and will swim each of them in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.