Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Babe Ruth — all these are amazing athletes have impacted athletic history. They are also all retired.

This past summer at the 2012 London Olympics we bid our farewells to another great athlete that will forever be remembered as a figure that made history in the pool — Michael Phelps. At the start of the Olympics, Phelps announced that it would be the last Olympics of his swimming career. Phelps stated to various reporters that “[he] was getting older and was finding that it was becoming harder to recover.”

Although Phelps decided to retire did not stop him from giving his all this summer at the Olympic games. Phelps went into the games with 14 Olympic gold medals from previous competitions, and left the games with 18 gold and a total of 22 medals, becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time, beating Larysa Latynina, a Soviet gymnast who won 18 medals from 1956-64.

Phelps began his competitive swimming career at the age of seven. Three years later, at the age of 10, Phelps had already set a national record for his age group. He then began swimming with his longtime coach Bob Bowman, who coached him all the way up to Phelps’ retirement. Phelps continued to train and grow as a swimmer, setting more records, and improving. And then in 2000 at the age of 15, he became the youngest male to enter the U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years. Although he did not win a medal, he made finals and came in fifth in the 200-meter butterfly.

Only a year later, in the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, Phelps became the youngest male swimmer ever to set a swimming world record, in the 200-meter butterfly, only at the age of 15. In 2003, Phelps won four events at the World Championships in Barcelona and   once again making history, becoming the only swimmer to set world records in different events on the same day. A year later at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Phelps won six gold medals and two bronze, missing the record of most gold medals won in a single Olympic game, by only one medal. Then in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, Phelps won eight gold medals, not only setting a record with the most gold medals won in one game, but set seven world records in the pool. Then in 2011 at the Shanghai World Championships, Phelps won four gold medals.

Entering the 2012 Olympics all eyes were on Phelps, and his competition including U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte who beat Phelps in the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, China in two individual events. With a rough start where he was out-touched by 20-year-old Chad le Clos of South Africa in the 200 meter butterfly, which was an event that many including Phelps had confidence that it was his, he placed second by five hundredths of a second. However, like any great athlete Phelps overlooked his defeat, later that day coming in first in the 4×200 meter freestyle relay swimming with Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, and Ricky Berens. Later that week he won gold in the 200 meter Individual Medley (IM), 100 meter butterfly, and the 4×100 meter Medley relay. Phelps also placed silver in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay, and fourth in the 400 meter IM.

There’s no doubt that Phelps will be missed, in the pool and out, being such an iconic swimmer and athlete. He was voted Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, for the second time, beating both star basketball player LeBron James, and track star Usain Bolt, who were the runner-ups. Phelps explains how he is proud of his huge impact on the sport of swimming, and how he wanted to do something that was never done. And as we can all see, he definitely accomplished that goal.

As we say goodbye to another amazing athlete, there are much more coming. Including 17-year-old Missy Franklin who has already made an impact in the sport of  swimming, along with longtime rival and friend to Phelps, Ryan Lochte. So next time swimming is on, try looking at someone else for a change, who knows they might just become the next  “Michael Phelps.”

Related Posts