OCEAN CITY, Md. – American Olympian and competitive swimmer Michael Phelps received a hero’s welcome during a celebration in his hometown of Towson, Maryland, on Wednesday. Hours before, the thirty-one year-old Phelps swam ashore on the sandy beaches of Ocean City after completing a record-breaking 5,281 mile swim from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, home of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“It was a piece of cake,” Phelps told ESPN’s Kevin Van Walkenburg. The senior sports writer has documented Phelps’ career for more than a decade and followed the swimmer by jet ski during the final four miles of his historic swim back to the United States. “He was graceful; it was like watching a robust swan,” Walkenburg said, adding that Phelps completed more than eighty percent of the one hundred twenty-hour journey while performing the Butterfly stroke.
Phelps, who has won a career total twenty-eight Olympic medals – twenty-three of which are gold – plunged into the waters off the coast of Rio de Janeiro Saturday afternoon wearing only a Speedo, a Camelbak hydration backpack, and two waterproof tachymeters. “I always carry at least one spare,” Phelps explained, adding that on average he spends three and a half hours a day documenting his stats.
Michael Phelps said he made the noble decision to swim back to the United States rather than fly because he wanted to prove to the world – and himself – that he could. “That and I felt I deserved some me time,” the swimmer said with a laugh. Phelps described the swim as a “relaxing experience” and said he was able to maintain a steady speed of thirty-seven knots, or about forty-two miles per hour, for most of the journey.
Phelps took home five gold medals and one silver in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. To top it off, the most decorated Olympian in history broke a 2,168 year-old Olympic record by winning the most individual gold medals of any athlete since 152 B.C.