23 Gold Medals: Is Michael Phelps an Outlier?

By Charles Rettner

Since the start of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, about one person in 2 million has won an Olympic gold medal. Michael Phelps now has 23 of them — more than double the number of gold medals won by any other individual in the history of the games.

This achievement seems superhuman, but just how out-of-the-ordinary is Phelps?

To find out, we can turn to a simple law of statistics. This basic math shows that Phelps’ gold-medal count is so sky-high, it wouldn’t have been predicted to occur, at least not for another 250 years.

In the natural world, it has long been recognized that phenomena that vary over a wide range of values follow a remarkably simple pattern. Considering the size of earthquakes, for example, we know that there are numerous small temblors every day, with larger quakes being increasingly rare. Similarly, the size of meteor strikes, terrorist attacks and even the popularity of different websites follow a pattern where the biggest numbers rapidly become increasingly scarce. The amazing thing about these seemingly random events is that their rarity or frequency follows what is known as a power law distribution, a simple mathematical form that gives a straight line graph when plotted in a certain way. Even the popularity of words used in the English language follows such a “rule.”

So what does this have to do with Phelps and the list of multiple-gold-medal winners? A plot of the individuals who have won different numbers of gold medals in this way reveals this same power law distribution. Though nearly 6,000 people have won a single gold medal, fewer than 200 have won exactly three, and only four have won nine gold medals during their Olympic careers. Phelps is the only athlete to reach double figures.

A graph of the logarithm of both the number of people and the number of medals yields a relatively straight line — except for the 23 held by Phelps. That number is far to the right of the line, meaning that the number of medals is much greater than expected. In fact, the line crosses the “one individual” level at about 14, which would be about what we might expect based only on the medal counts of all other individuals.

Exactly how special is Phelps’ achievement? The graph suggests we’d need to wait until almost five times as many medals have been awarded before we would reasonably expect someone to reach a total of 23. At the present rate of about 100 gold medals per year (average of Summer Games and Winter Games), we would need to wait about another 250 years to reach this mark — beyond 2260!

Graph of the number of individuals winning different numbers of gold medals. Here, both axes are what is called logarithmic. In such a "log-log" plot, many natural phenomena are known to follow a straight line, as we see here. The line crosses the level for one individual at about 14 medals, which is what we would predict based on this plot. Phelps' 23 medals correspond to about "0.2 of an individual," implying that we should expect to wait until almost five times as many medals have been awarded before one whole individual reaches this mark, roughly in the year 2260. Credit: Charles Rettner
Graph of the number of individuals winning different numbers of gold medals. Here, both axes are what is called logarithmic. In such a “log-log” plot, many natural phenomena are known to follow a straight line, as we see here. The line crosses the level for one individual at about 14 medals, which is what we would predict based on this plot. Phelps’ 23 medals correspond to about “0.2 of an individual,” implying that we should expect to wait until almost five times as many medals have been awarded before one whole individual reaches this mark, roughly in the year 2260.
Credit: Charles Rettner

If anyone ever matches or surpasses Phelps’ haul, they will most likely come from swimming or gymnastics, where the structure of the competition is more favorable to multiple winners. In fact, 10 of the 17 athletes who have won seven or more gold medals were either gymnasts or swimmers. In team sports such as soccer, one medal per Olympiad is all that is possible, while even in track and field, four medals in a single Olympics is a practical maximum, with Carl Lewis leading the pack with nine gold medals over four Olympics.

Usain Bolt at Rio 2016: When is the 200m final and can the Jamaican break his world record?


Usain Bolt’s unique Olympic Games ‘triple triple’ bid began with 100m victory. Next up is the 200m

When is Usain Bolt running the 200m at Rio 2016?

The fastest man in the world, who holds the world record in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay and won gold in all of those events at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, is attempting to pull off an unprecedented ‘triple triple’. If he achieves this feat, he will cement his name as the greatest sprinter in history.

Bolt from the blue: The Jamaican wins again in Rio (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Bolt from the blue: The Jamaican wins again in Rio (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Bolt got completed the first part of the bid with a win in the 100m on Sunday (14 August) in a time of 9.81 seconds. USA’s Justin Gatlin won silver and Canadian Andre de Grasse came third.

His 200m heats begin on Tuesday 16 August at 11.50am. He has hinted at a world record attempt. Has he recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained earlier in the year?

