US Olympic Swimming: The 10 Major Moments in Michael Phelps' Career

Blake DorfmanFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2012

US Olympic Swimming: The 10 Major Moments in Michael Phelps' Career

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    He's the most dominant Olympian of all time and, perhaps, the most dominant athlete of all time.

    Michael Phelps is going to win more gold medals in London and bring his career total to an untouchable amount. While his career has been mostly unstoppable, there have been a few slip-ups.

    Here are the most memorable moments in Phelps' career...

10. 2012 Trials: Out-Dueling Lochte in Omaha

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    This one's a fresh memory, and it's a significant moment for Phelps because it sent a message to the world:

    I'm back for more.

    While Phelps won't try for eight more medals in London, he qualified for all of them and beat rival Ryan Lochte in three of four head-to-head events. Lochte had been the better swimmer over the past two years, but Phelps showed he is still the man to beat when he enters British waters.

9. DUI: 19-Year-Old Phelps Busted Behind the Wheel

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    The first major slip-up for swimming's golden boy came in 2004, when he blew a stop sign and was caught driving drunk at the age of 19.

    Phelps apologized profusely and seemed genuinely remorseful for the incident, but it garnered a lot of attention just a few months after winning six gold medals in Athens.

8. Barely Edging Crocker: Winning by .04 Seconds in Athens 100 Fly

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    Teammate Ian Crocker was the world-record holder in the 100-meter butterfly heading into the 2004 Athens Olympics, but the teenage Phelps surged back and touched the wall ahead of him by four-hundredths of a second to set a then-Olympic record at 51.25 seconds.

    He would go on to shatter that record in Beijing four years later.

7. First Gold Medal: WR in Athens 400 IM

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    Phelps took a big bite to get his first taste of gold.

    He dominated the 400-meter individual medley in Athens by setting a world record at 4:08.26 to win his first Olympic event. He's won 13 since and isn't done.

6. Selflessness: Giving Up Spot to Crocker in Athens 4x100 Relay

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    Phelps didn't swim in the final of the 4x100 medley relay in Athens, but it was still one of his greatest moments.

    After swimming in the prelims, the 19-year-old gave up his spot to elder Ian Crocker. The team won, and it ended up being Crocker's only career gold medal. Phelps received a medal for swimming in the prelims, but his willingness to share the spotlight showed admirable selflessness.

5. Bong-Gate: Photo Leaks of Phelps Hitting the Peace Pipe

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    If you're one of the most high-profile athletes in the world, how on earth do you let someone sneak a picture of you puffing the magic dragon?

    In 2009, a photo leaked of Phelps toking on an impressively hefty-looking bong. It led to a three month suspension from USA Swimming and the loss of an endorsement deal with Kellogg's.

    Random thought: How much do you think that bong would sell for at auction? It would be quite a piece of sports memorabilia.

4. Blind Man: World Record in 200 Fly Despite Goggle Malfunction

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    If you thought Michael Jordan hitting an eyes-closed free throw was cool, you must love this one.

    Phelps' goggles filled with water, and he was left blind for the last half of the 100-meter butterfly in Beijing. He didn't panic, however, and set a world record anyway. They wouldn't be as valuable a souvenir as the bong, but Phelps could certainly raise some money for his foundation by auctioning off those goggles (if he still has them). 

3. Eight Is Enough: 4x100 Medley Relay in Beijing

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    Phelps' record-setting eighth gold medal in Beijing came with a world record performance by the American 4x100 medley relay team. They were in control the whole way, and the swimming world could stop holding its breath after two weeks of thrilling dominance during the greatest Olympic performance ever. 

2. Narrowest of Wins: .01 Second Win over Cavic in Beijing

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    History really can be made in the blink of an eye.

    Phelps was .01 of a second away from losing his quest for eight gold medals in Beijing. In the closest of close races, Phelps edged Milorad Cavic of Serbia in the Water Cube to win the 100-meter butterfly. 

1. Saving the Day: Lezak's Epic Finish Wins Relay

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    "I just don't think they can do it, Dan," said Rowdy Gaines.

    No one expected Jason Lezak to be the savior. The aging veteran turned in the most thrilling relay leg in Olympic history in the 4x100 freestyle in Beijing, coming from behind for a fastest-ever 46 seconds to beat the French. It saved Phelps' run at eight golds and touched off a wild celebration on the pool deck.

    Like stories of superhuman strength when trying to lift a car off of someone, or like Kirk Gibson simply willing himself to hit his home run in '88, Lezak found an extra gear and etched his name in history.

    "I never lost hope," said Lezak (via ESPN). "I don't know how I was able to take it back that fast, because I've never been able to come anywhere near that for the last 50."