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14 Facts About Michael Phelps That Will Make You Say "Holy Shit"

Twenty-five Olympic medals (and counting!) is really just the beginning.

1. First of all, he started swimming at the tender age of 7.

2. The first stroke he learned was the backstroke because he was reportedly afraid to put his head underwater.

3. And three years later he set a national record for his age group in the 100-meter fly.

Frederic J. Brown / Getty Images

His time was 1:08.54.

4. In 2000, he became the youngest American male swimmer to compete in the Olympics in almost 70 years.

Mark Baker / Reuters

He was just 15 when he competed in the Summer Olympics in Sydney.

5. His wingspan is longer than he is tall. When his arms are extended they reach 80 inches (that's 6 feet, 8 inches) tip to tip.

6. He also has size 14 feet, which are so bendy at the ankle that they're "virtual flippers."

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They are said to bend 15 degrees more than the average ankle.

7. And he has a heightened ability to recover from physical exertion, which means racing multiple times in a day is NBD.

Tim Wimborne / Reuters

After intense exercise, lactic acid moves into the bloodstream and becomes lactate, making the body's lactate levels high — causing fatigue, which slows you down. The quicker you can get those lactate levels down, the better you'll perform the next time you have to compete. Phelps reportedly produces way less lactate and therefore recovers relatively quickly and is ready to swim strong again sooner than his competitors.

8. He can swim 100 meters in less than 50 seconds.

Usa Today Sports / Reuters

In fact, he holds the world record for the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 49.82. He holds the world record for the 200-meter butterfly, too, with a time of 1:51.51.

9. At age 15, he became the youngest man to break a world record.

Jason Reed / Reuters

He did it with the 200-meter fly at Spring Nationals in 2001.

10. At age 27 he became the most decorated athlete in the history of the Olympics.

Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images

It happened in the 2012 Olympics in London when he won gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay, the19th medal of his career and the most of any Olympian ever.

11. And after he set that record, he broke it and set a new one.

Martin Bureau / AFP / Getty Images

After that 19th medal, Phelps won three more in London.

12. He still holds national records for 12 different age-group events.

David Gray / Reuters

Which he set when he was between the ages of 16 and 19.

13. When he was preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, he swam 80,000 meters per week. That's 50 miles.

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He did this over two or three practices per day.

14. And his net worth makes him the fifth-richest Olympic athlete ever, and also waaaay higher paid than the richest of Olympic swimmers.

Mollie Shafer-Schweig / Via BuzzFeed

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Watch the women’s gymnastics individual all-around final featuring Simone Biles tonight in primetime at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.


Michael Phelps holds world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly. An earlier version of this post misstated the equivalent of these events in terms of laps.