Phelps’ Olympic success a lifetime in the making

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are neck and neck in the 200 -meter individual medley. The crowd hold
Jesse Triller
Jesse Triller

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are neck and neck in the 200 -meter individual medley. The crowd holds its breath, wondering who will win: the famous Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte.

They come into the wall. The crowd cheers. Michael Phelps wins by a hundredth of a second! That is faster than a blink of an eye or a flash of lightning.

But he hasn’t always been this good. Like every athlete, you have to work extremely hard to get to the Olympics, let alone getting a gold medal.

Michael Phelps was born on June 30, 1985, in Maryland. He was an energetic child, so his mom put him in swim lessons. She thought that the water would be a good place for him to focus and to burn off some excess energy.

At age 7, Michael was still “a little scared” of putting his head underwater, so his instructors allowed him to float around on his back. The first stroke he mastered was the backstroke.

He didn’t always want to swim, though. He would tell his mom that he wanted to golf, and his mom would tell him to think it over. And sure enough, he would be in the pool again.

At age 15, he competed in the Sydney Olympics, where he swam the 200 butterfly and got fifth. In 2002, he went to the Salt Lake City Olympics. During those games, Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, saw an agent, Peter Carlisle, on the “Today” show explain strategies to teach young people interested in action sports, music, and computer games, and Bob knew this was the right guy to be Phelps’ agent. When Michael met Peter at their first meeting, Peter asked Michael, “What are your goals?” and 16-year-old Michael Phelps replied, “I want to change the sport of swimming.”

Phelps continued on to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In Beijing, he smashed Ian Thorp’s record in the 200 freestyle, 1:44:06, by going 1:43:86. In the 400 relay, Phelps led the relay team with an American record of 47.51. But sadly, France won. In his 200 butterfly, Phelps’ goggles filled with water. For the last 75 meters, he couldn’t see a thing, so he counted his strokes to tell where he was and to tell where the wall was. He won and beat the world record with the time of 1:52:03.

For Michael, the last Olympics he went to was the 2012 London Olympics. In his first event, he did the 400 IM. Ryan Lochte won, while Phelps finished fourth. Later, Phelps went out and became the first male swimmer to throw a three-peat — or a third consecutive championship win — in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly. He got second in his 200 butterfly by taking another short stroke. In that instant, swimmer Chad le Clos touched the wall, just five-hundredths of a second faster than Michael. At the end of the meet, America got first in their medley relay, giving Michael his 22nd medal.

Phelps retired after the London Olympics. He is enjoying his retirement with fishing and doing something he’s always wanted to do: golf. “I want to be able to look back and say I’ve done everything I could, and was successful,” he said. “I don’t want to look back and say I should have done this or that. I’d like to change things for the younger generation of swimmers coming along.”

Even though he isn’t swimming competitively anymore, he has still made his mark in the world and will go down in history as the greatest Olympian of all time.

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