Sept. 19, 2000
After qualifying for his first Summer Olympics at the age of 15, Phelps heads to Sydney to swim what would become his signature event — the 200m butterfly. Though he didn’t medal, Phelps still made his mark as the youngest male to make the U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years.
Aug. 14, 2004
Phelps bursts out of the gate in Athens. Not only does he win gold in the 400m individual medley, he sets a new World Record.
Aug. 16, 2004
Two days later, he swims the 200m freestyle final dubbed the ”Race of the Century.” Not only must he face down his fiercest opponent yet in Aussie Ian Thorpe, he’s also pitted against Dutch contender Pieter van den Hoogenband — who is defending his Sydney title — and Thorpe’s teammate Grant Hackett. They’re the fastest four in this event in history. Though Phelps takes bronze (setting a new American Record along the way), his place on the podium alongside ”The Thorpedo” is a chance to shake hands with a personal hero.
Aug. 20, 2004
In one of his hardest-fought match-ups, and a foreshadow of many nail-biters to come, Phelps edges out USA teammate Ian Crocker by 0.04 seconds and sets a new Olympic Record (51.25 seconds) for the 100m butterfly.
Aug. 21, 2004
With a team Gold in the 4x100m medley, Phelps finishes his run in Athens with an astonishing eight medals around his neck. His six Golds for the Games make him second only to Mark Spitz for achievement in a single Olympics.
Aug. 10, 2008
For his first final of the Beijing Games, Phelps crushes his own World Record in the 400m IM by 1.41 seconds. He would set six more World Records over the next 10 days.
Aug. 11, 2008
Phelps leads off the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay. Though the team is behind by nearly a full body length in the final leg, Jason Lezak pulls off an incredible rally that helps Phelps continue his quest to win the most gold medals in a single Games. After the relay, Thorpe gives Phelps’ mom a kiss of congratulations in the stands.
Aug. 16, 2008
With his eight-medal spree in sight, Phelps faces a formidable foe — Serbia’s Milorad Čavić. In the closest finish ever, Phelps taps the wall in the 100m butterfly finals ahead by a mind-boggling 0.01 seconds to take Gold.
Aug. 24, 2008
Mission: Accomplished. Phelps leaves the Beijing Games eight gold medals richer, toppling Spitz’s 36-year-old record.
July 31, 2012
As part of Team USA, Phelps takes gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay. With 19 total Olympic medals, Phelps surpasses Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record (set from 1956 to 1964) and becomes him the most decorated athlete in the Games’ 116-year history.
Aug. 2, 2012
Despite making history just one night before, Phelps has something to prove during a second showdown with teammate Ryan Lochte, who dethroned Phelps in the 400m individual medley on July 28. In the 200m IM dubbed the ”duel in the pool,” Phelps turns the tables on Lochte, outpacing him by 0.63 seconds to become the first male swimmer to win the same event at three consecutive Olympics.
With his mojo officially back, Phelps delivers another threepeat Aug. 3 in the 100m butterfly final. Not only does he prevail over South African Chad le Clos (who outtouched him by 0.05 seconds in the July 31 200m butterfly final), he does so by a healthy 0.23-second margin — and 2008 nemesis Čavić misses the medal stand entirely.
Aug. 4, 2012
Phelps takes the final swim of his career as one quarter of the 4x100m medley relay. He brings home his 22nd Olympic medal (and 18th gold). Not only is he the most decorated athlete of the Games for the second time in a row, he is the undisputed greatest Olympian of all time. After this last event, FINA — the international governing body of swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming, and open water swimming — hosts a ceremony honoring Phelps’ remarkable achievements.