Michael Phelps has already become the most decorated Olympian ever, but there are still a couple records he hasn’t beaten yet. One of those just happens to be 2,168 years old.
On Tuesday night when Phelps took home another gold for the 200m butterfly, he tied Leonidas of Rhodes in the Original Greek Games in 152 BC for a record of 12 “successes” set.
What this means is that while Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in the modern era in terms of medals (21 gold, two silver, two bronze, and 25 total), it’s important to note nine of those medals have come as part of a relay team. Relay team medals were not a thing during the Olympics in the second century BC.
While Phelps has the modern record, he doesn’t have the overall record. As the Telegraph notes, as Leonidas of Rhodes is probably pointing out from his grave. The Greek athlete dominated in sprinting events during the ancient 154th, 155th, 156th, and 157th ancient Olympic games. Leonidas dominated in what was referred to as the Stadion and Diaulos races that are similar to today’s 200m and 400m sprints.
Leonidas won all three of those races at four consecutive Olympic games. Phelps meanwhile has won the same amount of events, but from the 2004 to the 2016 Olympics.
While Leonidas of Rhodes’ achievements are over 2,000 years old, they are recorded in history and incredible in their own right. Even if he may not have won those same events today with all the training that goes into a modern 200m sprint, Leonidas of Rhodes was a dominant athlete during his prime.
Anyway, Phelps has now tied Leonidas for the most individual medals in Olympics history after his gold during the 200m butterfly in Rio. Phelps can pass Leonidas however if he wins the gold during the Men’s 200m individual medley or the 100m butterfly.
If Phelps wins one more individual gold, he will be the most decorated Olympian of all-time, literally.