We’re 9 weeks away from the summer Olympics in London and it’s about time you got to know some of the American athletes poised to bring home gold. This week we look at a new-age American icon and one of the most prolific Olympians ever to grace the podium, 16-time medalist Michael Phelps.
Born In: Baltimore, Maryland
Preferred Events: Freestyle, butterfly
The list is long; Phelps has a tendency to not only set new world records but break his own. All told, he’s set 39, still holds seven and in 2009, he officially became the most dominant swimmer in sports history, surpassing fellow American, Olympian and world record holder Mark Spitz for most records broken (Spitz set 33).
With records come medals and Phelps has more than his fair share. In 2004 he brought home six Olympic golds (200 m and 400 m medley, 100 m and 200 m butterfly, 4x100 m medley relay and 4 x 200 m medley relay) and two bronze (4x100 m freestyle relay, 200 m freestyle). He outdid himself four years later in Beijing bringing home eight, all gold (again in the medleys, the butterflys, both the 100 and 200 m freestyle relays, the 100 m medley relays and the 200 m freestyle). His 16 Olympic medals are dwarfed only by the 18 Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina has accrued across three Olympics.
Precious Olympic metal aside, Phelps has also pulled in an impressive 50 medals in major international competition, including 40 gold, 9 silver and a bronze since 2002. He’s been named the World Swimmer of the Year six times, the American Swimmer of the Year eight times and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year for his work in 2008.
400 m individual medley: 4:03.84 set in Bejiing, August 2008 (world record)
4x100 m freestyle relay: 3:08.24 set in Beijing, August 2008 (world record).
100 m butterfly: 0:49.82 set in Rome, July 2009 (world record).
4x200 m freestyle relay: 6:58.55 set in Rome, July 2009 (world record).
200 m butterfly: 1:51.51 set in Rome, August 2009 (world record).
4x100 m medley relay: 3:27.28 set in Rome, August 2009 (world record).
4x100 m freestyle relay (short course): 3:03.30 set in Manchester, December 2009 (world record).
Worth Noting: Before Michael Phelps was Michael Phelps, he was a relatively unknown 15-year-old boy competing at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, where he finished fifth in the 200 m butterfly. The next year he broke the world record for the event, becoming the youngest man to ever set a swimming world record, and the world started to stand up and take notice: the Baltimore Bullet was born.
Phelps on his potential eight-medal haul in Beijing prior to the Games beginning: "I am going to prepare for that meet just like I do every other meet...There is only so much I can do in a month and then I am going to prepare myself the best that I can."
Olympic Scouting Report: Phelps is a freak, an abnormal human specimen built for streamlined swimming. That said, there is no way we are going to see the Bullet trying for another eight medals, though we’ll bet his competitive edge will have him in some familiar events as he tries to set the all-time Olympic medal record. He’s likely to place in the 200 m individual medley and the team relays, but the 100 and 200 m butterflys are where we’ll be seeing more gold.
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