Few athletes are as synonymous with Olympic greatness as Michael Phelps. Over the last four Summer Olympics, he’s wowed the world with his unparalleled dominance. He’s been so great over the course of his career that his excellence puts the phrase, “Records are made to be broken” to the test.
One of Phelps’ records recently was broken, however. Let’s take a closer look at who did it and how it happened.
Michael Phelps’ career achievements
Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympians in history. Born in Baltimore in 1985 and later known as “The Baltimore Bullet,” Phelps made his Olympic debut as a 15-year-old at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Phelps would finish a respectable fifth in the 200-meter butterfly. Not bad for a teenager new to the world stage, but not worthy of a medal either.
It would be the last Olympics where Phelps would go medal-less. He’d begin his dominant streak at the next Olympic Games, never looking back.
He made his biggest waves at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Here’s a brief summary of his results at the Summer Olympics in which he participated five times overall:
- 2004: Six gold medals and two bronze
- 2008: Eight gold medals
- 2012: Four gold medals and two silver
- 2016: Five gold medals and one silver
One race in which Phelps was particularly effective was the 200-meter butterfly. Phelps won three gold medals in the event and one silver. He was also the world record holder in the event.
Soon, however, his record would be challenged by a newcomer.
The record is broken
At the 2019 FINA World Championships in South Korea, 19-year-old Kristof Malik would break Phelps’ record in the 200-meter butterfly. According to USA Today:
“Enter Milak, who finished first by an incredible three seconds Wednesday and was about a half a body length ahead of Phelps’ world record pace when he hit the wall. Japan’s Daiya Seto was second with a time of 1:53.86 and South Africa’s Chad le Clos – remember Phelps’ nemesis? – was third at 1:54.15.”
Phelps had held the record so long, Malik was still a baby when he did – Phelps set the record 18 years ago. He was only 15 years old when he did so, making him the youngest male to break a swimming world record. He broke his record seven times and reached his fastest time in 2009.
Milak’s time would be 1:50.73. That would beat Phelps’ record by the slimmest of margins: 0.78 seconds.
This was no small achievement for Milak. This is known as one of Phelps’ strongest events. During Olympic competitions, he never finished lower than fifth in the notoriously difficult event.
Michael Phelps’ reaction to the record-breaking achievement
Phelps posted a picture of Milak to his Instagram and in a display of great sportsmanship included the following caption:
“It happened because there was a kid who wanted to do it, who dreamed of doing it, who figured out what it would take to do it, who worked on his technique until it was beautiful and who put in the really, really hard work that it takes to do it,” Phelps said in a phone interview. My hat’s off to him.Congrats to @swimilak Beautiful stroke.”
It was certainly a classy gesture from the former record holder, showing no ill will towards the new one. There’s little doubt that Milak will show the same grace if and when his record is ever toppled, using Phelps as his example.