Phenomenal youngster Michael Phelps took over from Ian Thorpe as the No 1 swimmer in the world after one of the greatest Olympic performances of all time in Athens. Just 19, he won six gold and two bronze medals. If Michael Phelps had been a country, he would have finished higher in the medals table than Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Holland, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden.
He narrowly failed to emulate the achievement of Laureus World Sports Academy member Mark Spitz who won seven gold medals in Munich 32 years ago, but few doubt that here is a talent to match the great Spitz. Despite his young age and the media clamour in Athens, Phelps remained modest and focused.
His first gold came in the 400 metres individual medley in a world record time, which was followed by bronze medals in the 4 x 100 metres freestyle relay and the 200 metres freestyle. He returned to the gold standard in the 4 x 200 metres freestyle relay when he paced the Americans to victory, then won the 200 metres butterfly, the 100 metres butterfly and 200 metres individual medley.
Phelps greatest moment in Athens may have come out of the pool. Though he had qualified for the 4 x 100 metres medley relay final, he gave up his swim to teammate Ian Crocker as it was Crocker's last chance to win a gold. Crocker was nearly speechless with admiration when he learned the news. Phelps was in the stands cheering loudly as the Americans cruised to victory. Despite not swimming, Phelps was awarded his sixth gold for having swum in the heats..