Michael Phelps’ medals make him the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. Phelps has won 22 medals: 18 gold, two silver, and two bronze. The 27-year-old U.S. swimmer retired after picking up six medals—four gold and two silver—at the 2012 London Olympics, and he bids the pool adieu having won a total of 71 medals (57 of them gold) at the three major international long-course competition—those being the Olympics, the World Championships, and the Pan Pacific Championships.
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Phelps made his name at the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he won six gold medals—four in individual, or non-relay, events—and two bronze medals. It was an impressive start, although with celebrity came controversy. In November 2004, when he was just 19, he was arrested for driving under the influence in his home state of Maryland. He was fined $250 and ordered to speak to high school students about the dangers of drinking.
Phelps’ rebounded and reached even greater heights at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the “Baltimore Bullet,” as he’s called, won eight gold medals, setting a new record for the most first-place finishes at an Olympic competition. Five of those gold medals were for individual events (200m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 200m medley, and 400m medley) and that tied a world record. Still, more controversy was to follow, and in 2009, he was photographed inhaling from a marijuana pipe at a party at the University of South Carolina. The incident cost him his sponsorship with the cereal maker Kellogg, and USA Swimming suspended him for three moths. Phelps apologized, calling his behavior “inappropriate.”
At the 2012 London Olympics, Phelps got off to an inauspicious start, placing fourth in the 400m individual medley, but in the next event, the 4x100m freestyle relay, he swam the fastest leg of the U.S. race and helped his team win silver. From there, he went on to win gold in the 100m butterfly, 200m individual medley, and in two relays, the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley. Now that his Olympic days are behind him, Phelps will likely focus on running his nonprofit organization, the Michael Phelps Foundation, and shilling for the likes of Visa; Speedo; Omega; Head & Shoulders shampoo, who recently named him their “first ever confidence ambassador”; and Subway. He’s reportedly worth $40 million, and his agent believes he could earn $100 million from endorsements over the course of his lifetime.
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