Michael Phelps Just Tied Leonidas’ 2,168 Year Old Olympic Record

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Just how legendary is Michael Phelps? Pretty legendary. In addition to becoming the oldest swimmer to win an individual swimming gold medal (Phelps is up to three total golds this Olympics), Phelps has also just tied a record that has stood for over two millennia.

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According to a DeadSpin Report:

Another two golds last night for Michael Phelps, the most decorated American Olympian ever: That makes 21 gold medals in his career, 25 medals overall, and with his win in the 200m butterfly—a particularly personal win, given his loss in that event four years ago—Phelps now has 12 individual wins to bring him into a tie with the late, great Leonidas of Rhodes.

Olympic historian Bill Mallon pulled out this beauty of a factoid, and there’s no reason to doubt it: the IOC is good at keeping stats and the Classical and Hellenistic-era Greeks weren’t bad either. Leonidas of Rhodes was a sprinter, apparently one of the best who ever lived, according to the mostly complete Olympic records first compiled by Hippias of Elas and updated and revised by later scholars.

According to the Leonidas of Rhodes (not to be confused with Leonidas of Sparta) Wikipedia page:

Leonidas of Rhodes (Ancient Greek: Λεωνίδας; born 188 BCE) was one of the most famous Olympic runners. He is acclaimed as the greatest sprinter of all time. Competing in the Olympic Games of 164 BCE, he captured the crown in three separate foot races — the stadion, the diaulos, and the hoplitodromos. He repeated this feat in the next three subsequent Olympics, in 160 BCE, in 156 BCE, and finally in 152 BCE at the age of 36. Leonidas’s lifetime record of twelve Olympic crowns was unmatched in the ancient world. Michael Phelps tied the record for most individual Olympic titles after his win in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Leonidas was renowned not only for his unsurpassed number of victories but for his versatility as a runner. His favored races required speed and strength in differing degrees; the stadion and the diaulos, 200-yard and 400-yard races respectively, were best suited to sprinters, while the hoplitodromos, a diaulos performed with bronze armor and shield, required more muscular strength and endurance. Philostratus the Athenian wrote in his Gymnastikos that Leonidas’s versatility made all previous theories of runners’ training and body types obsolete.

Here is a video of one of the races from this Olympics that helped Phelps break the 2,000+ year old record.