Can Bolt dip below the 19-second barrier? The answer will come on Thursday 18 August. “I think if I can get a good night’s rest after the semi-finals, it’s possible,” Bolt said. “I’m going to leave it all on the track and do the best I possibly can,” he added.

Bolt faces stiff competition

Bolt has repeatedly said he wants to be the first man to dip under 19 seconds for the 200m but his fastest time this year is 19.89sec, set at the London Anniversary Games last month.

Four runners have gone quicker than Bolt over the distance this season. Heading the list is LaShawn Merritt of the USA, who shocked the athletics community with an incredible 19.74 earlier this year at the US Olympic trials in Eugene on 8 July. He has also clocked under 19.80 three times already in 2016.

100m silver medallist Justin Gatlin clocked 19.75 last month. The closest Bolt has come to his 2009 record is the 19.32 four years ago when he won the gold at the London 2012 Olympics Games.

 (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
(Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Usain Bolt’s 200m timings

200m first round: Tues, 16 August 11.50am
200m semi-final: Wed, 17 August 10pm
200m final: Thu, 18 August 10.30pm

Bolt has been preparing in style

Natural showman Bolt perhaps holds the record for the only person to turn a press conference into a samba show.


Usain Bolt is all over social media

So now you are covered for Bolt’s activity on the track. For his activities off it, he is also prolific on social media and as you can imagine, his posts are as entertaining as he is. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter,and for his most up-to-the-minute activity, be sure to follow him on Snapchat too.

Michael Phelps super-fan gets ‘death stare face’ meme tattoo on leg


Michael Phelps fan has celebrated his Olympic achievements by getting the swimmer’s face tattooed on his leg.

The American’s angry face was turned into a hashtag and meme after he was spotted glancing angrily at his South African rival Chad le Clos, who was shadowboxing in front of him, before their 200m butterfly semi-final.

Tattoo artist Livia Tsang posted the tattoo of his scowling pre-game face on Instagram with the caption: “And then my boss let me tattoo Michael Phelps on him. #phelpsface.”

Speaking to TIME, she revealed that her boss is Ricky Fung, co-founder at Chronic Ink Tattoos in Toronto, who is a huge Phelps fan.


“He’s first and foremost a big Phelps fan, but also because of his work ethic and perseverance,” she explained.

She added: “When we chose the image, we had a bit of a laugh about it, but he told me that he wanted it because it showed his moment of focus before the race.”

Michael Phelps Reveals Whether Baby Boomer Weighs More Than His 28 Olympic Medals


The Rio Games will definitely be something Michael Phelps will never forget.

Not only did the Olympic swimmer continue to slaughter world records and become an athlete who’s made history with 28 Olympic medals (!), but the 31-year-old human fish was also rooted on by one very special admirer in the stands—his baby son Boomer.

The proud dad’s little one continuously watched as his father gained one gold after another, making viewers gush over their cuteness. And it’s something Phelps will cherish for the rest of his life.

David Ramos/Getty Images
David Ramos/Getty Images

“This is the best Olympics. Being able to have my first child be able to watch me swim and be there, he may not be able to understand really what’s going on, but just being able to have his presence here and know that he’s always up in the stands,” he told E! News exclusively while at Rio.

“It was something different and something very special. Before my last race, I have my white shoes that I wear out to every final, and inside the left shoe is his footprint. So every time I would put it on, I would see his footprint. And right before the last time I went out, I saw his footprint and I pretty much started crying because it was my last race and I was happy he was able to make it out for it.”


So we had to wonder: What weighs more? Boomer or all of those medals Michael has won? “The medals might weigh more all together,” he tells us. “Boomer’s probably 16 or 17 pounds.”

Additionally, Phelps tells us that if his son chooses to take on the Olympics one day, he has his dad’s blessing to participate in any sport he wants. “Whatever he wants. That’s something I was very fortunate. My mother, as a kid, I played baseball, lacrosse, soccer and swim. She kinda let me pick which sports I wanted to play. She was never pushy on one particular sport. So once I made the decision to stick with swimming, she was supportive of that, and I think that’s howNicole [Johnson] and I will be with him.”

The Olympian has already announced that he will not be returning to the Olympics after the Rio Games, and has officially hung up his suit for a tux, as he and Johnson continue to plan their upcoming wedding.


