– PEOPLE WORTH REMEMBERING –

The third week of August has been a time of making history over the years for Michael Phelps. This week, Tidbits turns its focus to this Olympic swimmer, the most decorated Olympian of all time.

• Baltimore, Maryland-born Michael Phelps began swimming at age 7 after his two elder sisters joined a local swim team. Later diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Phelps had plenty of energy to expend, and swimming provided that outlet. By age 10, he already held a national record in the 100-m butterfly for his age group.

By 15, Phelps had qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, the youngest male to make the U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years. He didn’t win a medal, although he reached the finals and placed fifth in the 200-m butterfly.

    It was on to Athens in 2004, where the barely-19-year-old Phelps won his first Olympic gold medal in his very first event, setting a new world record time for the 400-m individual medley. By the time the Olympics had concluded, Phelps had won six gold and two bronze medals, tying the record of eight medals of any color in a single Games.

Hocking County Veterans Service Commission

    It was time to break a major record at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 1972, U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz had set a record of seven gold medals in single Olympic Games. That phenomenal record endured for 36 years until Michael Phelps came along. On August 13, 2008, Phelps won three gold medals in one day, with three new world records. His eighth gold of the Games came on August 17, and Spitz’s record was broken. Because the Chinese consider the number 8 a lucky number, the Games had begun at 8:08 on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008. It looks like 8 was Phelps’ lucky number as well!

    London’s 2012 Olympics brought another record to Phelps’ name. The previous record for total Olympic medals had been set by a Soviet gymnast named Larisa Latynina, who had collected 18 medals between 1956 and 1964. With London’s four gold and two silver medals, Phelps boosted his total to 22 total medals. At the conclusion of the Games, the 27-year-old swimmer announced his retirement.

    Phelps’ retirement didn’t last long. Citing a love of the sport and a desire to swim, he returned to competition in April, 2014. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were his fifth Olympics, and he was selected by the team to be the U.S. flag bearer. He capped off his career with five more gold medals and a silver, and announced his second retirement on August 12, 2016.

Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He holds the record for total medals, with 28, the record for gold medals at 23, and the most medals in a single Olympics, with the 8 won in Beijing. He has set 39 world records. He passed all anti-doping tests administered to him during his entire career.

      Phelps pulled a fast one on the media when he married former Miss California USA Nicole Johnson in 2016. The couple secretly married in June, and kept it a secret from the public for four months. The couple has three sons. He is a noted philanthropist, with his foundation benefiting Boys & Girls Clubs, Special Olympics, and funding talented athletes in need of financial support.