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Michael Phelps (1985-), Born in Baltimore, and The Greatest Swimmer Who Ever Lived with 23 Olympic Gold Medals

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How great of a swimmer is Michael Phelps? So great that it's exceedingly difficult to understand his achievements by reading that Wikipedia article - it's so difficult to encapsulate his awards that reading the article is a chore.

When I was 11 years old, there was Mark Spitz - I can still remember the TV screen, saying: "7 Events Entered, 7 Gold Medals, 7 World Records." Surely there would never be a greater swimmer than this; surely we were all wrong.

How vast are Michael Phelps' achievements? You can take either his individual gold medals (13), or team gold medals (10), and in either category, he has more than anyone else has *total*. Add to this number 3 silver medals and 2 bronze medals, and his 28 olympic medals is 10 more than anyone else in history (legendary 1956-1964 Soviet gymnast, Larisa Latynina, won 18 olympic medals - and as of this writing, 29 other people have between 10-15 olympic medals).

That's just the Olympics; Phelps has a total of 83 medals in international long-course competition (a "long-course" pool is 50 meters as opposed to a "short-course" pool which is 25).

I have no idea how many world records Phelps either currently holds or at one time held - he was named "World Swimmer of the Year" 7 times, and "American Swimmer of the Year" 9 times. The awards have not yet been given for 2016, so you can expect these numbers to increase.

What else can be said? (Actually, a lot, but I'll stop here.) 

Phelps must be considered on any intelligent short list of "Greatest Athletes in World History." For him to enter the surreal realms of Jim Thorpe, Babe Ruth, Jessie Owens, Jackie Robinson, and Muhammad Ali, he'll need to do something that transcends athletics, but give him some time - he's only 31 years old.

Think about this: 52 years from now, for the 2068 Olympics, it's not inconceivable that he could light the torch! (I'll be long gone, but this thread will still exist in one form or another - make sure to update us about what's going on.)

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