Michael Phelps seems like any ordinary teenager. He’s tall, slightly awkward, listens to rap music and quotes lines from his favorite movie, “Austin Powers.”
But get him in the water, and Phelps is anything but ordinary. Surpassing swimming legend Mark Spitz’s record for seven medals in one Olympics with eight at the 2004 Athens Games, the 19-year-old boasts countless accolades for any swimmer, let alone a teen.
Standing 6-feet-4-inches and weighing in at 195 pounds, Phelps is the youngest male Olympian since 1932, and the only man to break five world records at one meet (the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona). He is also the only man to win five U.S. national titles at the same Championships (2004) and the only man to ever win a U.S. national title in three different strokes at one championship.
When Phelps was just 11, his coach, Bob Bowman, knew he had potential. But who could have guessed just how much?
Phelps finished fifth in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Shortly after, he broke the world record for the 200 fly, becoming the youngest swimmer to ever hold a world record. Following that, he broke another record in 2003 for the 200 individual medley, then the famous five at the 2003 Barcelona World Championships (he set two in one day, a first in breaking world records).
At 16, he turned professional, meaning he can’t compete on a collegiate level — but he still plans to attend college.
During this past Olympics, Phelps was the first American to qualify in six individual events and easily seized six gold and two bronze medals, much to the dismay of his popular Australian nemesis, Ian Thorpe.