Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He has won a total of 28 medals, including 23 gold medals. Here is a timeline of Phelps’ swimming career, from his early days as a young prodigy to his historic performance at the 2016 Olympics.
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Michael Phelps is Born
On June 30, 1985, Michael Phelps is born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Fred and Debbie Phelps. Phelps is born with abnormal bones in his feet, a condition known as clubfoot. As a result, he has to wear special shoes and braces for several years during his childhood. Phelps is also diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at an early age. Despite these challenges, Phelps excels in swimming from a young age. He joins the North Baltimore Aquatic Club at the age of seven and quickly becomes one of the best swimmers in his age group.
2000: Michael Phelps Makes His Olympic Debut
Phelps makes his Olympic debut at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He is just 15 years old at the time and is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic swimming team. Phelps does not win any medals at the 2000 Olympics but he gaines valuable experience that will help him in future competitions.
2002: Michael Phelps Wins His First International Medal
Phelps wins his first international medal at the 2002 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Yokohama, Japan. He takes home gold in the 200-meter butterfly and sets a new world record with a time of 1:54.23. This victory signals Phelps’ arrival on the international stage and establishes him as one of the world’s best swimmers.
2004: Michael Phelps Wins Six Gold Medals at the Athens Olympics
Phelps has a stunning performance at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. He wins six gold medals and two bronze medals, setting a new record for most gold medals won by a single athlete at a single Olympic Games. In addition to his six gold medals, Phelps also sets world records in four out of his five individual events. His accomplishments in Athens establish him as one of the greatest Olympians of all time.
2008: Michael Phelps Wins Eight Gold Medals at the Beijing Olympics
Phelps puts on another sensational performance at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. He wins eight gold medals, becoming the first athlete ever to win eight gold medals at a single Olympic Games. In addition to his eight gold medals, Phelps also sets five new world records and ties another world record. His accomplishments in Beijing cements his legacy as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Phelps Begins Swimming
At the age of seven, Phelps began swimming competitively with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club under coach Bob Bowman. A self-described “normal kid,” Phelps stayed out of trouble and excelled in school. In the pool, his natural talents quickly began to emerge—by age 10, he had already broken five national records.
Phelps Becomes a National Champion
In 2008, Phelps became the first swimmer in history to win eight gold medals at a single Olympics, surpassing Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven.
Phelps Makes the Olympic Team
In 2000, at the age of 15, Phelps became the youngest American male swimmer to compete in the Olympic Games in 68 years. He finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly.
In 2001, Phelps won his first national title, taking gold in the 200-meter butterfly at the National Championships.
Phelps made his mark on the international scene in 2002. First, he became the youngest man ever to set a world swimming record when he swam a time of 1:54.92 in the 200-meter butterfly at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Yokohama, Japan. A few months later, he broke his own world record with a time of 1:54.58 at the U.S. Winter Nationals in Long Beach, California.
Phelps Wins Eight Gold Medals
Michael Phelps became a household name after his record-breaking performances at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He won eight gold medals, the most ever won by a single athlete at a single Olympic Games.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 30, 1985, Phelps began swimming at the age of seven. By the time he was 10, he had set two national records. In 2000, he became the youngest American male swimmer to compete in the Olympic Games. Phelps did not win any medals in Sydney, but he gained valuable experience that would serve him well in future competitions.
In 2001, Phelps made his first major international splash by winning five gold medals and one silver medal at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. The following year, he successfully defended his titles in Barcelona and became the first swimmer ever to win four gold medals in a row at the World Championships.
Phelps’s success continued at the 2003 World Championships in Indianapolis, where he again won five gold medals and one silver medal. He also set three world records during the competition.
The Athens Olympics in 2004 were somewhat of a disappointment for Phelps. He won six medals—two golds, two silvers and two bronzes—but failed to win an individual gold medal. However, he rebounded beautifully at the 2005 World Championships in Montreal, setting four world records and winning seven gold medals.
Phelps’s greatest moment came at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when he won eight gold medals—the most ever won by a single athlete at a single Olympic Games. With his outstanding performances in Beijing, Phelps became an international superstar and solidified his place as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
In 2016, Phelps said he was done with swimming and announced his retirement. But he returned to the pool in early 2017 and won gold at the World Championships in Budapest.
On August 12, Phelps competed in his final event, the men’s 4x100m medley relay. Phelps swam the butterfly leg and helped the U.S. team take first place. Phelps ended his career with 28 Olympic medals: 23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze.