Michael Fred Phelps – most decorated Olympian | Sunday Observer

Michael Fred Phelps – most decorated Olympian

23 January, 2022

Michael Fred Phelps is an American former competitive swimmer. He is the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals. Phelps also holds the all-time records for Olympic gold medals (23), Olympic gold medals in individual events (13), and Olympic medals in individual events (16).

Olympic Games

When Phelps won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, he broke fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz's 1972 record of seven first-place finishes at any single Olympic Games.

At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Phelps already tied the record of eight medals of any colour at a single Games by winning six gold and two bronze medals. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Phelps won four gold and two silver medals and at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, he won five gold medals and one silver.

This made him the most successful athlete of the Games for the fourth Olympics in a row.

Phelps is the long course world record holder in the men's 400-metre individual medley as well as the former long course world record holder in the 200-metre freestyle, 100-metre butterfly, 200-metre butterfly, and 200-metre individual medley. He won 82 medals in major international long course competitions, of which 65 were gold, 14 silver and three bronze, spanning the Olympics, the World Championships and the Pan Pacific Championships.


Phelps' international titles and record-breaking performances have earned him the World Swimmer of the Year Award eight times and American Swimmer of the Year Award eleven times, as well as the FINA Swimmer of the Year Award in 2012 and 2016.

Phelps was born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in the Rodgers Forge neighbourhood of nearby Towson. He attended Rodgers Forge Elementary, Dumbarton Middle School and Towson High School. Phelps is the youngest of three children. His mother, Deborah Sue ‘Debbie’ Phelps (née Davisson), is a middle school principal.

His father, Michael Fred Phelps, is a retired Maryland State Trooper who played football in high school and college and tried out for the Washington Football Team in the 1970s.

Phelps began swimming at the age of seven, partly because of the influence of his sisters and partly to provide him with an outlet for his energy. After retirement in 2016, he said "The only reason I ever got in the water was my mom wanted me to just learn how to swim. My sisters and myself fell in love with the sport and we decided to swim." When Phelps was in the sixth grade, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

National record

By the age of 10, he held a national record for his age group (in the 100-metre butterfly) and began to train at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club under coach Bob Bowman. More age group records followed and as of August 21, 2018, Phelps still held 11 age group records, eight in long course, and three in short course.

Phelps's rapid improvement culminated when he qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics at the age of 15, as he became the youngest male (since Ralph Flanagan in 1932) to make a US Olympic swim team in 68 years. While he did not win a medal, he did make the finals and finished fifth in the 200-metre butterfly.

At the World Championship Trials for the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, on March 30, Phelps broke the world record in the 200-metre butterfly to become, at 15 years and 9 months, the youngest male ever to set a world record in swimming.

First Olympic gold medal

Phelps won his first Olympic gold medal in Athens in the world record time of 4:08.26. In his fourth event, the 200-metre butterfly, held the following day, Phelps won a gold medal with a time of 1:54.04, breaking Tom Malchow's Olympic record.

About an hour later, in the 4×200-metre freestyle relay, Phelps, along with Ryan Lochte, Peter Vanderkaay, and Klete Keller, finished in first place with a time of 7:07.33.

Two days later, in the 200-metre individual medley, Phelps finished first with a time of 1:57.14, an Olympic record.

In winning six gold and two bronze medals, Phelps, still a teenager, had the second-best performance ever at a single Olympics, behind Mark Spitz's seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics. (TBR)