Olympic kingpin MICHAEL PHELPS is a phenom BUT is the swim whiz ALL wet?!
The U.S. swimmer now has 19 Olympic medals to his name after winning gold in the 4 x 200M freestyle race, adding to the already impressive eight gold medals that he took home from Beijing in 2008.
In honor of the 27-year-old Baltimore native's fantastic achievements, here’s the 411 on Michael Phelps, who has vowed that London will be his Olympic swansong.
Phelps was born on June 30, 1985, in the Baltimore suburb of Towson, Maryland. Father, Michael Phelps Sr. was a college football player who tried out for the Washington Redskins, and was no doubt surprised when his youngest of three children followed in the footsteps of his older sisters and tried his hand in the pool rather than the football field at age seven.
Utterly focused when he is in the water, Phelps was actually diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) when he was in the sixth grade and his family thought swimming would be a good outlet for his energy. At the time, his teachers told his mother that the fidgety boy in class who couldn't sit still wasn't gifted and "will never be able to focus on anything." Clearly history proved them wrong.
A fast developer in and out of the pool, Phelps already held a national record at age 10 and soon joined the North Baltimore Aquatic Club under coach Bob Bowman. By 15, he qualified for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and became the youngest male U.S. swimmer at the games since 1968. While he did not win a medal, he did make the finals and finished fifth in the 200M butterfly. The following year, he broke the world record in the 200M butterfly and – at age 15 years and 9 months – became the youngest man ever to set a swimming world record.
Built for speed! Once he'd reached adulthood, Michael's 6'4" frame and 195-pound weight became the perfect weapon in the pool thanks to his unusually long reach with an arm span of 6 foot, 7 inches. He also boasts an extra-long torso that allows him to stay high on the water, and his size 14 feet give him a powerful kick.
Not all of Phelps' past is golden. In November 2004, the then-19 year-old unfortunately hit the headlines for driving under the influence. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 18 months of probation, during which he spoke at schools and Mothers Against Drunk Driving events. He later apologized, saying he had "definitely let myself down and my family down … I think I let a lot of people in the country down."
Then came Bong-gate 2009 when pix of him smoking from a marijuana pipe were released, and he was quickly dropped by sponsor Kelloggs because his “behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg." He was soon also publicly reprimanded by USA Swimming and suspended for three months.
The Baltimore Bullet defines the term "record-breaker." He has currently smashed 39 world records (29 individual and 10 relay), and set more records than any other swimmer, surpassing Mark Spitz's previous record of 33.
His latest victory brings his grand Olympic total to six gold and two bronze medals in the pool at the 2004 Games in Athens, a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Games in Beijing and two silver medals and one gold at this year's Olympics in London. According to a CNN.com round up, if Phelps was a country, he would would be ranked #52 in the medal count, tied with the country of Georgia for 19 total medals, and be better than 148 other nations in the Summer Olympics.
While fans and fellow athletes alike idolize him, the swimmer's role model is someone who made his name in a very different sport – NBA star Michael Jordan! "On and off the court, the guy made basketball what it is," Phelps recently told Piers Morgan, RadarOnline.com reported. "He never used an excuse. He came out every single night on the court and did what he had to do to get his job done. That's what champions do."