This Day In Sports: A record that isn’t made to be broken

August 17, 2008, 15 years ago today: Swimmer Michael Phelps breaks the 36-year-old record of Mark Spitz with his eighth gold medal in a single Olympics. Phelps was the face of the Beijing Games, setting four individual world records and helping in three relay world records.One of the marks came in one of the most exciting finishes in Olympics history, as American Jason Lezak rallied from a half-body length deficit over the final 50 meters to out-touch the French star Alain Bernard at the wall in the 4X100 meter relay. Bernard had predicted before the race that France would “smash” the U.S. team.

Phelps made his Olympic debut in Sydney in 2000 at the age of 15, the youngest swimmer to make the U.S. team in 68 years. He got his feet wet (pun intended) by finishing fifth in the 200-meter butterfly. Then came Phelps’ breakout at the 2004 Athens Games, where he qualified for six events. He won gold medals in six of them—and he was still only 19. Phelps already had the second-best performance at a single Olympics next to Spitz.

After his historic run at Beijing, Phelps was named 2008 Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated. He was hardly finished, although many thought so after the 2012 Summer Olympics. In his first finals in London, Phelps finished fourth in the 400-meter individual medley—the first time he failed to medal in an Olympic event since 2000. He got stronger as the days progressed and ended up collecting another four gold medals. But Phelps was drained, and he retired after the Games, going as far as saying, “I just wanted to be done with swimming and didn’t want anything to do with the sport anymore.”

We all know Phelps came out of retirement in 2014 and won five more gold medals at the 2016 Rio Games, becoming the oldest swimming champion in in the history of the Summer Games. Phelps retired for good in August, 2016, after Rio. He is the most decorated Olympic athlete ever with 28 medals—23 of them gold. Phelps won more Olympic medals in his career than 161 countries. It’s obviously not a stretch to call Phelps the greatest swimmer of all time.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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