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. The Hero O' Trollington

    ANOTHER example of why marijuana should be legal for adults 21 and older, (just like booze). Phelps smokes pot. He is also (arguably) the "greatest" Olympian ever. He has probably the best lungs in the sport, and still smokes pot. When will America get on board with legalization? If it is legal, it can be taxed, and CONTROLLED. Of course pot isn't for everyone. Neither is alcohol or tobacco. Keeping it regulated like alcohol would do wonders for our country. And you potophobes can feel good, because kids will get minor in possession charges when caught with marijuana; while the adult that supplied it will go to jail. You know, like the way we treat alcohol.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. haskeli

    Silly comparisons. That is Tuvalu's GDP for one year, not Phelps's lifetime.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bad math corrector

    1. 8 of his 19 medals were for relays. So his population of 1 effectively (by relay rules and by the physical fact that 4 people in relay could beat him) drops his medal count.
    2. Ignoring inflation and really all economic intelligence as this article is wont to do: An american male has a life expentancy of 75.9 years. During this "lifetime" Tuvalu with have a GDP of 75.9x $37M = $2.8B so he is not making more than Tuvalu.

    What a bunch of less than interesting facts.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • aces2jokers

      Just to add some perspective.

      1) In a relay it is a 4-on-4 event which means that a weak performance from any of the team can mean a loss. There are 4 medals given out for the overall effort of 4 men. It is fair to count them.

      2) It is quite obvious that when they made the comparison of his anticipated life income (which can change based on investments and luck, which nobody can account for so it's not even viable to attempt), is only being compared to one year and not for a lifetime.

      The math was correct if you don't try to read too much into it. Looking for errors sometimes makes you look like the one who cannot comprehend math.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Benjamin

    I think Michael Phelps used Performance-enhancing drugs in 2008 Olympics.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Brown

      They test everyone in the olympics so no....please stop with the PED theory you have

      August 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Ruth

      Is a matter of time before he gets caught..

      August 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dan

    i have my own olympics which i have won every medal in for the past 10 years, I am the best

    August 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GnatB

    The records may be a technological achievement, but were the medals? If the other swimmers had access to the same suits, then if most everybody has the same tech advantage, the winner still boils down to "whose the best".

    August 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mr. Jingles

    man CNN has nothing better

    August 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. i_know_everything

    he is great but the best, it's not possible to compare

    August 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ac

    haters gonna hate

    August 1, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Malavaina

    Yes, he is the best! Many of you don't even have one medal, envy is the reasoning of poor losers.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Ruth

      Have you look in the mirror? oh..!!! you are too ugly to do that...!!!

      August 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MarylandBill

    The whole issue is silly. Phelps is, without question, an amazing athlete. That being said, in swimming it is a bit easier to be a multiple event athlete than it is many other sport and you can have more longevity than the other sports where competing in more than one event is plausible (i.e., gymnastics). I salute him for his 19 medals (and counting), but does that automatically make him a better olympian than Aladár Gerevich who won 6 medals over the course of 28 years (and two games were canceled in that period because of WWII, so he might have won 8 but for that)!

    Finally of course, is medal count really the only standard by which we want to judge our Olympians?

    August 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacob

      plus I think the whole thing might be fixed or rigged.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jacob

    No way he is the best. Look at the thousands of other medals awarded that weren't won by him. Plus how do we know it isn't all fixed or rigged.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Donger

    There will never be anyone like Phelps in 2008, hands down the greatest Olympian ever. Phelps of 2012 looks like he wants to get the job done but wants to move on in life.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MarylandBill

    That would have been a stronger charge in 2004. By 2008, most of the major teams were using those suits. I am glad that they were banned (I don't like it when sports are significantly changed by technology), but I think Phelps still would have dominated 4 years ago.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Me

    Nathan and Ravi....You are both idiots!!! Almost EVERY swimmer in those games used the SAME suit!!!! Get over your jealousy and you will be a much happier person!!!! Man I am sooo surprised at all the jealous people on this board!!! FACTS are FACTS and the numbers CAN NOT lie!!! He is the greatest swimmer ever!!! If you look at the numbers, which can not be skewed by bias or anything else, he is the best and most achieved swimmer ever!

    August 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • carly

      I couldn't agree more – makes me sad to see all the negative comments. Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian. And I would say that even if he was from any other country in the world. Fact is fact – he is amazing! And so what if he isn't perfect – no one is!

      August 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      dont worry. The Internet somehow breeds trolls who would post negative messages about any topic. Phelps is a fantastic Olympian and will be remembered for his terrific achievements in the pool. His personal character is a totally different topic and something only his friends and family can speak to (or have any business talking about). As to the "cheater" trolls, their claim will be taken seriously the moment he gets a medal or a record taken away based on evidence, not the opinion of losers on the CNN message board

      August 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maggiemae

      What difference would it make whether or not he is g*ay? Give me a break. These comments about his personal life, coupled with all the negative comments, are exceedingly ignorant.
      As Americans we should be proud of his outstanding accomplishments!

      August 1, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
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