What more can possibly said about Michael Phelps?
Even at the age of 31, Phelps continues to win Gold medals. As of this writing he’s won 21 Gold medals, more than Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis combined. He’s now won 25 medals total, making him the most decorated gold medal and total medal winner in modern Olympic history. His 12 individual Golds are also a modern Olympic record.
He’s won more Gold medals by himself since he started competing than most competing nations have won through the Olympic era. To put it another way, if Michael Phelps was a country, he’d be 39th in all-time Gold medals just by himself with his (current) 21.
I was reading a piece on Deadspin that historians have been looking back at the records of the ancient Olympic games. If you count those games, Phelps tied Leonidas of Rhodes, who won his 12 wreaths (in the ancient Games, that’s what winners got, not medals) before Christ was born.
Is Phelps the greatest Olympian ever? Hard to say no, by modern or ancient standards.