When he was only 15 years old, Michael Phelps competed at the 2000 Sydney
Olympics, placing fifth in the 200m butterfly. The following year he broke the
world record for the event, becoming, at age 15 years 9 months, the youngest
male ever to set a swimming world record. Four months later, he won his first
world championship, setting another world record in the 200 butterfly. Phelps
caused a sensation at the 2003 World Championships. Not only did he earn four
gold medals and two silver medals, but he set four world records. In 2004, he
became the first swimmer to qualify for the Olympics in six individual events.
(He decided not to compete in the 200m backstroke). At the 2004 Athens Olympics,
Phelps began his assault on the record books on the first day of competition,
winning the 400m individual medley by 3 ½ seconds and setting a world record.
The next day he added a bronze medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay, and the day
after that he picked up another bronze by setting a personal record in the 200m
freestyle. On 17 August Phelps beat out Takashi Yamamoto of Japan to win the
200m butterfly and, an hour later, he swam the leadoff leg for the U.S. 4x200m
freestyle relay team that held off the Australians and gained the victory.
Phelps' next gold-medal victory came in the 200m individual medley, which he won
by 1.64 seconds. In the 100m butterfly, he barely out touched teammate Ian
Crocker for his seventh medal. Finally, Phelps gained a gold medal in the 4x100m
medley relay by swimming the preliminary heats. By so doing, he joined gymnast
Aleksandr Dityatin as the only athletes to earn eight medals at a single