Michael Phelps Biography

(American Former Competitive Swimmer and the Most Successful Olympian of All Time With a Total of 28 Medals)

Birthday: June 30, 1985 (Cancer)

Born In: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Michael Phelps is an American former competitive swimmer. He is the most celebrated swimmer and the most decorated Olympian in the history of Olympics. Thanks to his unwavering determination and rock-solid focus, Phelps went on to make history in the world of swimming. Phelps has created a whopping 39 world records—29 in individual events and 11 in group events—to become the first and only swimmer to do so. Additionally, he has also created the record for being the only Olympian with most number of Olympic gold medals (23), only Olympian with 13 gold medals in individual events, and only Olympian to win eight gold medals in a single Olympic event. Interestingly, Michael Phelps was initially afraid to put his face under the water. He not only overcame this fear but also challenged the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which he was facing as a child, to become a master at what he loved doing—swimming! Apart from his back-to-back victories and undefeated feats, his will to better his own records and ability to popularize the sport of swimming distinguish him from his contemporaries and colleagues. After retiring from the sport following the 2012 Olympics, Michael made a comeback in 2014. He then took part at the 2016 Summer Olympics, his fifth Olympics, before announcing his second retirement in August 2016. At the time of his retirement, he had won more medals than 161 countries!

Quick Facts

Nick Name: Flying Fish, GOAT - Greatest of All Time, Mr. Swimming, Superman, The Baltimore Bullet

Also Known As: Michael Fred Phelps II

Age: 38 Years, 38 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Nicole Johnson

father: Michael Fred Phelps

mother: Deborah 'Debbie' Phelps, Deborah Phelps

children: Boomer Robert Phelps

Born Country: United States

Swimmers American Men

Height: 6'4" (193 cm), 6'4" Males

Ancestry: German American, British American, Irish American

Diseases & Disabilities: ADHD

City: Baltimore, Maryland

U.S. State: Maryland

More Facts

education: Towson University

awards: Olympic Games (23 Gold
3 Silver
2 Bronze)

World Championships (LC) - 26 Gold
6 Silver
1 Bronze

Childhood & Early Life

Michael Phelps was born Michael Fred Phelps II on June 30, 1985, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, to Michael Fred Phelps and Deborah Sue ‘Debbie.’ He has two elder sisters: Hilary and Whitney. While his father was employed as a state trooper, his mother was into the profession of teaching. Young Michael received his education from ‘Towson High School.’

It was Fred’s strong athletic capabilities that his children eventually acquired. Hilary, Whitney, and Michael got into swimming early in their childhood. Though Hilary showed great promise, she opted out of the sport. Whitney took to it for a little longer than her sister, even trying her luck to gain admission into the US Olympic team in 1996. However, it was young Phelps who not only took to the sport, but also exceled in it.

Phelps took to swimming at the age of seven. Initially scared of putting his face in the water, he took to floating in the pool and soon mastered the backstroke. Just when Phelps seemed to get on with his fear, he was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, he worked his way through the condition with the help of his mother Debbie.

In the early days, Phelps started swimming after being influenced by his sisters. It was also a great activity to exhaust his energy, thereby helping him cope with ADHD. After watching Tom Malchow and Tom Dolan compete in the 1996 ‘Summer Games’ in Atlanta, Phelps started dreaming about making it big in swimming. He then decided to turn swimming into his professional choice.

Phelps started training under Bob Bowman at the ‘North Baltimore Aquatic Club.’ Recognizing the capability and potential of Phelps, Bowman started an intense training program with him. Soon, Phelps found himself a place at the US National B Team.

Breaking quite a few records, Phelps made his way through the Olympic trials to gain himself a place at the 2000 ‘Summer Olympics.’ With this, he became the youngest member in 68 years to represent America in the Olympics. Though he did not win a medal, his performance was incredible; he finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly race.

At the end of the year, Phelps stood convincingly at the 7th spot in the world 200-meter butterfly ranking and 44th in the 400-meter individual medley.

Continue Reading Below
Rise to Glory

Phelps went on to perform well in the following years as he excelled in the sport and drew limelight at national and international levels. With each competition, he kept climbing the ladder of success.

The swimming fraternity witnessed Phelps’ brilliance and prowess at the ‘World Championship Trials’ for the 2001 ‘World Aquatics Championships.’ At the age of 15 years and 9 months, he broke the world record in the 200-meter butterfly to become the youngest swimmer ever to set a swimming world record.

