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Michael Phelps: 2008 Sportsman of the Year

The 23-year-old American from Baltimore, Maryland won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, China. He became the first person to win that many gold medals in any Olympic sport ever.

Phelps won gold in the 400-meter individual medley, 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter butterfly, the 4x100-meter freestyle, 4x200-meter freestyle and 4x100-meter medley.

“Dream as big as you can dream, and anything is possible,” says Phelps.

"To this day I'm not sure the magnitude of what happened over there has hit me.”

Maybe that will change when he sees himself plastered all over the most famous magazine in all of sports.

“Michael Phelps as the 2008 Sportsman of the Year was the easiest choice I have made," says Sports Illustrated Editor Terry McDonell. "Look at what he did in Beijing last summer. I was there. I saw him race after race, win again and again - we all saw that. And then to know him now -- it is so obvious that he changed not only swimming, but also the entire Olympic landscape."

By being named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Phelps becomes the first swimmer ever to achieve the honor. Other athletes who have gotten the award in the last 55 years include golfer Tiger Woods, boxer Muhammad Ali, cyclist Lance Armstrong and basketball player Michael Jordan.

Nicknamed “the Baltimore Bullet” when he was a kid, Phelps was dubbed “the Flying Fish” by the Chinese during his historic accomplishment.

All of his success has us wondering, is Phelps a real life aquaman? Well at 6’4” and 185 pounds he’s definitely more shark than guppy but considering how fast he swims, he definitely has to be at least part fish.

“He’s a water creature,” says his coach Bob Bowman. “You don’t want him on land.”

His competitors don’t quite know what to make of Phelps. "He may be human but he's from a different planet," says Russian swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov. "A different galaxy."

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