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. Sam

    What about Emil Zatopek? He won the 5k, 10k, and Marathon (the first he'd ever competed in and in which he set an Olympic record) all in the same Olympic games.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bruce

    He is the best at what he does and no doubt about it there will be many that will envy him because of what he has achieved. Congratulation Mike and make the US always proud of you in your future endeavors.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Indian

    If he has won more medals than India in it's entire life.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bart Sinclaire

    Michael Phelp's accomplishments are certainly awesome, and nothing should take away from that. But consider the fact that he competes in a discipline that allows him far more chances for medals than pretty much any other. In swimming, he can compete in at least 4-5 different medal-earning events in the same stroke. And then another 3-4 with another stroke. Then consider the fencers, or boxers, or archers, or javelin throwers - they all get pretty much one chance per Olympic games to get one medal.

    Yes, Michael Phelps is great at swimming, but what about Kim Rhode who has medaled in five CONSECUTIVE Olympic games? Her discpline only has one chance to medal, but she's done it every time. That's pretty good too. Michael Phelps has gotten most of his medal chances 3 times – she achieved her only medal chance 5 times. Who's a "Greater Olympian?" Apples and oranges, you might say. Yes, I agree. "Greatest Olympian Ever" carries a connotation that there's a whole lot more than just simple medal count.

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

    Phelps does not talk like us in Baltimore, Maryland. He has a speech problem.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. David

    There are a wide variety of swimming events Phelps can compete in. Not all types of events have such a variety that a person can have so many opportunities. Anyone involved in a team sport is automatically denied the opportunity to compete for so many medals. You should first look at what sports, such as track and field, there are that provide such an opportunity.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Soo confused.

      Some of what you say may be true, but you could also think of it like this. How many times have you seen someone in track and field win all the gold in hurdle events and then do the same in all the "sprints" ? When you consider he entered himself in so many different events, trained for them, does preliminaries in each event and then competes...It is pretty amazing. Why do I think he is the greatest? Because he entered more events than anyone else, he competed at least twice in every event and he won his medals in all those events.

      August 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ObamaJoe

    Olympics is a great business,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you may make big money in it,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    August 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ricky

    Is this story for real... get over yourself America.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ObamaJoe

    We have drought disaster in over half of counties

    And these swimmers are wasting our water for fun !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Swimfan

      and pools take up.. what?.. 0.0000001% of our potable water...

      August 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. FallingRock

    You know, if we further divide the sports into 110 meters, 120 meters, 130 meters...and with all the different combinations, MP could have won 80 medals in one game!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ObamaJoe

    Most fish can swim faster than him,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    August 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. avoiceinmyhead

    A track runner can get a lost of medals too if we have running-backwards (backstoke), running while flailing arms (butterfly), and whatever breast stoke is like. And we can have medley running too.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Herby20

      Men's running has only like 3 less events than Men's swimming. Part of Phelp's greatness is he can not only compete in so many different events, but he wins in them. Phelps has dominated the swimming world for a decade. You will need q better argument than "he has more chances."

      August 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Erik

    I think it's "If Michael Phelps Was a Country" because there's no possible way he could be one. Thus, taking it out of the subjunctive mood. Maybe an English expert can clarify for me?

    August 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Probably not.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • lbpauline

      As "there's no possible way he could be one" the form "If Michael Phelps were a country" is right. Despite the article is grammatically correct, it is kinda superficial (I want to be generous) and not funny.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rose Lord

    Michael Phelps is not a country. It's a ridiculous premise and the fact that he will probably make more money than the GNP of some countries is a sad statement, Where the hell are this societies priorities?

    August 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Baconbellie

    If Michael Phelps were a country, say...China, he would be ridiculed by the media and accused of being a doper by US and western media because he won the gold.

    August 1, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Herby20

      Umm, he was accused of sloping before. Get your facts straight.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
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