Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, has been named first ever winner of the Laureus Exceptional Achievement Award.
In August 2012 American swimmer Phelps made history in the Olympic Aquatic Centre in London when he won four gold and two silver medals to take his career total of medals won to 22 - made up of 18 gold, two silver and two bronze - four ahead of the next athlete, former Soviet Union gymnast Larisa Latynina.
London was the climax of a remarkable career for Phelps, during which he also beat the most famous Olympic record of them all, famously winning eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008 to surpass the long-standing record of seven gold medals at one Olympiad held by Laureus World Sports Academy Member Mark Spitz from Munich in 1972.
He was presented with the new Award by Laureus World Sports Academy Member Steve Redgrave the globally televised Awards Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro.The Laureus World Sports Awards are the premier honours on the international sporting calendar. The winners are chosen by the Laureus World Sports Academy, the ultimate sports jury, made up of 46 of the greatest living sportsmen and sportswomen.
After receiving the Laureus Statuette, Phelps said, “Wow. This is all a dream come true for me. I woke up with a dream as a kid to be the best that I could be, and to be able to win this award is amazing. To have the members of the Academy vote and give me this, I’m really at a loss for words.
“It has been an amazing career and it is crazy to think that it is over. But I’ve done everything that I wanted to do in sport. I wanted to change swimming and take it to a level, and I have. But I will continue to be a part of sport and help grow sports. That is a goal and a passion of mine.”
In London, Phelps, 27, also became the first man to win an Olympic swimming title at three Olympic Games – in both the 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley – and the most successful athlete in terms of medals won at three straight Olympic Games.