Michael Phelps top Olympic moments

With  23 Olympic gold medals to his name, the American gave us many moments to cherish from the pool. 

Michael Phelps' pursuit for excellence saw him challenge the limits of human capabilities, break records and claim a staggering haul of medals.

We dive into a few of his top Olympic moments during his glittering career.

On the right note

The first one is always special. And Phelps ensured that his first medal at the Olympics was remembered for more than one reason. Heading into Athens for the 2004 Olympics, the American was no longer the 15-year-old who strolled into Sydney 2000 unnoticed.

Making it to the final of the 400m individual medley, Phelps was determined to make the race his own as he raced ahead to take a body length lead after the butterfly segment. And though the pack tried to catch him, they could barely get close to the ‘Baltimore Bullet’ as he won the gold in 4:08.26, a new world record.

At the Beijing Games, Michael Phelps obliterated Mark Spitz’s record of winning the maximum number of gold medals in a single Olympic Games
At the Beijing Games, Michael Phelps obliterated Mark Spitz’s record of winning the maximum number of gold medals in a single Olympic GamesAt the Beijing Games, Michael Phelps obliterated Mark Spitz’s record of winning the maximum number of gold medals in a single Olympic Games

A league of his own

Four years later, Phelps was the man to beat when the Olympics came to Beijing in 2008.

But the pressure seemed to brush off as easily as the water at Beijing's futuristic National Aquatics Centre as the American defended his 400m individual medley title with another record-breaking performance. And this, while adding another eight to his tally to surpass the legendary Mark Spitz’s record of winning the maximum number of gold medals in a single Olympic Games.

“It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, but he's, maybe, the greatest athlete of all time. He's the greatest racer who ever walked the planet,” Spitz would enthuse about his compatriot later.

Michael Phelps: The London 2012 medal-winning races

Michael Phelps: The London 2012 medal-winning races

The London dream

Phelps headed into the London Olympics in 2012 as a true legend of the sport. With as many as 14 gold medals already in his kitty, the swimmer was eager to go for more. But it wasn’t until the 200m individual medley final that the fighter in him came to the fore.

Having won this race in the last two editions of the Olympic Games, Phelps was aiming to become the first man to win a single race thrice on the bounce. And standing in his path was none other than his compatriot Ryan Lochte.

In what a closely fought race, Phelps managed to stave off the challenge as he edged past his rival to win the gold in 1:54.27, just 0.63 seconds ahead of Lochte.

Chad le Clos reacts to beating Michael Phelps at London 2012
Chad le Clos reacts to beating Michael Phelps at London 2012Chad le Clos reacts to beating Michael Phelps at London 2012

Le Clos has the edge

Lochte was not the only rival Phelps had to contend with.

Despite the 200m butterfly final being his 'pet' event.it was South Africa’s upcoming sensation Chad le Clos who edged the great American out - by 5/100ths of a second.

Then at Rio 2016, it was another youngster - Singapore’s Joseph Schooling - who got the better of the swimming great in the 100m butterfly final.

Signing off in style

With his fiancée Nicole Johnson and son Boomer watching him from the stands, the American ensured that he enjoyed a fine swansong at Rio 2016.

Named the flagbearer for the USA at the Opening Ceremony, Phelps was in his element when the swimming events got underway in Rio.

After finishing with an incredible 28 Olympic medals, the most decorated Olympian of all time then confirmed his second - and final - retirement from the sport.

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