Rio 2016
-643 days
Pyeongchang 2018
-1196 days
Tokyo 2020
-2092 days
PHELPS Michael (1985) Swimming - United States
Phelps set an Olympic record in the preliminary heats of the men's 400-meter individual medley.[41] He followed that up in the final by winning the gold medal, as well as breaking his previous world record by nearly two seconds.
Phelps swam the first leg of the men's 4x100 m freestyle relay in a time of 47.51 seconds (an American record for the 100 m freestyle), and won his second gold medal of the 2008 Olympics, as well as setting his second world record of the Olympics (3:08.24). Teammate Jason Lezak, after beginning his leg more than half a body length behind the French, managed to finish ahead of the second-place French team by eight hundredths of a second. The top five teams in the final finished ahead of the world record of 3:12.23 set the day before by the American B team in a preliminary heat.[42]

For his third race, Phelps broke his previous World Record in the 200-meter freestyle by nearly a second and won his third gold medal. He also set his third world record at the Olympics, 1:42.96, winning by nearly two seconds over silver medalist Park Tae-hwan.[43] In this race, Phelps became only the fifth Olympic athlete in modern history to win nine career gold medals, along with Mark Spitz, Larissa Latynina, Paavo Nurmi, and Carl Lewis.
Phelps holds his gold medal on the podium on August 10, 2008. Pictured with Ryan Lochte and László Cseh
Phelps holds his gold medal on the podium on August 10, 2008. Pictured with Ryan Lochte and László Cseh

The next day, Phelps participated in two finals. In his first event, the 200-meter butterfly, Phelps made it four gold medals and world records in four events by swimming the final in 1:52.03, defeating silver medalist László Cseh by almost seven-tenths of a second despite his goggles filling up with water and being unable to "see anything for the last 100 meters."[44][45] This fourth gold medal was his tenth, and made him the all-time leader for most Olympic gold medals won by an individual in the modern Olympic era. Less than one hour after his gold medal victory in the 200-meter butterfly, Phelps swam the lead-off leg of the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay. He won his fifth gold and set his fifth world record as the American team finished first with a time of 6:58.56. The Americans were the first team to break the seven-minute mark in the relay, and broke the previous record, set in Melbourne, Australia, by more than four and a half seconds.[46]

After taking a day off from finals (Phelps did swim in qualifying heats), Phelps won his sixth gold of the Beijing Games on August 15 by winning the 200-meter individual medley with a World Record time of 1:54.23, finishing ahead of Cseh by over two seconds.[47]

On August 16, Phelps won his seventh gold medal of the Games in the men’s 100-meter butterfly, setting an Olympic record for the event with a time of 50.58 seconds and edging out his nearest competitor, Serbian-American swimmer Milorad ?avi?, by 1/100 of a second.[48] Unlike all six of his previous events in the 2008 Games, Phelps did not set a new world record, leaving Ian Crocker’s world record time of 50.40 seconds, set in 2005, intact. Phelps’s 0.01-second finish ahead of ?avi? prompted the Serbian delegation to file a protest; however, subsequent analysis of the video by the FINA panel, which required analyzing frames shot 1/10000 of a second apart, confirmed Phelps’s victory.[49] The initial refusal by official timekeeper Omega, to release underwater photos of the finish also raised questions due to Phelps's sponsorship relationship with Omega.[50] Phelps’s seventh gold medal of the Games tied Mark Spitz’s record for gold medals won in a single Olympic Games, set in the 1972 Olympics. It was also his fifth individual gold medal in Beijing, tying the record for individual gold medals at a single Games originally set by Eric Heiden in the 1980 Winter Olympics and equaled by Vitaly Scherbo at the 1992 Summer Games. Said Phelps upon setting his seventh-straight Olympic record of the Games in as many events, “Dream as big as you can dream, and anything is possible… I am sort of in a dream world. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it is real.”[51]
Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he's maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He's the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.
—Mark Spitz (on Phelps winning his 7th gold medal)[52]

On August 17, Phelps won his eighth gold medal in the men’s 4 × 100-meter medley relay, breaking Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals won in a single Olympic Games, which had stood since 1972.[53] Phelps, along with teammates Brendan Hansen, Aaron Peirsol, and Jason Lezak, set a new world record in the event with a time of 3 minutes and 29.34 seconds, 0.7 seconds ahead of second-place Australia and 1.34 seconds faster than the previous record set by the United States at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. When Phelps dived in to swim the 100-meter butterfly leg, the third leg of the 400-meter medley, the United States had been trailing Australia and Japan. Phelps completed his split in 50.1 seconds, the fastest butterfly split ever for the event, giving teammate Jason Lezak a more than half-second lead for the final leg, which he would hold onto to clinch the event in world record time.[54] Said Phelps, upon completing the event that awarded him his eighth gold medal and eighth Olympic record in as many events, “Records are always made to be broken no matter what they are… Anybody can do anything that they set their mind to.”[55]

In an article published in the wake of the event, The New York Times noted that, in the hours before his eighth and final event in the 2008 Games, had Michael Phelps been a country, “the Person’s Republic of Michael would have ranked fourth in gold medals [after China, the United States, and Germany] and been ahead of all but 14 countries in the medal count.”[56] Only Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina holds more total career Olympic medals with 18 (nine gold), compared to Phelps's 16 (14 gold).
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