Michael Phelps: An Era Examined

Credit to nbcolympics.com
 Four different Olympics. Eighteen gold medals, twenty-two overall. All before he turned thirty. Michael Phelps is the most decorated swimmer of all time, breaking the record previously held by gymnast Laris Latynina. She had eighteen total medals, equivalent to Phelps' gold.

In 2000, Phelps was the little kid with big dreams. He didn't win a single medal that Olympics. But in the next Olympics in 2004, Phelps' era truly began. He earned six gold and two bronze, setting three Olympics records and two world records, later only to be beaten by himself. People have often said that Michael Phelps' only competitor is himself. He proved that to be true in 2008. Phelps entered eight events, and ended up winning eight straight golds, setting seven new world records and an Olympic record. One hundredth of a second behind was Milorad Cavic, who was his closest competitor. Cavic earned silver in the 100-m butterfly, Phelps' signature event. Phelps beat Mark Spitz's record of most gold in one Olympic Game. Spitz had seven, Phelps had eight. By the end of the Beijing Olympics, Phelps' medal tally read: sixteen medals total (fourteen gold, two bronze). Going into the London 2012 Olympic Games, there were some critics wondering what on earth Phelps could do to outdo his last Olympics. Would he even medal? He was already twenty-seven, which for a swimmer, is a pretty old age.

At the start of the 2012 Games, his fans' worst thoughts seemed to be coming true. Phelps was off to a slow start. He didn't even make it past the preliminaries for the 400-m IM. In the 200 Butterfly, his finish was weak. Normally, Phelps was on the winning side of an extremely close race, but that time, he ended up winning silver. But despite his less than fantastic start, Phelps proved that the only thing that matters is how you finish. He went on to win four gold medals and another silver before his last time swimming in the Olympics. In his very last race before retirement, Phelps helped his 4x100-m team win gold.

Image credit to london2012.com
Everyone agrees that Michael Phelps is probably the best swimmer. He's the most decorated and by far the most exciting to watch. But now, after the Phelps era has ended, what's next for the swimming world? For the next few years, anyone who doesn't do what Phelps did will be seen as average, even if they manage to beat his times. Phelps didn't become what we call the best Olympian by luck. He earned it with hard work and a lot of determination. Fans are blindsided by amazing swimming and records that they don't realize what he truly had to sacrifice to reach the podium.

Michael Phelps will go down as the best swimmer of all time, until the next Michael Phelps comes along. Those alive during his career know what a true sporting event is, and how precious time really is.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to see what Missy Franklin and young Katie Ledecky will do. Sad that Phelps won't be at Rio 2016 :( Even though Lochte will.