When a 15-year-old kid took his first dive to swim in 2000 at Sydney Olympics, one thing became clear. The world is going to see a man who will force it to remember him in the golden words of its history.
From Sydney to Rio, a kid at 15 now took a face of the best this sport could ever have at 31.
23 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.
This is the dream Olympic tally of the finest all time swimmer in the world. One name the world is enchanting at the moment, one name who won the most in the professional swimming, one man who is an epitome of success, Michael Fred Phelps II.
Having won an all-time 83 medals (66 Gold, 14 Silver and 3 Bronze) in the world events ever since he made a debut in Sydney Olympics, Michael Phelps has nothing left to prove in his name.
After announcing the retirement in London Olympics 2012 and having won 22 medals, Michael Phelps already got his name carved in the books which will be read by the present and the ages to come. Even though he did not return back in 2014 and then to Rio-De-Janeiro, he would have still been the mightiest this sport ever saw. His status would have been unbeatable for many generations to come.
But the time took its turn and this 31-year-old swimmer hit a six yet again at the on-going Olympics.
What brought Michael Phelps back to the pool despite announcing the retirement? One of the big questions every opponent pondered!
The fact is the partition from his love and passion took a toll on him. Michael Phelps was forced to a state of depression. Break up with the organized 8 hours a day schedule of swimming made him lose his way.
During the same span, his diet saw a mounting rise and hence an 84 kilograms Phelps of London Olympics had ballooned to 104 kilograms. His health quality, lifestyle and even the mental strength careened to an unacceptable level for this disciplined sportsperson.
He once mentioned “I still remember the days, not wanting to see anybody, not wanting to talk to anybody, really not wanting to live. I was on an express elevator to the bottom floor, wherever that might be” speaking about that span of time and this shows the level to which it may have downgraded him. When nothing struck, the average human in him found the solace in the jams of alcohol.
It was in late 2014 when Michael Phelps was tested double than permitted alcohol limit in a drunk-driving case, his times began to turn. It came as a godsend for him who went into the rehabilitation after this. When the master returned, he came back to a war. It was a war to regain the lost credentials and the self-respect in his own eyes.
This was how the nightmare for the opponents was back in Rio 2016 and we all are well acquainted with the results. Michael Phelps earned five golds and one silver medal in the on-going games, having a warm welcome by Olympics to its king. Not only did he return to his ‘home’, a swimming pool but his dedication and determination proved the champion he is!
It is often seen that the players who retire at their peak age tend to make the best choices; they have a lesson to learn from this athlete of the USA. He not only proved that peak is achieved by the hard work and not by believing in the spirit of the time.
If we tend to trace the life journey of this superstar son of a low-ranking athlete soldier, we will be juggling through a dream which came true. With every achievement of his, he shone and perfected the art of his job. Every medal around his neck was just a milestone on his journey which apparently ended in Rio-de-Janeiro 2016.
This 7-time world swimmer and 9-time American Swimmer Award winner created his world record at a mere age of 15 years and 9 months in the 200m butterfly at the World Aquatics Championship. Here, he set a new record of 1:54:58 which was later broken by him in 2009.
His 2002 and 2003 appearance in World Championship and the Pan Pacific Championships were promising to the core which landed him to Athens Olympics in 2004. This 19-year-old teenager in 2004 was the winner of 6 gold and 2 bronze medals by the time Athens Olympics ended.
By the time teenage ended for him, Michael Phelps was again holding great significance in the biyearly events of World and Pan Pacific Championship until 2008.
2008 can be the undisputed best year of Michael Phelps’s career where he attempted a clean sweep with 8 gold medals despite negative comments by his role model Ian Thorpe. The sports of the year 2008 by Sports Illustrated magazine, Phelps was thrown with a demotivating comment from Thorpe. Thorpe said, “He cannot win 8 gold in Beijing Olympics”. Michael derived motivation out of it and when he won the 8th gold, Thorpe ran to him from the stands and was one of the first people to congratulate and hail the star of the present day. In Thorpe’s words, he was never been this happy to be proved wrong.
However, Beijing was not the cake walk for Phelps. Media blamed him for consuming performance-enhancing substances. Tests were conducted based on the guidelines of World Anti-Doping agency and surprisingly, Phelps was tested negative in all the nine tests he was entitled to!
His ventures in World and Pan Pacific championship saw no decline post 2008 and when athletes were back in London in 2012, he was still a sensation. Before proclaiming retirement at summer Olympics in London, Phelps took home 4 gold and 2 silver medals.
Coming back to Rio, Michael Phelps ended his career after 5 Olympics and winning USA’s 1001st all time Olympic gold in accordance with USOC.
At the moment, he is the world record holder of 100m Butterfly, 200m Butterfly, and 400m individual medley. He formerly also held the world record for 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley. He is the only person to hold 13 individual gold medals in Olympics breaking the previous 2000-year-old record of Leonids of Rhodes (12 individual gold) who played from 164-152 BC.
This athlete from Baltimore, Maryland in the USA deserves praise for his philanthropy as well. After 2008 Beijing Olympics, he founded Michael Phelps foundation to foster the growing of swimming and healthier lifestyles and the pursuit of dreams.
Recapitulating this course of 28 Olympic medals haul with a record of 23 gold from a great man, it has been a remarkable evolution. A legend in the history of mankind, neither anyone has swum like Phelps did and future is a question always!
As he bid an adieu to the love of his life, how much we all wish a repeat of 2014. How much we all wish to see him back in Tokyo 2020.