“Planning a wedding has been challenging the last couple of months. We’ve tried to get everything in order before Rio started. I know Nicole has been working very hard when I’ve been traveling, but she’s asked for a lot of input and I’ve kinda given her free reign to make the wedding exactly how he wants.”

Phelps capped off his final Rio competition with a gold-medal earning performance in the 400-meter medley relay. He will take home five gold medals and one silver when he heads back to the U.S., leaving behind a legacy as the greatest swimmers in the world, and earning 23 gold Olympic medals in his career.

Usain Bolt blames ‘really stupid’ schedule for slow 100m Olympic final

By: Vicki Hall

RIO DE JANEIRO — Usain Bolt is the fastest man alive and the only man ever to win three Olympic gold medals in the 100 metres.

But the Jamaican superstar felt a tad, um, sluggish in the final Sunday at Olympic stadium despite breezing to victory in 9.81 seconds over American Justin Gatlin (9.89) and Canadian Andre De Grasse (9.91 seconds).

Turns out even superheroes need their rest, and Bolt needs more than 80 minutes to recover from running an Olympic semifinal.

“It was very hard to run fast because the turnaround time was really, really, really short,” Bolt told a packed news conference in the wee hours of Monday morning. “It was ridiculous as far as I am concerned, because I felt so good in the semifinals.”

So for me, it was really stupid

He looked good in the semi, too, cruising over the line at 9.86 seconds with time to look around and laugh at the rest of the field.

“It was like, ‘Yo, I probably could run a fast time, but by the time you get back to the warm-up area and start warming up again, it’s time to go back out,” Bolt said. “So for me, it was really stupid.”

Stupid and, by his standards, more of a stroll.

“That is why the race is slow,” said Bolt, who owns the world record of 9.58 seconds. “There is no way you can run and go back around and run fast times again. It was hard for us.”

According to the 34-year-old Gatlin, fatigue also played a role in his race.

“I was tired going into the final, so I was just focusing on myself,” he said “It was such a quick turn around. We only had 30 minutes.”

Track athletes aren’t the only ones to complain about odd scheduling at the Rio Olympics; athletes from handball, volleyball and swimming also have spoken out about the challenges of playing early in the morning or very late at night.

“It’s a bit tough to stuff yourself with pasta and tomato sauce at half-past six in the morning,” Swedish handball player Isabelle Gullden said of preparing for a 9:30 a.m. game. “For me that was my breakfast and it was not nice, the mouth twitched a bit.”

Spanish swimmer Mireia Belmonte Garcia said she wasn’t able to go to bed until 4 a.m. after winning the women’s 200-metre butterfly last week, which made it difficult to compete early the next day. The swimming finals didn’t finish until after midnight, then athletes had to do interviews, take part in a medal ceremony and go through doping control. Swimming heats started at 1 p.m. the next day.

“It’s strange because always we swim at 4, 5 in the afternoon. And now we have to swim at 10, 11 at night. It’s a strange life.”

Usain Bolt: the human race’s ultimate speed freak

Following his moment of crowning glory in the Rio Olympics 100m final, the Jamaican sprinter is now out on his own.

Usain Bolt produced a moment of human ultimacy in Rio on Sunday night, pulling himself up to his full thrilling height in the final few strides of the 100m to claim an unprecedented third Olympic gold medal in his final Games.

It was a moment to garland even this preternatural athletic career, the photo-finish snapshot showing every other runner in the field leaning forward at the line, straining towards the lone upright figure out front like a beautifully constructed classical frieze. Bolt didn’t ease off as he took the gold, instead pumping his chest with what looked less like joy, more a pure competitive rage, veering away across the royal-blue Olympic track pursued by photographers, cameras, stewards, the eyes of the world.

This was in many ways Peak Bolt, the last Olympic appearance in the ultimate event for the human race’s ultimate speed freak. Bolt is now out on his own, buffered by the clear blue water of an unheard-of third straight Olympic gold. All high-end sport involves a drive towards some vision of perfection, just as the 100m is in effect the search for 45 perfect strides, or 41 if you happen to be a 6ft 5in (195cm) Jamaican uber-athlete.

A photo-finish freezeframe of the Olympic 100m final in Rio, with Bolt upright and out in front. Photograph: Handout/Reuters
A photo-finish freezeframe of the Olympic 100m final in Rio, with Bolt upright and out in front. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Never mind the eternal struggle with his start, the technical snags and clogs presented by his own height, Bolt can now justifiably be called the greatest speed athlete ever, the closest to a loose, rangy kind of completeness.

From here those who come will always strain towards him, always chasing that lone upright figure out in front. True to form Bolt was utterly captivating not just during, but before and after the race as he waved and posed and horsed around with the mascot, the flags, and pretty much anyone who asked.

This is a Games to drink in every last one of these Bolt-isms, to suck the sweetness from the brilliant fluke of having such an uplifting, utterly cloudless all-time champion among us. The contrast between the flowing brutality of Bolt on the track and his good humour, star sheen and general ditzy sense of fun has been as striking as ever in Rio.

Nobody in any sport has ever made being this good and this ruthless look so soft, so recognisably human. And yet for all that it wouldn’t be an Olympic 100m final without some lingering questions.

One of these has at least been answered. We can now say Rio 2016 will not at any stage fill its Olympic stadium. If they won’t come for Bolt they won’t come at all. Here the stands of the made-over Botafogo football stadium were three-quarters full. A patchwork of blue plastic seating could still be seen even as the stadium cracked and swooned on a muggy, oppressive night in Rio, leant a thrilling skein of Olympic authenticity by the presence in the wings of the most captivating athlete of his generation.

As the 100m men emerged for the final act of the night, the air seemed to disappear out of this grand concrete bowl. The American Justin Gatlin, billed without nuance or sympathy as a kind of anti-Bolt, a convenient super-villain for the wider audience, drew some graceless boos from the crowd.

 Bolt acknowledges some people in the crowd after his win. Photograph: Xinhua / Barcroft Images
Bolt acknowledges some people in the crowd after his win. Photograph: Xinhua / Barcroft Images

Bolt was was greeted with a white noise of adulation, the right man in the right place at the right moment, here to compact his own entire hidden backstory of grind and guts and sweat and anxiety into nine seconds of legacy-minting sporting history. No pressure, then, Usain.


Gatlin sucked his gums as his name was called. Yohann Blake, Bolt’s training partner, prayed pointedly. Bolt smiled and reeled off a dutiful twirl move or two, all part of the dance of intimidation.

Nervous? No, you? Gatlin was up first, legs spread, pumping away in the familiar supercharged twerk of his start. Bolt’s start was the usual compromise with his physique, resembling as ever a startled Tyrannosaurus Rex scrabbling up out a reed bed in pursuit of a passing squadron of raptors. Bolt’s start has always been a problem. Bolt has always been a problem. He will remain one even in leonine Olympic retirement. The problem with Bolt is simply how good he is.

There remains a basic spasm of accommodation in absorbing and processing such exceptionalism in a sport where history assures us even touching greatness – one or two fine exceptions aside – is to emerge somewhere down the line as tainted, boosted, chemical-fed. Of the 30 fastest 100m times ever, nine – including the top three – are by Bolt. The other 21 were run by athletes who have tested positive at some point for doping. In terms of clean speed the order goes: Bolt fresh air, more fresh air, the rest of the human race. What are we supposed to make of this surplus brilliance?

Here is an athlete who is not just better, but jaw-droppingly supreme even among dopes and cheats. The human brain struggles to process such anomalies. We seek the shortest grubbiest explanation. Bolt has never been touched by this. It is part of the tragedy of the sport, a beautifully pure thing made toxic, that even Bolt must carry this shadow with him at one remove.

Something else stood out in Bolt’s moment of crowning glory in Rio.

This was an old man’s race. Bolt turns 30 in a week. Gatlin, who took the silver is 34, the oldest man ever to get Olympic 100m gold or silver. Bolt and Gatlin together are the oldest top two in Olympic 100m podium history, and by some way on the overall spread. The bronze medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada is 13 years younger than Gatlin, but he finished a 10th of a second off the front. Beyond this there have been 55 sub-9.81 second runs in 100m history, but only Bolt and Gatlin have done it in the last four years. “Speed is the last excitement left, the one thing we haven’t used up,” Don DeLillo wrote in End Zone. But have we?

Even here there was a slight sense of greedy anti-climax that Bolt hadn’t produced one of his genuinely stunning times. In those oddly dreamy seconds mid-race as Bolt rolled himself up to his full height there was a feeling he would slip the gears and drive out of the pack.

