Michael Phelps, born on June 30, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland, is an American swimmer who has won 19 Olympic medals-six gold and two bronze at Athens in 2004, eight gold at Beijing in 2008, and one gold and two silver at London in 2012. Phelps holds the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics (Beijing, 2008) and the record for most Olympic medals (as of July 2012), beating gymnast Larisa Latynina’s prior record of 18.
Michael Fred Phelps was born on June 30, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland, to Fred and Debbie Phelps. The youngest of three children, Michael Phelps and his sisters grew up in the neighborhood of Rodgers Forge. His father, Fred, an all-around athlete, was a state trooper; mother Debbie was a middle-school principal. When Phelps’s parents divorced in 1994, he and his siblings went to live with their mother, with whom Michael grew very close.
Phelps began swimming when his two older sisters, Whitney (born in 1978) and Hilary (born in 1980), joined a local swim team. Whitney tried out for the U.S. Olympic team in 1996, at the age of 15, but injuries derailed her career. At age 7, Phelps was still “a little scared” to put his head under water, so his instructors allowed him to float around on his back. Not surprisingly, the first stroke he mastered was the backstroke.
After he saw swimmers Tom Malchow and Tom Dolan compete at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Phelps began to dream of becoming a champion. He launched his swimming career at the Loyola High School pool. He met his coach, Bob Bowman, when he started training at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center. The coach immediately recognized Phelps’s talents and fierce sense of competition and began an intense training regime together. By 1999, Phelps had made the U.S. National B Team.
At the age of 15, Phelps became the youngest American male swimmer at an Olympic Games in 68 years. While he didn’t win a medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, he would soon become a major force in competitive swimming.
World-Renowned Olympic Medalist
In the spring of 2001, Michael Phelps set the world record in the 200-meter butterfly, becoming the youngest male swimmer in history (at 15 years and 9 months) to ever set a world swimming record. He then broke his own record at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, with a time of 1:54:58, earning his first international medal. Phelps continued to set new marks at the 2002 U.S. Summer Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, establishing a new world record for the 400-meter individual medley, and U.S. records in the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley. The following year, at the same event, he broke his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:09.09.
Shortly after graduating from Towson in 2003, a 17-year-old Phelps set five world records, including the 200-meter individual medley at the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, with a time of 1:56:04. Then during the U.S. trials for the 2004 Summer Olympics, he broke his own world again in the 400 meter individual medley, with a time of 4:08:41.
Phelps became a superstar at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, winning eight medals (including six gold), tying with Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin (1980) for the most medals in a single Olympic Games. Phelps scored the first of six gold medals on August 14, when he broke his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley, shaving 0.15 seconds of his previous mark. He also won gold in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley, 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay and 4-by-100-meter medley relay). The two events in Athens, in which Phelps took bronze medals, were 200-meter freestyle and the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay.
Just weeks following his triumph in Athens, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Salisbury, Maryland, after cruising through a stop sign. He pleaded guilty to driving while impaired, was sentenced to 18 months probation, fined $250, ordered to speak against drinking and driving to high school students, and ordered to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving meeting. Michael called it an “isolated incident,” but admitted to letting himself and his family down.
Phelps soon followed coach Bowman to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, studying sports marketing and management. Bowman coached the Wolverines’ swim team and guided Club Wolverine, of which Phelps was once a member.
Phelps continued to establish world records at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, British Columbia, and the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Phelps won gold in the 4-by-100-meter individual relay, 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter butterfly, 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter butterfly. Every gold medal performance set a new world record, except the 100-meter butterfly, which set an Olympic record. Phelps also set the all-time single Olympics gold-medal record, surpassing swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven golds; he had won his 14th career gold medal, the most gold won by any Olympian.
In July 2012, Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal and became the new world record holder for Olympic medals, beating gymnast Larisa Latynina’s prior record of 18. At the 2012 Olympic Games, held in London, England, he won a gold medal in the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay. He also won two silver medals, in the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay and 200-meter butterfly. Phelps also holds the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics (eight at Beijing in 2008).
In addition to his successful swim career, Phelps has written two books. His second book, No Limits: The Will to Succeed, hit bookstores on December 9, 2008. Phelps also co-founded the nonprofit organization Swim with the Stars, which holds camps for swimmers of all ages. – Biography