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. OPEN400

    Phelps is tremednous, but if you are a swimmer you can tally up a lot of medals because of a similar atheletic talent in all of them.Mark Spitz got seven golds in one Olympic. You can saw that about running as well, but do you have a 10,000 meter swim? Jess Ownes competed in radically differnt events – long jump, high jump ,100 meter run.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Peter Finklestein

    I voted NO because medal count should not be the sole variable used to determine greatest Olympian. A participant can rack rack up a lot of medals in swimming, track and field, and gymnastics but not in soccer, badminton, archery, volleyball, kayaking, rowing, etc etc.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Todd

    That suit is now illegal. So his records are no longer valid in my opinion.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Todd

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

    So wrong. Serbia became a country in 768 AD, Slovakia in 800AD and Kosovo and S. Sudan aren't 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)."

    Apples and Oranges. You can't compare yearly income to lifetime income. Just silly.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keep

      HEy TODDDDDD, your an idiot.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. nolongerarepublican

    He can swim!
    I'm impressed.
    Phelps is nothing compared to Bruce Jenner.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ChristianB

    Why should they test for pot? It isn't a performance enhancing drug.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Greenspam

    And he would be a socialist if he supported Obama

    August 1, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well, figures.

      hahahaha, now that made me LOL. Very nice.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Biggs


      August 1, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • really

      or an idiot if he support romney

      August 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jasoncdanforth

    More importantly, how is pot a performance enhancing drug? Well, I suppose if they still included poetry in the Olympics, it might help...

    August 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mektah

      Pot can increase calmness and relax muscles as well as reduce pain, meaning he could swim harder and faster and not have to pace himself due to aches.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Donger

    He's older, less into it and still getting gold and silver, suits are irrelevant. Have them swim nude to be sure, female viewers won't complain.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimzcarz

      Might even help him steer if he has a skag in the water..

      August 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Adam

    He would not have won as many medals as he did if he was his own country. He won 8 medals as part of a relay team, so he needed other countrymen to win those.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Youcantbeserious

    This is why the common man does not take journalism seriously. This make work article is not even worth these few words of contempt.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bezboz


      August 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mallory Simon, CNN News blog editor

      Thanks for reading. Trying to just have some lighthearted fun here, just to be clear. But hope you click around and find something that suits what you are looking for!

      August 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. someguy

    If phelps were a country, weed would be legal there

    August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • i heart bongs


      August 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tom

    Not to diminish his achievements, most olympic athletes have a shot at one or two medals every 4 years (no matter how good they are). Swimmers get several chances. i.e. 200m, 400m, freestyle , relay , butterfly etc, etc.

    Phelps would have to medal in other events before you can call him the the greatest olympian.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kwin

    Hes not the best olympian because he only did one sport, if he medaled in other sports then yes, swimmers and gymnasts tend to multi-medal a lot because they can participate in a large number of sports that all use the same skill set.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Except that swimming and gymnastics each have multiple disciplines that require different skill sets.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. xdougx

    Dude it's swimming. There's like 5000 events.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
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