With each passing competition, it seemed as if Phelps was competing with himself rather than his competitors. An excellent example of this was when he broke his own record in the 200-meter butterfly at the ‘World Championships’ in Fukuoka to secure his first medal.

The year 2002 witnessed Phelps’ participation in the ‘Pan Pacific Championship.’ During the selection process, he broke numerous world records. At the main event, Phelps brought home three gold medals and two silver medals. While he won the 400-meter individual medley and 200-meter individual medley, he finished second in the 200-meter butterfly, which came across as a surprise to many.

In the 2003 ‘World Championship,’ Phelps won the 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter backstroke, and 100-meter butterfly. With this, he became the first ever American swimmer to record wins at three different races that included three different strokes at national championships.

The same year, Phelps proved his mettle by breaking the world record in the 400-meter individual medley and 200-meter individual medley.

Following these victories, Phelps entered the 2003 ‘World Aquatics Championships’ in great spirits and earned himself four gold medals and two silver medals. Additionally, he also broke five world records, each time bettering his own personal best. Phelps’ phenomenal success was unmatchable and veterans from around the world were forced to keep up with the pace of this shinning teen sensation!

Beginning from 2004, Phelps competed in the US Olympic Team Trials. Out of the six events that he participated in (200 and 400-meter individual medley, 100 and 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter freestyle, and 200-meter backstroke), he was selected for all, thus becoming the only American to achieve such a feat. However, he backed out of 200-meter backstroke to focus on 200-meter freestyle in an attempt to give tough competition to Ian Thorpe. He also became part of a couple of relay teams.

At the 2004 Olympics, Phelps had six gold and two bronze medals under his belt, thus becoming the second-best performer ever in a single Olympic event, behind Mark Spitz's seven gold medals. Also, he became the second male swimmer ever to win more than two individual titles in a single Olympic event, tying with Spitz's four titles in 1972. He even broke a couple of world records, thus becoming more popular than ever before.

Continue Reading Below

Furthermore, his unselfish gesture of giving teammate Ian Crocker a chance to have a shot at an Olympic gold medal by opting out of the 4x100 meter medley relay finals added to the already booming reputation of Michael Phelps. The American medley team set a world record and won the gold medal. Phelps too was awarded a gold medal since he had raced in the preliminary heat of the medley relay.

Phelps’ glory after the ‘Athens Olympics’ were marred by his futile drinking and driving episode. Sentenced to 18-month probation period and $250 fine, he immediately realized his mistake.

Phelps was ordered to give lecture about the dangers involved in drinking and driving. He was also asked to attend ‘Mothers Against Drunk Driving’ meeting. He then followed Coach Bowman to serve as the latter’s assistant in the varsity coaching job. He even enrolled himself at the ‘University of Michigan’ for a course in sports marketing and management.

At a young age, Phelps had broken several records and earned numerous medals (gold, silver, and bronze). What started as a fun activity went on to take a serious turn as Phelps aimed at transforming the sport for the better. He set out to do for swimming what great sportsmen like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods did for their respective sport.

In the following years, Phelps came up with commendable performance. He earned a total of six medals—five golds and one silver—at the 2005 ‘World Championships.’ He had a similar tally at the 2006 ‘Pan Pacific Swimming Championships’ in Victoria.

Zenith of Success

Phelps’ big opportunity to enrich the sport came in 2007 with his participation at the ‘World Championship.’ He contested in seven events, winning a gold medal in each and creating world records in five of them. Throughout the event, Phelps outperformed his competitors and challenged himself to set personal bests.

Phelps’ seven gold medal haul was a record in itself, breaking Ian Thorpe’s six-medal achievement in the 2001 ‘World Championship.’ He repeated the feat in five individual events: 100 m and 200 m butterfly, 200 m freestyle, and 200m and 400 m individual medley. He did the same in two group events: 4X100 m and 4X200 m freestyle relay. He could have won the eighth medal had Ian Crocker not made an early exit from the competition.

The same year, Phelps' performance at the ‘US Nationals Indianapolis’ was impeccable as he exceled his own personal best by creating a world record in the 200 m backstroke.

Just when everything seemed to be perfect, Phelps fractured his right wrist by accidentally falling on to a patch of ice. His training cycle was interrupted, leaving him heartbroken. However, not the one to give up easily, he practiced using a kickboard. His practice sessions using a kickboard turned out to be beneficial as Phelps ended up adding a little more strength to his kicks.

