By Paul Higham. Last Updated: 04/08/08 12:17pm
Phelps: Record hunter
Never has there been so much pressure on an Olympian to achieve so much as there will be on Michael Phelps' powerful shoulders as he heads to Beijing expected to swim his way into the record books.
Normally any chance for just a single Olympic gold medal is enough weight of expectancy on any athlete, but for Phelps that can be timed by eight as many hope, and indeed expect, him to do something which many for years have said is impossible and topple Mark Spitz's record.
Spitz swam his way to seven gold medals in Munich 1972 and despite a super-human effort from Phelps in 2004 he fell agonisingly short as he collected an amazing six gold and two bronze medals in Athens.
His tally of eight medals at a single Games did equal the feat of gymnast Alexander Dityatin in Moscow in 1980, while he did match Spitz in one regard - as he won four individual gold medals with his bronzes coming with his own swim in the 22m freestyle and the 4x100m relay.
Phelps though is no stranger to records, as at 15 years and nine months old he became the youngest ever world record holder when he set a new mark in the 200m butterfly.
The giant man known as the 'Baltimore Bullet' has been smashing records left, right, and centre ever since, with a huge tally of 16 gold medals at three World Championships - including a clean sweep of all seven events he entered in the latest in Melbourne.
A repeat performance in Beijing would see him join Spitz in the record books, but Phelps wants to make history on his own and would stake his claim to be the ultimate Olympian if he wins the eight events he has again entered.
Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when young, Phelps certainly put his energy to good use in the pool after donning his trunks as a seven-year-old.
Whilst attending Towson High School Phelps swam for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club under coach Bob Bowman, who led him to his Olympics achievements in Athens.
Following an arrest for driving under the influence in Salisbury, Maryland which resulted in an 18-month probationary sentence, Phelps then left the area to link-up again with coach Bowman in Michigan.
The two men will return to Baltimore after Beijing though to help move Phelps' first club in Baltimore where Bowman will become the CEO.
By then six-foot-four Phelps could be a $1 million richer (a sponsor's bonus offered to him), a record holder, an Olympic legend, and undoubtedly the greatest swimmer of all time - if his shoulders can carry that pressure with him.
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