Michael Phelps Biography

Michael Phelps is the most successful swimmer at the Olympic Games who created numerous world records with his magnificent performances. This biography profiles his childhood, life, swimming records, achievements and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: June 30, 1985

Nationality: American

Famous: Swimmers American Men

Age: 35 Years, 35 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Cancer

Born in: Towson, Maryland


Spouse/Ex-: Nicole Johnson

father: Michael Fred Phelps

children: Boomer Robert Phelps

U.S. State: Maryland

More Facts

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

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

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It is not every day that a man plunges into the pool and comes out with a once-in-a-lifetime performance! Michael Phelps not only mastered the technique, but made this an everyday feat as well. The most celebrated athlete and the most decorated Olympian ever in the history of the sports, Phelps with his unwavering determination and rock-solid focus went on to create tidal waves in the chlorinated and non-chlorinated world with his immaculate effort, which is clearly visible from his career graph which reached the zenith of success. Phelps has created a whopping 39 world records, 29 in individuals events and 11 in group, to become the only swimmer ever to do so. Additionally, he established a world mark by being the only Olympian with most number of Olympic gold medals (23), the only Olympian with 13 gold medals in individual events and the only Olympian to win 8 gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Interestingly, the man who created ripples in water was initially afraid to put his face under water as well. Phelps not only overcame this fear but also challenged the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that he was facing as a child to become a master at what he loved doing—swimming! Throughout the career, what distinguished him from his contemporaries and colleagues was not his back to back victories or undefeated feats, but his will to better his own records and transform the way swimming was looked upon as a sport by the world at large!

Childhood & Early Life
  • Michael Phelps was born to Michael Fred Phelps and Deborah Sue ‘Debbie’ in Baltimore, Maryland. 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 gained his education from Towson High School.
  • It was Fred’s strong athletic capabilities that the children acquired soon enough. Hilary, Whitney and Michael got into swimming at an early age. Though Hilary showed great promise, she opted out of the sport. Whitney took to it for a little longer duration than her sister, even trying her luck to gain admission in the US Olympic team in 1996. However, it was young Phelps who not only took to the sport, but also excelled 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 no sooner mastered 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 along with the help of his mother Debbie.
  • In the early days, swimming to Phelps was more the result of the influence cast by his sisters and his requirement for an outlet to let go of his bundled energy. It was while watching Tom Malchow and Tom Dolan compete in the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta that Phelps dreamt of making it big by turning swimming into his professional choice
  • Phelps took training under Bob Bowman, at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, Recognizing the capability and potential that Phelps showed, Bowman started an intense training programme with him. Soon, Phelps found himself a place at the US National B Team.
  • Breaking quite a few records, Phelps reeled his way through the Olympic trials to gain himself a seat at the 2000 Summer Olympics. With this, he became the youngest player in 68 years to represent America in the Olympics. Though he did not win a medal, his performance was incredible as he reserved himself a fifth position at the 200-meter butterfly race.
  • At the end of the year, Phelps stood convincingly at the 7th spot in the world 200-meter butterfly raking and 44th in the 400-meter individual medley.
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Rise to Glory
  • The fairytale start to a career was safely guarded in the coming years as Phelps excelled in the sport and drew limelight at national and international levels. With each success, he climbed the success ladder to reach his dream of making it big.
  • The swimming fraternity got a first-hand taste of Phelps’ brilliance and prowess in the sport 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 with his competitors to bring out the best. An excellent example of this was when he broke his own record in the 200-meter butterfly at the World Championship in Fukuoka to secure his first medal
  • Year 2002 witnessed Phelps’ participation in the Pan Pacific Championship. While at the selection process, he broke numerous world records, at the main event, Phelps securely brought home three gold medals and two silver medals. Much to the disappointment, while he won the 400-meter individual medley and 200-meter individual medley, he stood second at what he did best — the 200-meter butterfly.
  • In the 2003 World Championship, Phelps won the 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter backstroke, and the 100-meter butterfly. With this, he became the first ever American swimmer to record wins at three different races including three different strokes at a national championship.
  • Same year, in the meet of swimmers from Australia and America, 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 bagged himself four gold medals and two silver medals. What’s more, he broke five world records, each time bettering his own personal best. Phelps phenomenal success was unmatchable and already rang warning sirens for veterans to keep up with the pace of this shinning teen sensation!
  • Beginning 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 with such a feat. However, he dropped out of 200-meter backstroke to focus on the 200-meter freestyle as he aimed to provide tough competition to Ian Thorpe. He also found his way onto the couple of relay teams.
  • At the 2004 Olympics, Phelps had six gold and two bronze medals in his kitty, thus becoming the second-best performance ever at a single Olympics, behind Mark Spitz's seven gold medals. Also, he became the second male swimmer ever to win more than two individual titles at a single Olympic Games with four, tying Spitz's four from 1972. He even broke a couple of world records thus raising his stardom at the sport to an elevated level.
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  • Furthermore, his unselfish gesture of giving teammate Ian Crocker a chance have a shot at Olympic gold medal by opting out of the 4x100 meter medley relay finals added a star to the already booming reputation of Michael Phelps. The American medley team set a world record and won the gold and Phelps too was awarded the gold medal since he has raced in the preliminary heat of the medley relay.
  • The triumphant and glorious days of Phelps after the Athens Olympics were marred by his futile drinking and driving expedition. Sentenced to 18-month probation with a $250 fine, he immediately realized that stardom came with its share of pitfalls as well.
  • Phelps was ordered to give lecture about the dangers involved with drinking and driving and was 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 at sports marketing and management.
  • The youngest swimming sensation, Phelps had broken several records and bagged numerous medals (gold, silver and bronze). What started as a dream run, experienced an evolvement as Phelps aimed to transform the sport like great athletes Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods had done for their respective games.
  • In the following years, Phelps showed commendable performance. He secured a total of six medals, five gold and one silver at the 2005 World Championships and had a similar tally at the 2006 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Victoria.
Zenith of Success
  • Phelps’ big ticket for transformation and enrichment of the sport came in 2007 with the World Championship. He contested in seven events, winning a gold medal in each and creating world records in five of them. Throughout the events, Phelps outperformed not only his competitors but himself as well to set personal bests.
  • Phelps seven gold medal haul was record in itself, breaking Ian Thorpe’s six-medal victory in 2001 World Championship. He won the same for five individual events: 100 m and 200 m butterfly, 200 m freestyle and 200m and 400 m individual medley, and two group matches: 4X100 m and 4X200 m freestyle relay. An eighth medal could have been dropped into his kitty had Ian Crocker did not make an early exit from the competition!
  • The same year, Phelps' performance at the US Nationals Indianapolis, was impeccable as he excelled his own personal best by creating a world record at the 200 m backstroke.
  • Just when everything seemed to be candy-flossed and picture-perfect, Phelps fractured his right wrist by accidentally falling on to a patch of ice. His training cycle was interrupted leaving Phelps heartbroken. However, not the one to take to be disheartened, he practiced using a kickboard which acted as a boon as Phelps ended adding a little more strength to his kick.
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  • At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps was the man to look out for as the world awaited his eight gold medal haul and newer world records! For everyone, it seemed as if the moment Phelps jumped into the pool, a medal and a world record automatically fell into his kitty. However, there was much hard work and labor that went into the same.
