The world witnessed the decorated American swimmer Michael Phelps win his 28th Olympic medal at the Rio Olympics, in what was possibly his final race. Starting out as a mere 15-year old in the 2000 Sydney Games, the 6-foot 4-inch man has come a long way.
Only just recently, in his interview with Sports Illustrated, Phelps officially confirmed his retirement. The American ends his Olympic run, with a total of 28 gold medals under his belt. And quite clearly he has proved to be one of the greatest Olympians of all time.
This is not the first time, however, that we have seen Phelps promise a retirement. After London 2012, Phelps retired from swimming stating that he was “finished with swimming” and “didn’t want anything to do with the sport”. But going back on his own statement, he announced a return and eventually entered an event later that month.
He went on to increase his world championship as well as Olympic medal tally in the subsequent events.
Phelps has personified the meaning of hard work and dedication and has set a remarkable example, not only for young prospects in swimming but people in all walks of life. Here are five astonishing facts about the swimmer that show exactly what the world will miss once he is gone:
#1 Phelps has more Summer Olympic Medals than 160 countries
Yes, you read that right. With a total of 28 Olympic medals in the bag, Phelps stands tall, ahead of 160 countries. Of the 160 nations, 87 of them have won at least one medal while the remaining have never made the podium in Games’ history.
This means that only 46 countries in the world have won more medals than Phelps. This also implies that if the American was a country, he would be ranked 39th when it comes to the total medals tally.
The fact also remains that despite being well beyond his peak, Phelps would have still been ahead of a majority of the countries had he not decided to come back from retirement half way down the road to Rio.
#2 Katie Ledecky could surpass Phelps’ medal tally 20 years from now
Teenage swimming sensation, Katie Ledecky, is already creating history in the women’s swimming circuit. She is the current world-record holder in the women’s 400, 800, and 1500-meter freestyle at the age of 19, and a five-time Olympic gold medallist.
She is touted to be the “next big thing” when it comes to the sport of swimming. Having already created and held world records at such a young age, she is backed to do wonders in the pool.
At this rate, she could surpass Phelps 20 years from now, when she is 39-years old. While this is extremely unlikely, it does go to show how Phelps has set the benchmark high for his competitors and budding young prospects.
#3 Phelps is the only athlete to win double-digit gold medals in the Olympics
Out of Phelps’ 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them are gold, the highest for any individual who has participated in the Games. As a matter of fact, no one else has come close to reaching the 14 medals between him and his closest competitor. He has won more than double the number of gold medals as the second most decorated Olympian of all time, Larisa Latynina.
Latynina is a popular former Soviet Gymnast who won 14 individual and 18 total Olympic medals, with 9 golds. Before the American, it was Latynina and her fellow Soviet gymnast Nikolai Andrianov who held the record for most gold medals in the Summer Games.
#4 Phelps has set more records than any other swimmer recognised by FINA
With 39 world records to his name, Phelps has set more records than any other swimmer recognised by the International Swimming Federation (or FINA). The American surpassed Mark Spitz’ 33 world records (26 individual, 7 relay). However, it was reported that the late Johnny Weissmuller broke 67 official world records, only for them to go unrecognised by FINA. Even when it comes to individual records, Phelps once again surpasses Mark Spitz by a difference of three medals.
Amongst these records, Michael Phelps is known for holding all-time records for Olympic gold medals (23), Olympic gold medals in individual events (13), and Olympic medals in individual events(16). After winning five gold medals and one silver in the Rio Olympics, he became the most successful athlete of the Games.
#5 Phelps is 14 million times more likely to win a medal than anybody in India
As appalling as that sounds, the fact is true. Including the events that took place in Rio, India has the same number of medals as Michael Phelps, and that is 28. Out of these 28, the South-East Asian country has won 9 gold medals, while Phelps has won 23.
Hence, India has won one gold medal for every 50 million citizens. As calculated by Fox Sports, it would make him 14 million times more likely to win a medal than anybody in India.
Considering India is the second largest nation in the world and ignoring the fact that the country is still developing in the field of sport, it is fascinating that Michael Phelps surpassed not just the second largest nation but also many nations alike, probably without having the faintest of ideas about it.