Athletes train for years for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics. Just being there is an honor, but naturally the medals are the grand prize. Winning one is the achievement of a lifetime. Unless you’re Michael Phelps, in which case you’re not happy until you’ve nabbed 28 of them. You’re not happy until you’ve become the most decorated Olympian of all time.
Hey, if you’re good at something, why not continue competing and winning and winning and winning? How else would you earn the record of being the most-decorated Olympian of all time?
Swimming champion Michael Phelps competed in his first Olympic ceremonies in 2000, when he was just 15 years old. Though he didn’t win a medal, it was the perfect launchpad he needed to help his professional career take off. After competing in the World Championships and Pan Pacific Championships, he returned to the Olympics in 2004. Thus began the start of his crazy accumulation of Olympic medals when he was only 19.
He competed in six different events at the trials, and in the very first wiped out the competition and set a world record at the same time. Ultimately, he qualified in all six events, becoming the first person to do so. The Athens Olympics came and went, and when Phelps was through, he had earned six gold medals and two bronze.
Once he had a taste of victory, Phelps had to keep going. He competed at every Summer Olympics through 2012, after which he psyched out his fans by announcing his retirement. However, that retirement was short-lived. He ended up coming out of retirement in 2014 and, naturally, made it to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where he won a further five gold medals and one silver. At this point, he was 31 years old, which may seem youthful to us average folks, but in swimmer world it’s on the old end.
Of course, the road to gold isn’t always glamorous. Throughout the years, Phelps has faced some very public struggles, including a DUI arrest and a trip to rehab. Though he’s continuously made spectacular comebacks against the struggles, he now is serious about calling it quits.
Ending his Olympic training won’t end his career overall, though. Michael Phelps also has his own foundation for children, which promotes activity and being healthy. He also has an apparel contract with Under Armour, which will no doubt keep the funds coming in. If that’s not enough to keep Phelps busy, he can always enjoy some downtime with his wife Nicole and baby Boomer.