The Olympic champ won eight gold medals in a record-breaking year

By Kate Ward
November 14, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

Forget Big Brother. The must-see event of the summer was the Beijing Olympics and its marquee star: Michael Phelps. For nine days in August, audiences tuned in to NBC in huge numbers to watch the swimmer break Mark Spitz’s 36-year-old record by winning eight gold medals. So let’s celebrate this historic and riveting Olympic year by analyzing the athlete who finally made Speedos cool again.

Deconstructing a champ
We inspect Phelps from head to toe to determine how the gold medalist splashed his way to the top (using more than just those ridiculously buff abs).
Good Speed: What helped Phelps collect those record eight wins? A 6-foot-7-inch wingspan.
A Pool of Cash: Phelps’ success earned him additional riches from endorsement deals with companies like Speedo, Visa, Omega, Hilton, AT&T, Kellogg’s, PowerBar, Rosetta Stone, and PureSport.
Swimmer’s Delight: Phelps listened to Lil Wayne’s rap tunes to pump up for each race. His favorite track: ”I’m Me.”
A Winning Diet: The swimmer consumed a whopping 10,000 calories per day (his favorite foods include pasta and omelettes).

Aug. 12: 34 million people watched Phelps win his third gold — and land a world record — in the 200 freestyle.

Phelps’ Facebook Fans:
18,000 pre-Beijing
1.63 million today

When Olympians Host SNL…
*viewers in millions
10,151,000*, Michael Phelps (2008)
8,989,000, Jonny Moseley (2002)
16,971,000, Nancy Kerrigan (1994)
12,707,000, Michael Jordan (1991)

Total Olympic Medals Won:
Athens: 6 gold, 2 bronze
Beijing: 8 gold

Total Feet He Swam in Beijing: