In at the deep end …
I am an American swimmer, I will be 22 years old tomorrow, I am the current holder of four Olympic records, four individual and two team world long distance records; I won six gold medals and two bronze ones at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and I also hold 12 world titles. Who am I?
At the 2007 world championships in Melbourne alone, the swimmer from Baltimore won seven gold medals and set five world records. This is the latest stage of a career crowned with gold and records starting in 2001 at the age of 15 years and nine months at the world championships in Fukuoka. In Japan, Michael Phelps beat the world 200m butterfly record, becoming the youngest swimmer ever to set a world record. He went on to Barcelona, Athens, Indianapolis and Montreal – all cities whose swimming pools were to be graced by the talent of this young athlete.
At the Athens 2004 Olympic Games alone, the young record-breaker stood on the podium eight times, and set four Olympic records and one world record. He pulverised his own records or bettered the previous record by one second, like the 200m butterfly (1.31 seconds) and the 400m individual medley (3.50 seconds). How much faster can he go? One thing is certain – he is among the favourites for the Olympic Games in Beijing, where competitions will take place from 8 to 24 August 2008 at the Olympic Park’s National Swimming Centre.
In the champions’ pool
Men’s Olympic swimming includes numerous events: 13 individual and three team events; several distances (50, 100, 200, 400 and 1,500m) and four strokes (breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle: so many ways to get swamped by a flood of gold, but only if you can beat your fellow swimmers!) This is something that Michael Phelps has understood, as the holder of the Olympic 100 and 200m butterfly and 200 and 400m individual medley records, as well as six world long distance records (200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 200 and 400m individual medley and 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle), including the 200m butterfly record set in 2001 and broken five times since then! By winning seven titles at a single world championship (Melbourne in 2007), at the tender age of 21, the young American has already beaten Australian Ian Thorpe’s record by one title. He his also creeping up on Mark Spitz’s record from the 1972 Games in Munich, i.e. seven gold medals in a single edition of the Games!
Inundated with prizes
Named “USA Male Athlete of the Year” in 2003; winner of the Sullivan Prize for the most exceptional amateur athlete in 2003; named “Sportsman of the Year” by the USOC in 2004; winner of the 2006 “Swimming Golden Goggle Award”, a prize given to American swimmers; and one of the top ten world athletes, Michael Phelps has as many prizes as medals and records.
With approximately one year to go until the next Olympic Games, we are wondering what this athlete will bring back from the Middle Kingdom… Watch this space.
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