August 1st, 2012
01:32 PM ET

If Michael Phelps were a country...

[Updated at 4:02 p.m. ET Saturday]

He would be No. 51 in the all-time medal count, tied with Egypt and Portugal with 22 total medals.

 He'd have more Twitter followers (1,000,497) than Fiji has in total population (890,057).

He'd be making more money than certain entire countries. He is estimated to make $100 million over the course of his lifetime. This is more than twice the estimated GDP of the Tuvalu Islands ($37,470,000).

 He'd be liked on Facebook (5.8 million times) more times than the total number of Internet users in Greece (4,971,000).

Phelps, born in 1985, would be older than several countries including Namibia, Slovakia, Serbia, Kosovo, and South Sudan.

– Phelps, standing 6-foot-4, would be taller than the average Dutch man (6 feet), considered to be the world’s tallest people.

We say this, of course to highlight the legacy of Phelps, who won his 22nd medal on Saturday, extending his record of most Olympic medals won all-time.

Phelps, who began swimming at age 7 to emulate his sisters, set individual world records 29 times, and he still holds records in six events.

He has wrapped up a career as the most decorated Olympian ever, perhaps the greatest ever. Some commentators will argue the cases of track and field's Carl Lewis, who missed an Olympics because of a U.S. boycott, or distance runner Paavo Nurmi, who won 12 medals. Some might argue for Bjorn Daehlie, the Norwegian cross-country skier. And there's gymnast Larisa Latynina, whose 18 medals are now second all time.

Vote in the poll below if you think Michael Phelps should be considered the greatest Olympian ever. We plan to keep adding to this list so let us know in the comments if you have any similar "if Michael Phelps were a country" comparisons and we'll check them out.

soundoff (208 Responses)
  1. Jim Guinnessey

    I am happy for Phelps. The sports media hasn't been too kind to him in the past for reasons unknown to me and others. Now that he is Mr. Wonderful I guess some of his sports critics are changing their tunes. Congratulations to Phelps and Lochte!

    August 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. BellaCapella

    But he didn't win those medals!...someone else did that for him...those folks who were so smart and hardworking...those folks who built the roads and bridges to London...he should share that wealth...after all he didn't build that Olympic record.

    August 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nice Try

      He didn't win them alone, which is something he probably wouldn't deny. Why don't you try saying he's a secret muslim socialist fascist from Kenya while you're at it?

      August 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Carl

    How soon we forget our greatest native American Jim Thorpe.. HE was the greatest athlete ever!

    August 2, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mark

    Not to diminish his great achievements, but Phelps is NOT older than the country of Serbia.

    Serbia has antecedents going back to medieval times. More recently, Serbia in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin was internationally recognized as an independent country. Later, it was part of a number of states and again became an independent country in 2006, but this was not the first time an independent country of Serbia existed.

    CNN, please do some fact-checking.

    August 2, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dude

    Mr. Phelps will never be able to go back to his Mission Impossible role now. His cover is blown.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. susan kilbey

    my my what ba bunch of haters.. fyi jessee owens won 4 gold.. i think PHELPS IS AWESOME congrats and all u haters b happy! Go usa

    August 4, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. John

    What a stupid article – Phelps is great but only point one is a differentiators. The rest of the statistics are applicable to any tall star athlete. Thats 10's of NBA, NHL, NFL, Soccer, Rugby, Cricket, Tennis, Golf, F1 stars. In fact any sport with an audience is in the billions and you are over 6 foot 4.

    Again nothing against Phelps – but the author sort of did the opposite – he dragged him into a much larger pool of other athletes with these stats who aren't even as special. The only thing that needs to be said is 22.

    Written like a 3rd grader homework project.

    August 5, 2012 at 5:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. zzx

    I suspect Michael apply a kind of non greasy lubricant on his body, for example windscreen lubricant (a kind of silicon lubricant) to reduce friction against water to body.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:40 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. zzx

    try to look at the water drop on his body. mostly all in drop shape. Got to probe him

    August 6, 2012 at 5:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Gohek

    He's good, but the best Olympian is someone who can excel at the most sports decently or excellently. He might be the best in swimming but not of all time, so that mentality shouldn't be allowed U.S.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Gohek

    He's good, but the best Olympian is someone who can excel at the most sports decently or excellently. He might be the best in swimming but not of all time, so that mentality shouldn't be allowed U.S

    August 6, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. raya

    he is good in this field of sport... no question about that...already proven with his medals

    August 15, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse | Reply
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