I still remember the day Michael Phelps made a splash (oh, the puns) in the competitive swimming world. He was quickly catapulted into instant stardom for his good looks, hot bod and of course, his six gold and two bronze medals in the 2004 Olympics held in Athens.
Now, eight years later, he is preparing for his last Olympic games. With 16 medals total, 14 of those being gold, I think it is safe to say that it will be emotional for many when he steps onto the Olympic podium for the last time.
Mom Debbie, 61, will have an especially hard time. The single mom has supported her son and two older daughters, Hilary, 34, and Whitney, 32, through swimming practices and meets for the past 25 years. While this will be the end of an era for the swimming community, it is more so for the family.
“It’ll be a big moment,” Debbie told PEOPLE. “I’ll pull out my box of [tissues], because it’s going to be emotional.”
The 27 year-old celebrated a birthday in the middle of the Olympic trials, hosted in Omaha, Nebraska from June 25 to July 2. The celebration continued when he qualified to swim eight races in the London 2012 games, choosing to swim seven.
Read on for more of the swimmers past and what we can expect from him in the future.
We have been with him through thick and thin. We were there when the Olympic hunk scored some sweet endorsement deals, and when he lost his contract with Kellogg after the bong hit seen ’round the world. We were also there when he publicly embarrassed Subway just this year after eating his first sandwich, saying, “I am embarrassed, ashamed, and quite frankly disgusted in myself for encouraging other people to eat that bready, semi-meat-flavored amalgamation Subway attempts to pass off as a meal.”
Of the bong incident, where pictures surfaced of the star smoking marijuana just months after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the star apologized saying, “I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23 years old, and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.”
His mom recently spoke on behalf of The Century Council promoting Ask, Listen, Learn, an alcohol education program focused on middle school-aged kids and their parents and said, “Michael’s always been a role model. I’ve heard Michael talk about his success, and when he fell on his face. We all go through life lessons; it’s about how you embrace them and go from there.”
No stranger to controversy, that doesn’t change the fact that Michael has the talent to be the most decorated Olympic athlete in history. Winning eight gold medals four years ago in Beijing, making him the athlete with the most medals in a single Olympic games, ever.
It seems the U.S.A. has already found a replacement for this aging (and still amazing) star. Ryan Lochte is giving this ripped star a run for his money, even though I would like to look at it as if Phelps is graduating from the Olympics and passing the torch down to Lochte.
His mom of the upcoming final games for her son, “It’s just about capturing memories. This whole year has been about that. All these lasts are bundling up.”
The summer Olympics, hosted in London, will air this Friday, July 27 with the swimming set to start Saturday, July 28.