Best athletes of all-time: Michael Phelps

Mazie Carpentier

More stories from Mazie Carpentier

Addyson Casten
February 5, 2023
Ellyana Teliczan
January 17, 2023

Wearing a record twenty-eight medals around his neck, Michael Phelps will go down in history as the most successful and decorated Olympian in history.

Michael Fred Phelps was born on June 30th, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland. At the ripe age of seven-years-old, Michael began to swim. With every lap, he expressed his excitement for the sport. He began swimming to release energy and turned this release into the perfect way for him to live his life. By the time he was ten, he had already achieved a national record for his age group and brought in many wins for himself at swim competitions, nationally and locally. 

At the 2008 Beijing games, he broke fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of first place finishes at any single Olympic Game. After many more wins from 2008-2012, he became known as the most successful athlete of the Olympics for the fourth time in a row. Phelps is often compared to runner and fellow Olympian Usain Bolt. Phelps has more than three times the medals and wins then Bolt does. Of course, swimming and running are two completely different sports, but when it comes to overall wins and athletic abilities, Phelps takes the cake. 

After the success in 2008, Phelps organized and founded the Michael Phelps Foundation, which focuses on growth in the sport of swimming along with portraying healthier lifestyles in the world of sports and outside of sports. He believes that the foundation has helped him achieve many personal goals, along with promoting the importance of water safety and how to pursue dreams. The foundation has provided a learn-to-swim program along with a goal setting curriculum for more than 200,000 individuals through the Boys and Girls Club of America and the Special Olympics International. 

Of course, being known as the best swimmer of all-time means you have some serious talent, and Phelps surely does. His best known events are the men’s 400-meter individual medley as well as being the former long course world record holder in the 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, and 200-meter individual medley. Excelling in all of these top events is not done easily. Phelps spent twenty-four years as a professional swimmer, enduring long, dreadful practices and pouring his entire lifestyle into the sport. His hard work and determination, along with a natural talent, helped him succeed. 

Phelps decided to call it quits with the sport in 2016 after winning five gold and one silver medal in the Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games. Rio was Phelps’ motivation to push through and continue, and when it was over, he decided that his time as a swimmer was also over. I feel as if the retirement from what he loved most was well-deserved. He used his twenty-four years of experience to utterly dominate the world of swimming, so retirement was a respected act. 

Phelps is known as one of the most inspirational and influential athletes of all-time not only for the medals that he won but also for his abilities to always know what to say to help himself and others continue to dominate. “I want to be able to look back and say, ‘I’ve done everything I can, and I was successful.’ I don’t want to look back and say I should have done this or that.”

As we move forward from Phelps’ unsurpassed career, we hope that he will always use his motivational ways to help others in the future. Having more than two-and-a-half times more medals than any other Olympic athlete, in my mind and the minds of many others, Michael Phelps will always be the greatest of all-time.