Michael Fred Phelps II was born in Baltimore, USA on June the 30th, 1985 has been voted World Swimmer of the Year four times, in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. He is frequently quoted as the greatest current swimmer of all time. As of October 2006 he has set some 23 world records, is the youngest male to ever have set a swimming record and is only the second athlete to have won 8 medals at a single Olympics.
The young Olympian
Ian Phelps grew up in the area of Rodgers Forge in Baltimore with his two sisters Whitney and Hilary. Whitney was also a promising swimmer but was unable to take her career to the competitive stage due to a back injury. Phelps stormed onto the international swimming scene at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. At the age of 15 he was the youngest American male swimmer in 68 years to have made it to the Olympics. Coming in at fifth place in the 200 metre Butterfly Phelps failed to win a medal. However he returned with a vengeance; when just five months later he broke the world record in that same event becoming the youngest man to ever set a world swimming record.
Phelps, record breaker
Never content to rest on his laurels, Phelps continued to break record after record. Leaving other swimmers in his wake, the majority of the time he was breaking his own personal best. In 2002 having broken his own world record for the 200 metre butterfly twice already, he took the world record for the individual 400 metre medley. A year later in 2003 he broke that same record again and in the same year broke the record for the 200 metre individual medley. By the time he got to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens Phelps was drawing comparisons to past swimming supremo Mark Spitz. Spitz won a record seven gold medals in the 1972 Summer Olympics and Phelps created the opportunity to do the same when he entered for eight events.
His sponsor, Speedo put up a million dollar bonus should he achieve seven golds. Although Phelps equalled Spitz in winning a total of four golds in individual events, he fell short of the coveted seven and Speedo’s cash prize. Phelps only managed a bronze in the 200 metre freestyle, a hotly contested event titled ‘the race of the century’ where he came in behind Australian Ian Thorpe and Pieter ven den Hoogenband from Holland. His relay team also walked away with bronze in the 400 metre event. Nevertheless, the Athens Olympics was another record breaking success for Phelps in more ways than one. His performance in the 400 metre individual medley set another world record and he walked away with a total of eight Olympic medals, only the second Olympic athlete ever to do so after the Russian gymnast, Alexander Dityatin in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
TIME Magazine reveal the technique that helps make Ian Phelps a champion in pictures stroke by stroke.