He is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, with 21 gold medals and 25 medals overall—including his first gold at Rio in the 4x100m freestyle relay on Sunday night, and two more on Tuesday night in the 200m butterfly and the 4x200m relay. At 31, he is swimming’s biggest star and a household name all over the world. And Michael Phelps is also the first male swimmer in U.S. history to compete in five Olympic Games.
All after supposedly retiring from swimming.
Phelps turned in his goggles after the 2012 London Olympics, telling reporters he had lost his passion for swimming and didn’t feel he was in top condition for the Games. He still won four gold medals and two silver medals in London.
Eighteen months later, he “un-retired.”
Since then Phelps had his ups and downs. He was arrested in 2014 for DUI and had a brief stint in rehab. He has pledged not to drink again until after the Games in Rio.
“I tried to bite off more than I could handle in 2012,” said Phelps, “but I want to be here now.”
On July 19th he was named captain of the U.S. Olympic swim team. Arguably the greatest swimmer of all time, Phelps is already turning out another gold-medal performance in Rio with his stunning wins on Sunday and Tuesday nights.
Phelps has yet to compete in the 100m butterfly on Thursday night—and will likely compete in the final men's relay for team USA on Saturday.
He will face challenges from South Africa’s Chad le Clos, who took gold in the 200m butterfly in London in 2012, as well as Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, who medaled in two of Phelps’ best events at the 2015 World Championships while Phelps was serving his DUI suspension.
Despite stiff competition, there no doubt Phelps has more Olympic magic in store. “I’m back to being the little kid who once said anything is possible,” he told Sports Illustrated. “You’re going to see a different me than you saw in any of the other Olympics.”
But after Rio, Phelps says he’s calling it quits for good.
“This is my last one,” he told reporters. “No more. I’m done. The body is done.”