Continue Reading Below

At the 2008 ‘Beijing Olympics,’ Phelps became the man to look out for as everyone expected him to make newer world records. His reputation was such that everyone expected a medal and a world record every time he jumped into the pool.

Phelps performed brilliantly at the trials of the 2008 Olympics, qualifying for eight events almost effortlessly. The events that Phelps participated in were 400-meter individual medley, 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter butterfly, 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay, 100-meter butterfly, and 4 x 100-meter medley relay.

History was created and new records were written at the 2008 Olympics as Phelps went on to win eight gold medals. He set world records while winning seven medals and an Olympic record while winning the eighth. Despite possessing incredible skills and technique, Phelps had to work hard for his records and there were times when it seemed difficult for Phelps to create the Olympic record.

While participating in the 200-meter butterfly, his goggles malfunctioned. In the 100-meter butterfly, he was almost beaten by Milorad Čavić, before turning the tide at the last moment to beat Čavić by a hundredth of a second. In the medley race, U.S. was lagging behind Australia and Japan. However, Phelps completed his split in 50.1 seconds, giving teammate Jason Lezak more than half-a-second lead for the final leg.

Last Leg

The year 2009 saw Phelps taking it slow; he kept himself away from his grueling training sessions. He participated in three events at the US Nationals, winning all three. At the ‘World Championship,’ he earned five gold medals and one silver medal, losing the 200-meter freestyle to Paul Biedermann. It was the first time in four years that Phelps finished second.

The following year, Phelps’ performance at the US Nationals was below par as he lost the 200 m individual medley to Ryan Lochte, whom the world looked upon as Phelps’ successor. It was Phelps’ first defeat against Lochte.

Unfazed by the defeat, Phelps continued to polish his skills and entered the 2010 ‘Pan Pacific Championship.’ Thanks to his optimistic approach during the championship, he went on to win five gold medals.

Continuing from where he had left, Phelps entered the 2011 ‘World Championship’ amidst high expectations from his fans. He mastered the butterfly events, winning two gold medals. Two more medals followed as he won the group races: 4 X 200 m freestyle and 4 X 100 m medley.

Phelps lost second time in a row to Lochte in the 200 m individual medley. Lochte secured a comfortable lead by beating Phelps and took home a silver medal. Phelps collected silver and bronze medals for 200 m individual medley and 4 X 100 m freestyle relay respectively.

Continue Reading Below

�As the 2012 London Olympics approached, anticipation was high as to whether Phelps would be able to repeat history and create more world records. He qualified for eight events, replicating his performance produced at the trials of the 2008 Olympics. However, he backed out of the 200 m freestyle to concentrate on relays.

Phelps had a disappointing start at the London Olympics, as he failed to secure a medal at the 400 m individual relay, his first failure since 2000. He then made up for the loss by bringing home a silver medal after finishing second in the 4 x 100 m freestyle relay. However, the disappointment continued as Phelps finished second in the 200 m butterfly, behind South African swimmer Chad le Clos.

Just when critics started to write off Phelps, he won four back-to-back races at the Olympics, thus bringing home four gold medals. He twice became the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics; 200 m individual medley and 100 m butterfly.

In the 4 x 100 m medley relay, he put up an astonishing performance. He performed with the same zest and determination which he displayed during his first race, leading his team to victory.

The 4 x 100 m medley relay earned Phelps his 18th career gold medal and 22nd Olympic medal. Phelps was designated the most successful athlete at the London Olympic Games 2012, his third time in a row.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he won five gold medals (200 m butterfly, 200 m medley, 4x100 m freestyle, 4x200 m freestyle, and 4x100 m medley) and one silver medal (100 m butterfly), taking his overall Olympics medal tally to 28, which includes 23 gold medals.

Michael Phelps At Olympics - In a Nutshell

Michael Phelps has participated in five Olympics, winning a total of 28 medals (23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze).

His first Olympic event was the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He took part in the Olympics at the age of 15, becoming the youngest male to represent the U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years. Sydney Olympics was a learning experience for Phelps; he did not win a medal but managed to participate in the finals and finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, he won six gold medals and two bronze medals. He won the gold medals in: 100 m butterfly, 200 m butterfly, 200 m medley, 400 m medley, 4×200 m freestyle, and 4×100 m medley. He won the bronze medals in 200 m freestyle and 4×100 m freestyle.

