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. michel

    He compete in a discipline ( swimming ) where it's possible to win SO MANY medals per olympics...
    It's not to diminish his accomplishments, but other great athletes can only win 1 medal per olympics (due to their discipline only giving out 1 medal, and not a million medals for very similar events) , and they can't really play 19 olympics over the course of 76 years.

    The greatest athlete of all time might just have won 3-4 medals, if he was competing in a discipline where they aren't handing out medals like candy.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. s~

    If Phelps was a country, pot would be legal there.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ISM

    when will people learn how to use GDP figures? Do they realize the GDP of Tuvalu is the value of the good and services produced in a calendar year? Why would anyone compare that with someone's lifetime earnings?! Plain stupid.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. matthew

    i don't know which one caused his worse behavior today, aging or smoking?

    i m wondering if there is another phelps having no smokes all the past four years, will he still be the best in the world?

    August 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    Save Syria !

    August 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |

    No can vote.
    Already have a GOD, and do not need any mortal ones.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Car Chaser

    If he was a country ? Jeez, what a lame headline and comparison

    August 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jamielee

    He is an American. He grew up in America and he lives like the rest of us. If you've never smoked marijuana your opinion on the drug has no merit. I am proud to say I am an American and I am proud of what Michael Phelps has accomplished for himself and his country.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hopke

      i hope phelps does not blow it and tarnish his embodiment. make USA proud- so at least we can forget that our sitting president and the past did us all wrong.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. michaeldw

    If Michael Phelps were an Ocean....

    August 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. OBG

    Most people could not dog paddle a single lap in an Olympic pool. Phelps swims 8 laps to complete a 400 meter race in world record time.

    An amazing accomplishment.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Christina Burns

    I am my own country, Homeland Security told me so. Not kidding!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. logicl

    If Phelps were a country, his "unbelievable" and "incredible" performance would be heavily questioned by western media, and all the racists would take no time to jumping out and accuse him doping.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Randy

    Although Michael Phelps is a great athlete what we have to remember is that is takes a TEAM effort to accomplish the task.
    To single out any one athlete belittles what the team spirt is.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. USA

    Good for Michael Phelps He is a winner. Mittens you have my vote.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. alienmom

    Those who dispute MP triumphs,watch from their couch and many times view a sport they could never in their wildest dreams play well ,let alone be an Olympian.To quibble about suits ,or hair or the size of your feet or length of arm is so ridiculous. We are spoiled by the up and close viewing and if for one insane moment feel these athletes make it look easy,then they have accomplished their goal, with a dedication ,education and sacrifice for the sport that few can imagine let alone achieve.So Yes Michael ,you are the greatest,enjoy it,don't squander it and most importantly"listen to your MAMA!"

    August 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
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