Congratulations Phelps fans! Michael Phelps is the most decorated olympian of all time. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you to enjoy it while it lasts. Another American swimmer is coming for the record. I’m not talking about Ryan Lochte. No, the potential future record-holder is a bit younger than him. In fact, she’s not exactly preparing for breaking the record, but instead she’s getting ready for her senior year in high school.
That’s right. Missy Franklin is the future ‘most decorated olympian.’ Or at least she has the potential to be. Franklin is just 17 years old and already she has four gold medals and one bronze on her resume.
Now, I know the numbers. Phelps won eight medals in 2004, when he was just 19 years old. So Franklin is behind pace by a few medals. But the one thing working in her favor, as far as this record goes, is the retirement from the sport that Phelps has planned after these olympic games. If he sticks to that, Phelps will be retiring with 18 career gold medals and 22 medals overall.
So let’s do the math. Franklin has five medals through just one trip to the olympics and she is 17 years old. She will be 21 years old for her next olympic games. If she can keep winning at the pace that she has set, she will need five trips to the olympics in order to pass Phelps. In that fifth trip, Franklin would be 33 years old. While it’s not common for swimmers to participate at that age, it’s also not crazy to think that she would. Phelps’ teammate Jason Lezack participated in this years games at age 36.
And it’s also not crazy to think that she can not only keep up that pace, but exceed it. Very rarely do athletes reach their full potential at the age of 17. She’s only going to get better.
Some may raise the question, ‘what’s keeping her from an early retirement like Phelps?’ To that I would answer with my own question, ‘have you seen an interview with her?’ She is having the time of her life. It is clear that she loves the sport, loves being at the olympics, and loves being a part of this team. Not to mention, she handles herself better in front of a camera than most professional athletes that have years of experience. She is destined to be in the spotlight for this sport for years to come.
This is not meant to be a knock on Phelps, or to downplay his achievements. What he has done over the last 12 years has been nothing short of spectacular. He is responsible for putting swimming in the spotlight for the past three olympic games. He is an absolute legend of the sport.
And this theory of a new record holder, of course, all goes out the window if Phelps doesn’t stick to his retirement plans and decides to take a trip to Rio in 2016. If he keeps it going at the level that he performs at, this record will be his for a long time. But, if he does retire and Franklin keeps it going for as long as she can, it will be interesting to see who holds this record in 2028.