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. alpg49

    He has an advantage over other disciplines because swimmers can compete in more events. Imagine what track and field would be like if we ran 4 different ways. The disadvantage is that training in swimming is unbearably boring. (I'm a swimmer.) Can't look at scenery, can't listen to music, etc... All told – yes, he's the best!

    August 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tcaros

    The reality of what you witnessed: 1 man who practiced swimming since age 7 beat another man by 1/2 second across the pool swimming.

    On any particular day the other may have one. That's the reality of what you observed. It didn't feed anyone, provide shelter, or generate a new product or service.

    Now how dumb is the whole thing.

    August 1, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dandydude

    No doubt Michael Phelps is a great swimmer... what I want to know is did the bong help or not?? I'm thinking that
    all Olympic athletes should have bongs... ;-)

    August 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Maggiemae

    Yes, I think he is the greatest ever!

    August 1, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sonja

    Michel Phelps is the greatest and I am voting for him.

    August 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. lorne

    What about Al Oerter in the discus?
    1956, 1960, 1964, 1968 Gold Medals?
    He even tried again a few years later.

    August 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tez07

    If he were a country??....imagine the potential for geothermal energy production from all that hot air

    August 2, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    Phelps should be charged with doping. He is the greatest cheater ever.

    August 2, 2012 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Maggiemae

      he has been tested innumerable times and always passes with flying colors. I read one article where it said he was probably the most tested athlete. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expect a a different outcome. Seems to fit those of u always jumping to the conclusion he is doping every time he wins and then r upset when his tests come back negative.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
    • NIck

      Anyone good must be doping right? Swimmers at this caliber get tested often, and Someone like Phelps would be destroyed by the media if he ever failed one. The only performance enhancing drug known for a fact he's used is marijuana, with which he was increasing his chi capacity.

      August 2, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • VegasRage

      Your evidence?

      August 3, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  9. ROCKWOOD

    I think they are all great. Phelps....well.....it certainly isn't luck. They all train so hard, so quit hammering em and give them some support.

    August 2, 2012 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. KSE

    The training would make most people beg off – he's in the pool all day, everyday, most nights. Team USA is a tight group too. Takes positive close support and lots of training. Without whining and not exposing themselves to negative peoples bs.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. Faveur

    Congratulations no limit for him In French language Grand Bravo pour sa Carrière . Super ........

    August 2, 2012 at 5:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. Fred

    For those of you who believe he is the greatest ever, forget about it! The guy is terrifice, no doubt about it, but his records will eventually fall and someone will eventually get more medals than him. If you want to consider greatness, think bigger! Think ICON! People such as Nadia C. or Jesse Owens, they are among the greatest because their names trancend mere records and focus on amazing accomplishments. Nadic C will always be thought of when you hear the expression perfect 10. And as for Jesse Owens - there is nothing that needs to be said except that he represented both a Race and a way of living and shoved it up Hitler's ass.

    August 2, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. AndyDaniel

    Phelps is a great athlete, no two ways about it, but there is no such thing as THE greatest Olympian because you can't compare across disciplines. For example, although Pele never competed in the Olympics, his sport only awards only one medal per games, so 18 medals would be impossible. (In fact, only gymnasts and sprinters come close in the number of medals available to them). In swimming, Mark Spitz won only 7 medals and only competed in only one Olympics, but all 7 events he entered were gold medal, world record performances. So to try and declare one single athlete "the greatest" just doesn't work – but he is certainly one of them.

    August 2, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  14. Simon

    Let's say that if you are a javelin thrower, there is no way you can get more than one medal at each olympics, but that does not mean you didn't work hard for it.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Romario

    One thing to take into account is that 8 of those 19 medals are for team effort, so other people participated, not just Phelps and they probably should be included into the count somehow or at least mentioned.

    August 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reflecto

      Larisa Latynina, now in 2nd place, had team medals as well. They count.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
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