On August 17, 2008 soon after a glittering ceremony at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, US swimmer Michael Phelps made people turn heads towards him, stand up and applaud following what was and still is a record feat. By winning his eighth gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, he had become first individual to win most gold medals at the same quadrennial event. In so doing, he broke a 36-year record established by Mark Spitz at the Munich Games in 1972.
Upon creating history, Phelps said, “Records are always made to be broken no matter what they are … Anybody can do anything that they set their mind to.”
From being a 15-year-old debutant at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and showing promise, he took that talent to medal winning levels four years later. At the Athens Olympics in 2004, Phelps would win six gold medals and two bronzes medals in 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 200m medley, 400m medley, 4x200m freestyle, 4x100m medley, 200m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle. He increased his tally to seven gold medals at the 2007 World Championships.
But Phelps saved his best for the grandest stage of them all. Phelps struck gold in 4x100m medley relay, 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x200m freestyle relay, 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly to further solidify his stature as one of the best swimmers in history. To further highlight his achievement, all times set were world records except for the 100m butterfly which was an Olympic record.
Phelps created history by picking up gold as part of the US team to win 4x100m medley relay. When Phelps got into the pool to swim his 100m butterfly leg, US trailed Australia and Japan. Phelps completed his split in 50.1 seconds, the fastest butterfly split ever for the event, which gave teammate Jason Lezak a more than half-second lead for the final leg, which he held onto to clinch the event in world record time of 3 minutes and 29.34 seconds.