Born in Baltimore, Maryland, hence his nickname ‘The Baltimore Bullet’, Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut in the Millenium Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. At the age of just 15 – making him the youngest man to represent the United States Olympic Swimming Team since 13-year-old Ralph Flanagan competed in the men’s 1,500-metre freestyle event at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles – Phelps finished fifth in the men’s 200-metre butterfly, his only individual event.
Four years later, at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Phelps earned international acclaim after becoming the first Olympic swimmer to win eight medals, six gold and two bronze. In Athens, he fell just one short of the 32-year-old world record of seven gold medals, set by compatriot Mark Spitz at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
However, at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Phelps made Olympic history by winning eight gold medals, one in every event he entered. In the space of eight days, between August 10 and August 17, Phelps won gold medals in the men’s 400-metre individual medley, men’s 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay, men’s 200-metre freestyle, men’s 200-metre butterfly, men’s 4 x 200-metre freestyle relay, men’s 200-metre individual medley, men’s 100-metre butterfly and men’s 4 x 100-metres medley relay. Furthermore, he set world records in all bar the men’s 100-metre butterfly, in which his winning time of 50.58 seconds was, nonetheless, an Olympic record. In fact, Phelps thought he had been beaten, until he saw the result on the scoreboard, and his hundredth-of-a-second victory over Milorad ‘Milo’ Čavić prompted a protest from the Serbian delegation.