Michael Phelps is the best swimmer of all time. He secured his position among the elite of international competitors during the 2016 Rio Olympics when he became the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.
He was born on June 30, 1985, in Towson, Maryland. He discovered his affinity for swimming when he was 7 years old. In the following three years, he became passionate about it, and he even established a national record for his age group, in the 100-metre butterfly. According to SwimSwam, in 1996, Phelps joined the North Baltimore Athletic Club, where he met coach Bob Bowman, who has stood by his side during his career.
An Incredible Career
In 2000, he was 15 years old when he participated in his first Olympic Games in Sidney, Australia. In 70 years, the United States had not had such a young male Olympian. He did not win a medal, but he found a source of inspiration in the Australian legend, Ian Thorpe.
Then Phelps began to earn medal after medal in almost every competition he attended, whether it was a Pan Pacific Championship, a World contest or an Olympic event. As of the publication of this report, he has gained a total of 80 medals:
- 64 gold; 21 in the Olympic Games, 27 in the World Championships and 16 in the Pan Pacific Championships.
- 13 silver; two in the Olympic Games, 6 in the World Championships and 5 in the Pan Pacific Championships.
- 3 bronze: 2 in the Olympic Games, 1 in the World Championships.
The number of awards he secured during the five Olympic events he attended, made him the most decorated Olympian of all time. The American swimmer holds the all-time records for Olympic gold medals, either in individual or team events. Moreover, according to the Olympics official website, in 2008, he won eight medals at the Beijing Summer Games. During that time he broke the record of Mark Spitz, who had won seven 1st place awards in a single Olympic championship. Furthermore, at the 2012 London Olympics, Phelps won six medals, becoming the most successful athlete of the games for the third competition in a row.
So, it can be affirmed that he is the best swimmer of all time. According to The Daily Beast, he is “swimming’s biggest star.” However, Phelps has his combatants.
Not Avoided by Critics
CNN host Kamau Bell declared that Ibtihaj Muhammad should have been the athlete carrying the American flag at the opening ceremonies on August 5. Bell had voiced disdain over Phelps carrying the flag, being just another “tall, successful, rich white guy” who tries to make America look good. However, Muhammad’s presence leading the USA team would have been legendary; a moment that would have been “cemented into history.”
The criticisms are ongoing. In 2008, the Children’s International Obesity Foundation criticized Phelps after he endorsed Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and McDonald’s. Four years later, the American swimmer Tyler Clary said that Phelps took everything for granted because he is “incredibly talented” and did not have to work hard to achieve everything he obtained.
In 2015, his rival, Chad Le Clos responded to some of Phelps’ negative comments regarding the 200-metre butterfly events, which he considered to be slow. Le Clos declared: “I just did a time he hasn’t done in four years. So he can keep quiet now,” according to The Odyssey.
However, in spite of the critics, Phelps confirmed that he is a strong competitor. The 80 medals he won throughout his career, validate his skill. Moreover, he proved to be in great shape at the Rio Olympics, where he became the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. Therefore, it is not tendentious to say that the American is the best swimmer of all time.
Opinion News by Bianca-Ramona Dumitru
Edited by Jeanette Smith & Cathy Milne
Bleacher Report: Michael Phelps: Why American Star Shouldn’t Be Concerned with Growing Criticism
Los Angeles Times: Phelps criticized for endorsements
Odyssey: Michael Phelps Silences His Critics
Olympic: Michael Phelps’ path to becoming the most successful Olympian of all time looks in retrospect almost pre-determined
SwimSwam: Michael Phelps
The Daily Beast: Michael Phelps: The Greatest Swimmer of All Time
The Daily Caller: Critics Said Michael Phelps Shouldn’t Carry The American Flag – He Just Won His 25th Medal
Images Courtesy of JD Lasica’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License