As the winner of eight medals Phelps belongs to an even smaller class, the only other member of which is Alexander Dityatin, a Soviet gymnast who won three golds, four silvers and a bronze at the boycotted 1980 Olympics. "There's nobody in the last 20 years, in any sport, who can say they did what Michael did this week," says Reese. "He was born to swim, and he has great talent, great versatility and great resiliency. And he does the hardest workouts in the world. You don't beat that combination until he retires."
Don't expect that to happen soon. When his sixth gold medal finally reaches him via mail, several weeks hence, Phelps will certainly be in the pool, already thinking about making another run at Spitz's record seven golds in Beijing.