It came in the end. Not perhaps with the insatiable surge of his real pomp, but with a kick of the turbo thirty metres out, nudging out in front and taking it by a margin of 0.08 seconds.

Cue delirium, and for Rio 2016 a very timely sense of genuine A-list event glamour. For Bolt next up is the 200m here, then another world championships next year, with the spectacle of a planned retirement in 2017. The paradox of his own mind-boggling greatness will rumble on at the fringes, an athlete who has defied not just all previous physical rules but the tawdriness of his own sport; and who will now leave these Games as an all-time talent fully realised.

By: Barney Ronay

Jeff Gordon’s return from retirement started with Rick Hendrick text

By: Jeff Gluck

INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Gordon was vacationing with his wife in the south of France when a text message from Rick Hendrick popped up on his phone.

“Call me,” it said.

Gordon turned to wife Ingrid Vandebosch and said, “Oh boy. Here we go.”

Though he had no clue why Hendrick wanted to speak, Gordon said he knew it must have been important. Once on the phone, Hendrick asked if the retired driver was going to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for any appearances.

The answer was yes – Gordon was supposed to drive the pace car at the Brickyard, which hadn’t been announced yet. But Hendrick said: “Well, you better bring your uniform.”

“You’re messing with me,” Gordon said. “I know you’re messing with me.”

Hendrick wasn’t. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. ailing with concussion-like symptoms, the team needed Gordon to come out of retirement for temporary fill-in duty and drive the No. 88 car.

Despite a storybook finish to his career, where Gordon made it all the way to the championship race in his final season, the driver who won all four of his Cup championships in the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick said he didn’t hesitate to accept the offer.

It wasn’t about him, he said; it was about helping an organization that had given him everything for 23 years and pitching in for former teammate Earnhardt.

“Honestly, I didn’t have to think twice about it (because of) … the way (Hendrick) has been there for me,” Gordon said. “I didn’t anticipate this. This is certainly the last thing that was going to happen.”

Gordon said he knew there would be challenges – hydration, fitness and potential rustiness being some of them. But the 44-year-old underwent intense preparation after returning from France on Tuesday night, poring over data and video from previous tests and driving on a high-tech simulator at General Motors’ facility near Charlotte.

Then there were the basics: Gordon had to get a physical – per NASCAR requirements – and apply for a driver credential (Gordon only had an owner credential through his role as co-owner of Hendrick’s No. 48 car).

Though he acknowledged it would be weird to drive against the No. 24 car, Gordon said he didn’t consider his legacy in deciding to return.

“Really, this is just me helping out the organization,” he said. “We will see what happens on Sunday.  If we are out there having fun, and put a good result  together, I can tell you what is in it for me is to make that team proud, and not let them down.”

How long might Gordon fill in for Earnhardt? He declined to speculate, but it will be at least through next week at Pocono Raceway.

Hendrick said Earnhardt came by the shop on Wednesday and “looks good.”

“He’s encouraged and he’s following the doctor’s orders,” Hendrick said. “He wants to get back in the car, he wants to race. The regimen they have him on will get him right for a long time. I can tell he’s getting antsy, but he’s going to do what they say.”

Earnhardt, who said on his podcast earlier this week he is struggling with balance issues and nausea, tweeted some good news Friday morning.

“Today is the 1st day in many that I sensed improvement,” Earnhardt wrote. “Seen small gains during my physical therapy as well. Light at the end of the tunnel.”

So can Gordon win at Indianapolis, which would extend his record of five victories at the track? Hendrick’s Jimmie Johnson said the biggest challenge for Gordon might be the communication with a team he’s never worked with.

“He is going to be fast, and competitive,” Johnson said. “But to really find that last little bit, I think is more in relationships and building those relationships in a hurry.

“Jeff has been away from this side of the garage area. He’s been out of the race car. He doesn’t know these crew guys and, as we all know, the relationships that exist between driver, crew chief and engineer is really where the speed lies.”

Interestingly enough, Indianapolis wasn’t the first time Gordon was asked to fill in for a driver this season. Gordon was asked to replace Tony Stewart in the Daytona 500, he said Friday, but had to decline due to his commitments as a Fox Sports analyst.

However, that would have required NASCAR to waive its rule that a driver who has ownership in a four-car team cannot race for another organization (which would be a violation of NASCAR’s four-car cap).