  • 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 2008 Olympics as Phelps went on to win eight gold medals, setting world records in seven and an Olympic record in the eighth. Though his victory seemed to be an easy sail, there were times when it seemed difficult for Phelps to create the Olympic record.
  • While in the 200-meter butterfly, his goggles leaked, in the 100-meter butterfly, he was almost beaten by Milorad Cavic, saving the grace at the last moment by beating Cavic by a hundredth of a second. In the medley race, U.S. was lagging behind Australia and Japan until the second leg. However, Phelps completed his split in 50.1 seconds, giving teammate Jason Lezak a more than half-second lead for the final leg, which he held onto to clinch the event in world record time.
Last Leg
  • Year 2009 saw Phelps taking it slow and moving out from his gruelling regimen to ease himself. He partook in three events at the US Nationals all of which he won. At the World Championship, he bagged five gold and 1 silver medals, losing the 200-meter freestyle to Paul Biedermann. It was the first time in four years that Phelps finished a race at the second spot
  • 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 while competing against Lochte.
  • Unfazed by it, Phelps continued to polish his skills and entered the 2010 Pan Pacific Championship with an optimistic approach. He went on to win five gold medals.
  • Continuing from where he had left, Phelps entered the 2011 World Championship as the man of the event. He mastered both the butterfly events bagging in two golds for his trophy case. Two more came from 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 who secured a comfortable lead by beating Phelps who stood second for the race and took home a silver. Phelps collected a silver and bronze medal for 200 m individual medley and 4 X 100 m freestyle relay respectively.
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  • As the 2012 London Olympic approached, speculations were high as to whether Phelps would be able to repeat history and create further world records. Despite not wanting it, he qualified for all the eight events that he partook in 2008 Olympics at Beijing. However, he dropped 200 m freestyle to concentrate on relays.
  • London Olympics had a disappointing start for Phelps, as he failed to secure a medal for the 400 m individual relay, his first ever since 2000. The 4 x 100 m freestyle relay made up for the loss by bringing home a silver. The disappointment continued as Phelps finished at the second spot in the 200 m butterfly, behind Chad de Clos
  • Just when critics started writing off Phelps about him losing his ‘magical’ touch, he won four back to back races at 2012 Olympics, thus getting four gold medals into his already overflowing trophy case. He twice became the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics, for the races 200 m individual medley and 100 m butterfly.
  • In the 4 x 100 m medley relay, he swam in the race with the same fierce determination and skill that he did for his first race, leading his team to a victory.
  • The 4 x 100 m medley relay won Phelps his 18th career gold medal and 22nd Olympic medals overall. Phelps was designated as the most successful athlete for the London Olympic Games 2012, his third time in a row.
  • At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he won 5 gold medals (200 m butterfly, 200 m medley, 4x100 m freestyle, 4x200 m freestyle, 4x100 m medley) and 1 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 5 Olympics and has won a total of 28 medals (23 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze).
  • His first Olympics was the 2000 Summer Olympics at Sydney at the age of 15. He was the youngest male to a 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 the finals and finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly.
  • At the 2004 Athens Olympics he won 6 gold medals and 2 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.
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  • At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he won 8 gold medals. He won them 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 4 gold medals and 2 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 5 gold medals (200 m butterfly, 200 m medley, 4x100 m freestyle, 4x200 m freestyle, 4x100 m medley) and 1 silver medal (100 m butterfly), taking his overall Olympics medal tally to 28, which includes 23 gold medals.
Awards & Achievements
  • Michael Phelps has wonthe highest number of Olympic gold medals (23), most of which was from individual events (13) and most from a single event, the 2008 Beijing Olympics (8). For his extraordinary and unmatchable feat, he has been bestowed with numerous honors, awards and achievements.
  • In 2003, Phelps won the James E. Sullivan Award. Wih this, he became the 10th swimmer to be honored as the top amateur athlete in the country.
  • A street in his hometown has been named after him, called the Michael Phelps Way in 2004. In 2009, post his successful stint at the Olympics, the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate honored him for his Olympic accomplishments.
  • Phelps won the Swimming World Magazine World Swimmer of the Year Award seven times, in 2003-04, 2006 to 2009 and in 2012. The same magazine awarded him in the category of American Swimmer of the Year Award nine times, from 2001 to 2004, 2006 to 2009 and in 2012.
  • The Golden Goggle award, which was initiated in 2004 by the USA Swimming Federation, honoured Phelps number of times in various categories. While he won the Male Performance of the Year award five times in 2004 and 2006 to 2009, the Relay Performance of the Year award was bestowed to him for four years consecutively from 2006 to 2009. Additionally, he 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 standing as the most decorated Olympian ever.
Philanthropic Works
  • Capitalizing on his 2008 Beijing Speedo bonus of $1 million, Phelps set up a Michael Phelps Foundation, which aimed to increase the awareness of swimming as a sporting activity and focussed on promoting healthy lifestyle.
  • Two years later, the foundation, along with Michael Phelps Swim School and KidsHealth.org, conducted an ‘im’ programme for Boys & Girls club members. The programme stressed on the importance of active living and gave impetus to the young bloods to focus on the sport of swimming. It also promoted the importance of planning and goal setting in life.
  • After the super success of the programme, the foundation initiated two more programs, 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. It is said they had met in 2009 and temporarily broke up in 2012. Their son, Boomer Robert Phelps was born on May 5, 2016.
  • This celebrated Olympian and swimming sensation drew his inspiration from his two elder sisters, Hilary and Whitney, both of whom were better swimmers than him. He spent most of his afternoons as a toddler on a stroller watching his sisters practice.
  • Highest gold medal winning Olympian, he started swimming when he was seven year old. Initially afraid to put his face in the water, he started floating on his back, backstroke being the first stroke that he mastered.
  • He 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, 7 relay).
  • His magnificent ability at the sports won him the highest number of Olympic gold medals (23), the highest number of gold medals in individual games (13) and the only Olympian to win 8 gold medals in a single Olympic Games (2008 Beijing Olympics).

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