Michael Phelps dubbed the greatest olympian ever

Jenna K.

Staff Writer

Eighteen gold medals, two silver medals, and two bronze medals is how the world’s greatest Olympian ended his career as a swimmer. Michael Phelps is loved by many and is such an inspiration to not only swimmers around the world, but to many non-swimmers as well. He proved to everyone that he truly is the utmost Olympian by surpassing the Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record of eighteen medals over three Olympic Games, as well as holding world records, leading his team to victory, and setting a record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics.  

Michael Fred Phelps II was born on June 30, 1985, in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, Fred Phelps, was an all-around athlete and a state trooper while his mother, Debbie Phelps, was a middle school principal. In 1994, his parents divorced. Michael, as well as his two older siblings, Whitney and Hilary, moved in with their mother. Phelps’s swimming career had to start somewhere, but Phelps did not start swimming until his sisters joined a local swim team. Phelps’s sister Whitney actually went to the Olympic trials when she was 15, but injuries shortly ceased her career as a swimmer. At the age of 7, Phelps was still too frightened to put his head under water, so his coaches had him float around on his back. Not surprisingly, the first stroke he learned was the backstroke, which would come to be his best stroke.

Phelps realized his dream of becoming a champion after watching US Olympic swimmers Tom Malchow and Tom Dolan compete in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He started competitively swimming at his local high school and soon met his coach, Bob Bowman, when he started training in at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Bowman quickly recognized Phelps’s potential and began an intense training program. Phelps then made the U.S. National B team in 1999 at the age of fifteen. Coaches aid their athletes by being mentors as they help them strive for the impossible like WHS’s swim coach, Coach John Gillin. He said that everyone, including his swimmers, can learn a lesson from Phelps: “No matter how good you are, if you don’t keep working hard, there will be someone who will be there trying to beat you.” 

In the year 2000, Phelps put his skills to the test when he went to the Sydney Olympics at only age fifteen. He became the youngest American male swimmer in over 68 years to participate in the Olympics. He did not win any medals during the 2000 Olympics; however, in only two years following the Olympics, he broke six world records and became the youngest male swimmer to set a swimming world record. He also broke two of his own world records and won his first international medal in 2001.  After Phelps graduated in 2003, he broke another five world records, including breaking his own world record in the 400 meter individual medley at the Olympic trials in 2004. He then went to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, where he won six gold medals and eight medals overall and beat the record for the most medals won in a single Olympics.

In every athlete’s life, there is always some kind of downfall. Some may get injured, get in trouble, or lose hope. For Phelps, it was getting in trouble. Shortly after the Olympic Games in Sydney, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence. Fortunately, he only received probation for eighteen months and a fine of 250 dollars. He also had to speak against drunk driving to high school students in addition to attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving meeting. As a son, he knew what he did was wrong and felt he let his parents down.

After disappointing his family, fans, and himself, Phelps wanted to prove that he was made for more, and he did just that. After high school, Phelps attended the University of Michigan, where his coach, Bowman, coached the swim team. He continued setting world records, and in 2008, Phelps competed at the Beijing Olympics. He set world records in every race except for the 100 meter butterfly, where he set the Olympic record. He also won a gold medal in every race, winning his fourteenth career gold medal, which set another world record for the most gold medals ever won in a single Olympics.

Phelps does not just train extremely hard; he was born to swim and to compete. Phelps’s body is said to be the “perfect swimmer’s body.” His long torso and arm span, longer than average for his height, helps him glide through the water faster and more efficiently. He is six feet and four inches, with short legs, which helps him to kick quicker. His huge feet, size 14, and his flexible ankles work like flippers and help him swim through the water at a greater speed. Phelps’s body is a pronounced aspect in why he is such an extreme athlete.

Phelps put his “born to swim” body to work in what he said would be his last Olympics. In these 2012 London Olympics, Phelps earned the title of the Greatest Olympian Ever. Overall in London, Phelps won three gold medals and three silver medals, making a total of twenty-two medals: eighteen gold, two silver, and two bronze in the entire span of his career. Many people say that he was not on his game this year, losing to American teammate Ryan Lochte and not winning the gold in his signature 100 meter butterfly, but he still came out on top. Phelps said in an interview, after breathing hard from his last race from the 2012 Olympics and looking like he was on cloud nine, “Obviously, I didn’t get off to the kind of start I wanted. But, I was able to finish with what I thought was a pretty good week. In the end, I can look back and honestly say I accomplished everything I set out to do in my swimming career.”

As a pronounced Olympian, Phelps continues to touch people’s lives. Whether it is from his charity, The Michael Phelps Foundation, or impacting swimmers from all around the world, he is making a difference. Selected swimmers who go to Woodstock reflected on the impact of Phelps in their swimming. Lauren Case, a 9th grade WHS swimmer, stated, “I want to be as good as him. He inspires me to be the best I can possibly be. He also taught me that no matter how good I get, I will always have competition. ” Phelps has a special effect on swimmer’s ability from even when they are tots. Alarii Lopez, a 10th grade admirer of Phelps’s butterfly, specified, “He makes me want to improve my butterfly turns and makes me want to strive to be my best in every aspect of swimming. As a child, I always watched the Olympics and always thought to myself that I wanted to be just like Michael.” Phelps’s fans adore him. It makes people proud that they live in the United States.  Madison Block, a 9th grade WHS swimmer stated, “He has made me want to be a better swimmer because he’s inspirational. When he won as many gold medals as he did during his career, I freaked out. I was so proud of him, and it inspired me to strive for the best.” Phelps is a life-changing role model to kids and even adults. He not only has words of wisdom, but he gives back to the community. Phelps’s charity, The Michael Phelps Foundation, is a nonprofit organization focused on growing the sport of swimming while trying to promote healthy lives for children. He helps make adults and children’s dreams and goals come true by giving them hope.

Phelps has influenced and touched many people through his phenomenal and jaw-dropping career as an Olympic swimmer. Here, right now in the year 2012, the world watched him become the most decorated Olympian in history. Even as a retired swimmer, he will continue aiding others with his charity and will always be the greatest Olympian to ever live.

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