The Who's Who

This Baltimore tearaway aka Michael Fred Phelps is a swimming sensation like no other. His incredible performance and achievements in the last Olympics in Beijing put him on the kind of pedestal that is that is not afforded to mere mortals. And as such, no matter his future now, he will go down as one of the greatest swimmers the world has ever known.

Today, he's commonly refereed to as the greatest all-round competitor in his sport. This lanky, unassuming American swimmer was built for his sport.

Early Days

Born and raised in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood of Townson, Maryland (a suburb of Baltimore), Phelps was the youngest of three children and was a constant target of his two elder sisters. His mother, Deborah Sue, was and still is a middle school prinicple and his father was a high school football player. His ancestry includes threads of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and German blood.

Phelps was hyperactive and impossible to control as a child, which is why he was thrown into swimming classes at only seven. This was partly because of his sisters and partly to provide him with an outlet for all the excess energy. By the sixth grade, he was diagnosed with ADHD.

In 1994, his parents split up and the Phelps children went to live with their mother and the next year.

At 10, he already captured his first national record within his age group. Soon he began training at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club under the legendary Bob Bowman (a coach-athlete relationship that has been likened to a marriage on several occasions, not to mention one of the most intense ones the world has ever seen).

Under the coach's watchful eye, which was completely aware of the young, gawky teen's potential, many more records followed and it seemed like his future was going to be a bright one.

Crazy Career

There wasn't really much debate about what Phelps' career path was going to be. His ferocious determination and unparalleled talent was just too superior. The first thing that set him onto the international track though was qualifying for the 2000 US Olympic team. He was the youngest person in 68 years (at only 15) to make the team. He didn't win a medal back then, but the fact that he made it all the way to the finals and even finished fifth in 200m butterfly, announced his arrival. "This one is one to watch," many said.

The next year, all prophecies were proved right. At the World Championship trials for the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, Phelps broke the world record in 200m butterfly, thereby becoming the youngest person to have ever set a swimming record. Then, he went ahead and broke it again at the World Championships in ***oka.

Since then, he's taken part in two Olympics, excelled at both these editions and pretty much won everything worth winning in between the glorious sports competition too!

Amazing Achievements

In the 2004 Olympics in Greece, Phelps made an indelible mark. He won six golds and two bronzes. His eight medals tied with the Soviet gymnast, Aleksandr Dityatin (1980) for most medals in a single Olympic edition! He followed it up with another gold at the World Championship later that year.

In 2005 he won another five golds in the World Championships.

In 2007, he dominated at the World Championships by winning another seven golds and setting five world records. But it was 2008 that ensured that no one in the world would ever forget this American swimming sensation and that he would become a household name. He won eight golds at the Beijing Summer Games and smashed every world record there was into oblivion.

Today, his endorsement contracts include everything from Speedo, Visa and Omega to Matsunichi.

Controversies

In November 2004, Phelps made headlines at only 19 when he was charged with driving under influence (DUI). He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.

Later, he also made headlines when was photographed smoking pot--a controversy that has haunted him ever since because he is an idol to so many teenage boys.

Personal Probe

Bob Bowman, his coach, describes him as a "solitary man" with "rigid focus" when at the pool, but 100 percent invested in the success of the people he cares about when he's done. He's said to be amazingly kind-hearted and generous, and his philanthropic work speaks volumes about this aspect of his personality.

Phelps also shares an uncanny bond with his mother who can be seen cheering him on at every single race. His tastes are simple for someone who makes millions every year, and his determination for excelling at his sport has driven him further than even he could have ever imagined.

He also had an extremely close relationship with Ian Thorpe, the legendary Australian swimmer. He idolized the man and modeled his public image after him too. So when Thorpe said he didn't think Phelps would be able to clinch all eight golds at the Beijing olympics, he stuck all those quotes on his locker as motivation! When he did exactly what Thorpe said he couldn't, Thorpe was the first to hug him and immediately said that he's never been happier to have been proved wrong.

Quirky Quotes

- "Being compared to Ian Thorpe, that could be one of the greatest compliments you could ever get in swimming--being compared to him and Mark Spitz."

- "Even in high school, I'd tell my mom I was sick of swimming and wanted to try to play golf. She wasn't too happy. She'd say, 'Think about this.' And I'd always end up getting back in the pool."

- "Every day after I wake up, I think, 'Wait... this can't be real; I'm still going to wake up.'"

- "I feel most at home in the water. I disappear. That's where I belong."

- "I can't remember the last day I didn't train."

- "I have the opportunity to be part of swimming history. To take the sport to a new level would be an honor for me. There's no better time to try this than now."

- "I know it won't be eight medals again. If you want to compare me to that, that's your decision, not mine. I'm going out there to try to accomplish the things that I have in my mind and in my heart."

Lasting Legacy

Whether or not he betters his epic records and wins more golds, Michael Phelps has already created history. It's like Mark Spitz said, if he were to win all eight medals, then that would be like the first man on Mars! Michael Phelps has been to Mars and with any luck, he may just go a little bit further. Whatever his future though, all we can say for sure is that Phelps' legacy will never, ever die. It will always flow on