He is known as the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them gold, spanning over four Olympic Games. He is recognized for his formidable butterfly, though he also specializes in individual medleys and the 100 and 200-meter freestyle. Phelps competed in his first Olympics at the age of 15, as part of the U.S. men’s swim team. He was the first American male swimmer to earn a spot on five Olympic teams and also made history as the oldest individual gold medalist in Olympic swimming history at the age of 28.
When he broke the world record in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2009 World Championships, Michael Phelps swam at an astonishingly speedy (or at least by human standards) 5.5 miles per hour. ESPN has put Phelps’ top swimming speed at 6 miles per hour.
For the Discovery Channel’s July 2017 Shark Week, Michael Phelps raced several breeds of sharks. The team developed a special device to measure each shark’s speed using bait. Phelps wore a monofin to approximate the movements of a shark (and get a bit of added propulsion). They did not swim the 100 meters side by side but rather individually in the same open water, with CGI images of the sharks displayed alongside Phelps as he raced. Their times were later compared.
In addition to his successful swim career, Phelps has written two books, Beneath the Surface: My Story (2008) and No Limits: The Will to Succeed (2009). Phelps co-founded the nonprofit organization Swim with the Stars, which holds camps for swimmers of all ages.
“If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do.”