Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps is one his generation's most accomplished athletes. In August of 2016, after a record-shattering career, including 28 Olympic medals (23 of them gold), Phelps announced his retirement from competitive swimming.
How do you make a gold-medalist out of an ordinary kid from Baltimore? Here is a look at Michael Phelps' story, from his childhood in Maryland to his celebrated moments in the international spotlight.
Born in 1985, Baltimore native Phelps began swimming at age 7, inspired, he has said, by his two sisters. The sport was a good way for him to channel his energy--at nine years-old, Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD.
A few years later, coach Bob Bowman spotted Phelps swimming at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Bowman told Phelps’ parents that Michael had a gift for the sport, and had the potential to make it to the Olympics. Bowman has been Phelps’ coach ever since.
Making history at 15
By the time he was 15, Phelps was already making history, qualifying for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was the youngest American male swimmer to compete in the games in almost 70 years. He didn’t take home any medals that year, but it was just the beginning of his unprecedented swimming career.
Early world records
Before he turned 16, Phelps broke his first world record while competing in the 200m butterfly.
In 2003 alone, he won six medals at the Fina World Swimming Championships (pictured left) and broke world records in the 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley and 400m individual medley.
Winning the gold in Athens
Then in 2004, Phelps made his triumphant return to the Olympics, and cemented his title as a world swimming icon. He won eight medals in all, six of them gold.
Becoming a household name
Following his success in Athens, Phelps’ fame exploded. The 19-year-old got invited to highbrow cultural events, including New York’s Olympus Fashion Week. He also made appearances on shows such as MTV’s “Total Request Live.”
Gaining fans worldwide
He also collected fans worldwide. Here, he’s greeted by fans while visiting a school in Beijing, China on August 15, 2005.
More gold in Beijing
Fame can make some athletes soft. But not Phelps; he returned to the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, winning a record-breaking eight gold medals, and beating Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven golds in one Olympic Games.
Here, Phelps competes in the men’s 200m butterfly final in 2008. He set a new world record, finishing the race with a time of 1:52.49.
Winning outside of the pool
Phelps was winning awards outside of the swimming pool, too. Here he poses with coach Bowman, mother Debbie and sister Hilary Phelps at the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award ceremony in 2008.
Inspiring young minds
In 2008, dedicated to improving children’s health and raising awareness about swimming, Phelps created the Michael Phelps Foundation. That year he toured eight U.S. cities to share the foundation’s mission.
Millions in endorsements
As early as 2004, the media was speculating about Phelps’ endorsements and net worth. By 2008, he was raking in millions in yearly endorsements from companies including Visa and Speedo. Following his success at the Beijing Olympics, Phelps got a sponsorship deal with food manufacturer Kellogg’s.
In February 2009, after a photo of Phelps inhaling from a marijuana pipe surfaced in the media, Kellogg’s said it would not renew its sponsorship deal with the athlete. USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming in the United States, also suspended Phelps for three months.
Taking the London Olympics
At the time of the scandal, coach Bowman, said he believed Phelps would emerge from the experience as a stronger swimmer. He was right.
In 2012 Phelps returned to the Olympic pool, collecting more medals and surpassing gymnast Larisa Latynina’s incredible record of 18 medals. He had 22 medals in all, 18 of them gold.
Winning with Team USA
Highlights from the Games included winning gold in the men’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay with teammates Conor Dwyer, left, Ryan Lochte, second right, and Ricky Berens, right, on July 31, 2012.
In September of 2014, Phelps had another low point, when he was arrested for a D.U.I. for the second time (the first time having been when he was 19).
He was suspended from USA Swimming for six months and spent six weeks in an Arizona treatment center following the arrest. He also joined Alcoholics Anonymous.
Here, Phelps speaks to the press in 2014, after pleading guilty for driving under the influence; he received a one-year suspended sentence.
In February of 2015, Phelps got engaged to girlfriend Nicole Johnson, 2010’s Miss California USA. Along with this Instagram photo, he posted three simple words: “She said yes.”
Becoming a father
Maybe his greatest highlight of all came on May 5, 2016, when Phelps’ son, Boomer, was born. The caption on this Instagram photo reads, “The little man loved the water today!!”
Dominating in Rio
Phelps went to Rio for his fifth Summer Olympics in 2016, continuing to win gold after gold. Here, he competes in the men’s 200m butterfly on August 9, 2016.
Michael Phelps gold medals
On August 13, 2016, Phelps swam what he said is his final race, the men’s 4 x 100m medley relay. Team USA won the gold, and Phelps brought down the curtain on his glittering Olympic career taking his personal career tally of gold medals to 23 and his overall total to 28 Olympic medals.
Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.