Michael Phelps - History beckons

Michael Phelps is already a legend with a record 14 Olympic gold medals and two bronze medals.

Having won eight golds in the 2008 Beijing Games to go with his haul of six gold and two bronze medals four years ago in Athens, this American swimmer will be aiming to become the winner of the highest number of Olympic medals, in London.

Phelps’ tally of 14 gold medals is most by any individual in Olympic history. In London, Phelps may well be destined to go past the record aggregate of 18 Olympic medals — nine gold, five silver and four bronze — by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina spread over three Games.

At 15 years and nine months, Phelps returned medal-less from his maiden Olympic appearance in the 2000 Sydney Games. But within six months, he set the World record in the 200m butterfly. This feat truly made the world take note of Phelps.

In 2004, Phelps won six gold medals and fell short in pursuit of the record of fellow American Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals and a bronze in the 1972 Munich Games.

Undeterred, Phelps returned to chase his dream in 2008. He not only retained the gold medals in 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m and 400m individual medley, 4x200 freestyle relay and 4x100 medley relay but also made amends for his defeats in the 200m freestyle and the 4x100 freestyle relay — all with world record timings!

In London, Phelps faces a serious threat to his dream from compatriot Ryan Lochte but there will be no dearth of motivation for Phelps since his arch-rival and good friend Lochte is aiming to win medals from a maximum of 11 events.

Rakesh Rao