24 Races, 22 Medals: Michael Phelps’ history at the Olympics – Omaha World-Herald

The man who swims like a fish has the memory of an elephant.

Michael Phelps never forgets. But until 2015, when he moved from Baltimore to Arizona to train with coach Bob Bowman, the most decorated Olympian of all time had never looked at all his medals together.

“I could remember back to every single thought I had on the medal stand, after the race, every single one of them,” Phelps said in March. “I could remember my facial expression after getting third in 2004 in the 200 free. Every little tiny thing.”

To most swimming fans, Phelps’ races are harder to distinguish from one another. Which race produced his first gold medal? In what two events has Phelps won three golds? Which relay featured Jason Lezak’s heroic anchor leg? What’s more amazing than seeing Phelps’ 22 medals in one place? Knowing he isn’t done.

2000 Sydney Olympics

200 butterfly: At age 15, Phelps became the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since Ralph Flanagan made it to the 1932 Los Angeles Games at age 13. Phelps set his personal-best time in the finals, which would have earned him silver or gold at every previous Olympics.

Result: 5th, 1:56.50

2004 Athens Olympics

400 IM: Phelps came to Athens with a chance at tying or beating Mark Spitz’ record of seven gold medals in one Olympics. In his first event, Phelps, now 19, won his first gold in world-record time. ”It’s an honor winning any Olympic gold,” he said. “I am already successful.”

Result: 1st, 4:08.26 (WR)

4×100 freestyle relay: The South Africans set a world record to win their first-ever swimming medal, with one swimmer flexing both arms on the starting block. It was only the second time the U.S. hadn’t taken gold in this event, and Ian Crocker’s slow lead-off time put the U.S. behind early.

Result: 3rd, 3:14.62

200 freestyle: It was dubbed the “Race of the Century,” with four of the fastest swimmers in Olympic history. Phelps was in third for most of the race. “How can I be disappointed?” he said. “I swam in a field with the two fastest 200 freestylers of all time, and I was right there with them.”

Result: 3rd, 1:45.32

200 butterfly: With two bronze finishes, Phelps couldn’t match Spitz’s mark, but he could still become the first swimmer to win eight total medals. Phelps held off a late run by Takashi Yamamoto, and finished only 0.11 of a second under the world record he set at the 2003 world championships.

Result: 1st, 1:54.04

4×200 freestyle relay: Phelps swam the lead-off leg only an hour after the 200 butterfly finals, and the U.S. had a big lead before Ian Thorpe closed on Klete Keller. “It was probably the most exciting race I’ve ever been part of,” Phelps said. “(Klete) held off the greatest 200 freestyler in history.”

Result: 1st, 7:07.33

200 IM: Phelps shaved 1.38 seconds off his own world record time to take the gold. Ryan Lochte made a late push to take the silver. It was Phelps’ third individual gold. Spitz was the only other U.S. swimmer to win more than two individual races at a single Games.

Result: 1st, 1:57.14 (WR)

100 butterfly: Crocker started quickly and had a half body-length lead on Phelps with 25 meters to go. But then Phelps, whose coach estimated he’d swum 70,000 meters in the past eight days, somehow caught up to Crocker and touched the wall 0.04 seconds faster.

Result: 1st, 51.25 (OR)

4×100 medley relay: Phelps earned the right to swim the butterfly leg, but let Crocker have the honor. Crocker swam the second-fastest butterfly relay leg in history, and Phelps, who led cheers and waved an American flag during the finals, had his sixth gold (earned by competing in the semifinals).

Result: 1st, 3:30.68 (WR)

2008 Beijing Olympics

400 IM: Shortly after shattering the world record he had set earlier that year by 1.41 seconds, Phelps dropped a bombshell. “I would like to not swim that anymore,” he said. “It’s one of the hardest races, and I’d like to try other events.” Phelps would swim the 400 IM again in 2012.

Result: 1st, 4:03.84 (WR)

4×100 freestyle relay: Swimming the anchor leg, Jason Lezak trailed France’s Alain Bernard by half a body length with 25 meters left. After a photo finish, the replay showed Lezak had beaten Bernard by 0.08 of a second. “He had a perfect finish,” said Phelps, whose shot at eight golds remained alive.

