Competitive swimming changed forever the day Michael Phelps dove into the water. Raised in a family of swimmers, Phelps has been making a splash since he started racing at age 7. At the 2001 U.S. spring nationals competition, he became the youngest world-record holder in men’s swimming. He was 15 years old and swam the 200-meter butterfly in under two minutes. Over time, Phelps became even faster and stronger. At the 2008 Games in Beijing, Phelps did what no athlete had ever done before: He won eight gold medals in a single Olympics.
Phelps announced that the 2012 Olympics would be his last, and that he would retire from the sport of competitive swimming. The Games, in London, England, did not turn out strong for Phelps. He failed to medal in his first event, the 400-meter individual medley. But that didn’t dampen his spirit and determination. He followed with two silver medals and led his team to a gold in the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay. These final wins brought Phelps’s medal count to 22, making him the most decorated Olympian of all time.
Michael Phelps is celebrated as both an athlete and a role model. In 2008, he established the Michael Phelps Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes healthy and active lifestyles for children. Phelps has developed a mission called “Dream, plan, reach,” in which he shares his strategies for success through various swim programs and events.
For his history-making medal count and awe-inspiring swimming career, Michael Phelps is a nominee for TFK’s 2012 Person of the Year.