GREATEST ATHLETES OF THE 21ST CENTURY: MICHAEL PHELPS

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It is incredible how a swimmer is the second greatest athlete of the 21st century. Michael Phelps has shattered every single major record in the sport of swimming. He’s done it effortlessly; dominating his sport on the same level as Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky did in theirs. Who would’ve thought that this skinny, frail young man from Baltimore could make the 2000 U.S. Olympic swim team at the tender age of 15. Seventeen years, Phelps is laughing all the way to the bank and into sports immortality.

Although Phelps didn’t medal at the 2000 Sydney Games, just by making the team at such a young age gave sports fans hope that he could mature into a championship swimmer. Beginning with the 2004 Athens Games, Phelps began his quest for immortality. At the still tender age of 19, Phelps won six gold medals at the 2004 Olympics, falling just one short of Mark Spitz’ 1972 Olympic record of seven gold medals. Phelps was now determined to not only equal Spitz’ record, but surpass it. In the 2008 Beijing Games, not only did he surpass Spitz’ record of seven by winning eight gold medals, he surpassed him as the single, greatest swimmer in the history of the sport. His total medals won after the 2008 Games were 14 Gold and two Bronze Medals, making him one shy of legendary Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina’s all time record of 18. He would shatter that record with his performances in the next two Olympic Games.

It is amazing to think that an athlete could win four gold and two silver medals in a single Olympics and be considered past his prime, but that’s what so called experts were claiming after Phelps turned in that exact performance at the 2012 London Games. Phelps came into the 2012 Games with a ton of pressure on him, yet he continued to dominate by winning six medals. At the age of 27, he retired from competitive swimming. Thankfully, his retirement lasted only two years. He had one more Olympic Games left in him.

The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games saw Phelps once again dominate the field, as he won an additional five Gold and one Bronze Medal. He finally retired at the age of 31 with a mark that will never be equaled again: 28 Medals, including 23 Gold. He has 29 world records in swimming. He is the single, most accomplished swimmer and Olympian of all time, making Michael Phelps the second greatest athlete of the 21st century.

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