Continue Reading Below

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he won eight gold medals. He won the medals in: 200 m freestyle, 100 m butterfly, 200 m butterfly, 200 m medley, 400 m medley, 4×100 m freestyle, 4×200 m freestyle, and 4×100 m medley.

At the 2012 London Olympics, he won four gold medals and two silver medals. He won the gold medals in: 100 m butterfly, 200 m medley, 4×200 m freestyle, and 4×100 m medley. He won the silver medals in 200 m butterfly and 4×100 m freestyle.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he won five gold medals (200 m butterfly, 200 m medley, 4x100 m freestyle, 4x200 m freestyle, and 4x100 m medley). He also won a silver medal (100 m butterfly), taking his overall Olympics medal tally to 28, which includes 23 gold medals.

Awards & Achievements

Michael Phelps has won the highest number of Olympic gold medals (23), most of which came from individual events (13). He also holds the record for most number of first-place finishes at any single Olympic Games as he won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. For his extraordinary and unmatchable feat, he has been bestowed with numerous honors and awards.

In 2003, Phelps won the ‘James E. Sullivan Award.’ With this, he became the 10th swimmer to be named the top amateur athlete in the country.

In 2004, a street in his hometown was named after him; it is called the ‘Michael Phelps Way.’ In 2009, after his successful show at the Olympics, the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate honored him for his accomplishments in the Olympics.

Phelps has won the ‘Swimming World’ magazine’s ‘World Swimmer of the Year Award’ seven times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012). The same magazine honored him with the ‘American Swimmer of the Year Award’ nine times (from 2001 to 2004, 2006 to 2009, and 2012).

‘The Golden Goggle Awards,’ which was initiated in 2004 by the ‘USA Swimming Federation,’ has honored Phelps several times in various categories. While he won the ‘Male Performance of the Year’ award five times, the ‘Relay Performance of the Year’ award was bestowed on him for four consecutive years from 2006 to 2009. Additionally, he also won the ‘Male Athlete of the Year’ award in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2012.

The international swimming federation, FINA, honored Phelps with the FINA swimmer of the year award in 2012, commemorating his status as the most decorated Olympian ever.

Philanthropic Works

Making use of his 2008 Beijing Speedo bonus of $1 million, Phelps set up the ‘Michael Phelps Foundation,’ which aims at promoting swimming as a sporting activity. It also promotes healthy lifestyle.

Two years later, the foundation, along with ‘Michael Phelps Swim School’ and ‘KidsHealth.org,’ conducted an ‘im’ program for the members of the ‘Boys & Girls Clubs of America.’ The program stresses on the importance of active living and encourages youngsters to focus on swimming as a sporting activity. It also promotes the importance of planning and goal-setting in life.

After the success of the program, the foundation initiated two more programs, namely ‘Level Field Fund-Swimming’ and ‘Caps-for-a-Cause.’

Personal Life & Legacy

Michael Phelps was once described by his coach as a “solitary man.” In February 2015, he announced that he was engaged to former Miss California Nicole Johnson. They got married the following year. It is said that they met in 2009. Their son Boomer Robert Phelps was born on May 5, 2016. Their second son Beckett Richard Phelps was born on February 12, 2018. Their third son Maverick Nicolas Phelps was born on September 9, 2019.


This celebrated Olympian and swimming champion drew inspiration from his two elder sisters, Hilary and Whitney. It is said that his sisters were better swimmers than him during their childhood. As a toddler, he spent most of his afternoons watching his sisters practice.

This highest gold medal-winning Olympian started swimming when he was seven years old. Initially afraid to put his face in the water, he started floating on his back. Backstroke was the first style that he mastered.

He has created the most number of world records in swimming; 39 world records (29 individual and 10 relay), surpassing Mark Spitz's previous record of 33 world records (26 individual and 7 relay).

This gifted swimmer has won the highest number of Olympic gold medals (23) and the highest number of gold medals in individual games (13). He is also the only Olympian to win eight gold medals in a single Olympic event (2008 Beijing Olympics).

Follow Michael Phelps On:

See the events in life of Michael Phelps in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Michael Phelps Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com

People Also Viewed

Katie Ledecky Biography
Katie Ledecky
Missy Franklin Biography
Missy Franklin
Natalie Coughlin Biography
Natalie Coughlin
Mark Spitz Biography
Mark Spitz
Ryan Lochte Biography
Ryan Lochte
Cody Simpson Biography
Cody Simpson
Sarah Bro Biography
Sarah Bro
Justin Norris Biography
Justin Norris