It’s no secret that Michael Phelps is one of the most competitive and decorated athletes in the history of sport.

The “Baltimore Bullet” started his hunt for Olympic glory at the mere age of 15, managing even to finish 5th in the 200-meters butterfly finals, and finished his career holding multiple records, including the highest number of medals won in the Olympic Games (28), gold medals as a single competitor (13), and gold medals in single Olympics event (8).

In the 2004 Athens games he was set for the first time to beat or tie Mark Spitz’s record of 7 gold medals in a single edition of the Olympics, Munich 1972.

He managed to get 6, still an impressive number, but one of those gold medals, precisely the 4x100m medley, in which he competed only in the heats, still has a special taste.

On August 20th 2004, in a breathtaking final for the 100m butterfly, Phelps won his 5th gold medal by beating his US team mate Ian Crocker by a mere 0.04 seconds. While his dreams of tying Spitz’s record were already gone, he automatically earned the chance to swim the butterfly round for the final of the 4x100m medley for his team.

With a gesture of human touch and sportsmanship, Phelps renounced to his slot in the medley, giving it up to Crocker providing him with a chance to taste gold in the Athens Olympics.

On one hand, it was due to common sense: Phelps and Crocker were just a handful of instants away from each other in the final, Crocker had a much better take-off and proved multiple times he could compete at the same level of the “Flying Fish”.

On the other hand, Phelps was dying to swim that final, and decided to give Crocker a chance for redemption as the soft-spoken Maine native previously swam a terrible first leg of the 400m freestyle relay, making it extra-difficult for his teammates to manage to get the bronze medal, and failed at qualifying for the semifinals of the 100m freestyle.

“He wasn’t feeling too well and deserved another chance” said Phelps about his decision to give up his slot in the finals to Crocker. Crocker, equally shocked yet honored of the chance his co-national gave him, went on to win the gold medal in the 4x100m medley with the US team. Phelps received a gold medal as well for his participation in the heats, but what stands was his gesture of care towards his teammate.

“We came in as a team, we will go away as a team” stated the Baltimore Bullet, giving to the records an off-competition moment to be forever remembered.



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