Result: 1st, 3:08.24 (WR)

200 freestyle: Phelps entered the pantheon of Olympic greats with his ninth gold medal. His third gold — and third world record — in three days tied him with Spitz, U.S. track star Carl Lewis, Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi and Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for most career golds.

Result: 1st, 1:42.96 (WR)

200 butterfly: Phelps won his signature event, but not without a struggle. After his dive, his goggles had filled with water, and with 75 meters left he was swimming blind. “I was purely going by stroke count. And I couldn’t take my goggles off because they were underneath two swim caps.”

Result: 1st, 1:52.03 (WR)

4×200 freestyle relay: An hour after his goggle malfunction, Phelps chose to swim the first leg. By the time Peter Vanderkaay swam the anchor, the U.S. had a five-body-length lead, lopping 4.68 seconds off the world record and making Phelps the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Result: 1st, 6:58.56 (WR)

200 IM: Phelps dominated from the start and powered away, setting another world record. He collected his sixth gold medal and stuffed it in his warmup jacket. He didn’t have time to savor the win as he rushed off to swim the 100 butterfly prelims. History awaited in the next two races.

Result: 1st, 1:54.23 (WR)

100 butterfly: Trailing Serbia’s Milorad Cavic near the end, Phelps had a decision to make: glide to the wall or throw his arms forward one last time. He chopped the wall. Still, he thought he lost — until he saw the “1” by his name on the scoreboard. He’d won by one-hundredth of a second, tying Spitz’s record.

Result: 1st, 50.58 (OR)

4×100 medley relay: The U.S. was in third when Phelps hit the water for the third leg, but he passed the lead to Lezak, who brought home a world record. Phelps thrust both index fingers in the air, pumped his right arm and let out a scream. Eight events. Eight golds. He was the greatest Olympian of all-time.

Result: 1st, 3:29.34 (WR)

2012 London Olympics

400 IM: He crushed the field, flirted with a world record for about 350 meters and won the first gold medal for the U.S. It sounded like a Phelps race, but it was Lochte who won. It was the first time Phelps had failed to medal since 2000. “Just a crappy race,” Phelps said after finishing fourth.

Result: 4th, 4:09.28

4×100 freestyle relay: Lochte went from hero to goat as France’s Yannick Agnel jetted past him over the final 50 meters of the anchor leg. The U.S. had led by 0.76 of a second after Phelps finished the second leg of the race. “At least I’m in a medal today,’’ Phelps said after winning his first silver.

Result: 2nd, 3:10.38

200 butterfly: Phelps, trying to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three Olympics, led all the way but misjudged his final stroke, allowing Chad le Clos to touch the wall first. Phelps threw his goggles into the water and later struggled to force a smile at the medal ceremony.

Result: 2nd, 1:53.01

4×200 freestyle relay: The first three U.S. swimmers handed off a four-second lead to Phelps, who was extra cautious with the exchange, knowing the only way he could ruin this was to get disqualified. He finally had gold in London, and his 19th overall medal broke the record set by gymnast Latynina.

Result: 1st, 6:59.70

200 IM: This time, Phelps’ attempt to became the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three Olympics came to fruition, his dominating butterfly leg setting the tone. When Phelps stepped on the medal podium, he bit his lip and seemed to be struggling to hold back tears.

Result: 1st, 1:54.27

100 butterfly: In what we thought would be the last individual race of his career, Phelps was next to last at the turn, but he surged from the back of the field in the final 50 meters to claim gold. After becoming the first to three-peat in an event in the 200 IM, he had done it again.

Result: 1st, 51.21

4×100 medley relay: Reclaiming the lead for the U.S. with his trademark butterfly stroke, the one seen in his Olympic debut as a 15-year-old in Sydney, Phelps finished the London Games with more medals than any other swimmer. “I’m done, that was my last race and this is my last Olympics.”

Result: 1st, 3:29.35

Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Swimming.


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