Michael Phelps has won more Olympic medals than anyone in modern history, a stunning run of dominance that stretches across four separate Olympics.
Last evening, Michael Phelps added another two Gold medals to his career tally — winning the 200m butterfly and helping his team take the 4x200m relay. Phelps has now won 21 gold medals, more than twice as many as anyone else in Olympic history. With two additional Silver and Bronze medals he has won a total of 25 Olympic medals, also more than anyone else in history. His extended run of dominance is simply unmatched.
Here’s another way to think about just how far ahead of his peers Phelps has been. In the modern Olympics, 53 countries have won a medal in a swimming event. Phelps, by himself, has more medals than 40 of those countries.
What has made Phelps so special is his excellence across multiple events and distances and the way he has been able to sustain it over the years. The visualization below looks at all modern Olympians who have won at least 10 total medals. The size of each circle represents how many medals they won at each Olympic games they competed in (Summer Olympians are in red, Winter Olympians are in blue).
Phelps won eight medals in his third Olympics, no one else on this list won more than six in their third Olympics. Phelps won six medals in his fourth Olympics. Only one other athlete on this list managed five. Two other athletes on the list have won three medals in their fifth Olympics. Phelps has already won tied that mark and, with three more events to go, could conceivably smash it.
Suffice it to say, there has never been an Olympic athlete like Michael Phelps. And there might never be again.