Michael Phelps Poses With All 23 Gold Medals on Sports Illustrated Cover

Photo Courtesy: Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated today debuts its exclusive new cover featuring U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps wearing all 23 of his record-setting gold medals with a cover line that calls him, “The Greatest Olympian of All Time.” The new cover shot marks the first time Phelps has been photographed wearing all of the record-setting hardware at once. SI senior writer Tim Layden spent time with Phelps for an in-depth cover profile of the greatest Olympian ever as he goes out on top after a historic career and an amazing year in sports and looks forward to his next chapter. For the piece, SI also spoke to those close to him including his wife Nicole Phelps, longtime coach Bob Bowman, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, Clippers guard Chris Paul, mother Debbie Phelps and more as each weigh in on his legacy and the possibility of his return for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.


Photo Courtesy: Sports Illustrated

See the new cover and read Tim Layden’s new cover story now: on.si.com/2h7zuWO 

This is the 12th time that Phelps has been featured on the cover of SI and the third time this year. In an exclusive for Sports Illustrated, Phelps was photographed by Simon Bruty wearing his record-setting accomplishments of 23 gold medals and 28 total medals (total weight: 18 lbs., 4 oz.) accumulated over his storied career. Watch behind-the-scenes video and check out a photo gallery from the SI shoot with Michael Phelps on SI.com and on SI’s twitter and Facebook channels.


On the possibility of returning to the Olympics, Phelps tells SI: “I could probably go four more years… But could I put in the true, honest hard work? Probably. But I have so many other things going… And there’s no reason. I’m tapping out. I’m closing. I’m done.”

On what he’ll miss most: “The hardest thing is going to be not having the chance to represent my country. Not having the chance to stand on the medal platform and hear the national anthem… I’m at peace with how things ended. I’d rather have a healthy body in 20 years than kill myself more now. To me, it’s a no-brainer.”

Kevin Plank, CEO of Under ­Armour, which signed Phelps to a five-year deal in 2015 says of a possible return: “Tokyo is going to be a great Olympics. He said he was retiring after London, when he was 27, with the lung capacity of a great white shark. You can bet I’m going to be nudging him as best I can for the next four years. I think he believes he is retired now. Three years is a long time to rest.”  On Phelps’ future with the company headquartered in his hometown of Baltimore: “I’ll say this, the role Michael will serve with us won’t be ceremonial.”

Phelps says that LA Clippers guard Chris Paul thinks his son will push him to continue swimming: “I played golf with Chris Paul in September. He didn’t go to Rio, and he told me, ‘Wait until your son is old enough and he says, ‘Daddy, why aren’t you out there?’” Chris Paul predicts to SI: “He’s going to get that edge again. He’s too competitive.”

Nicole Phelps says of a potential return to swimming: “I see that being the only thing that could bring him back—to swim for [his son] Boomer.”

Phelps’ longtime coach Bob Bowman tells SI: “I was certain he wouldn’t come back after London because he hated it so much. This time I’m certain he won’t come back because he loved it so much.”

Phelps talks to SI about how he envisions his MP brand of racing swimwear as a competitor to Arena and Speedo: “In a dream world … I would love to get Katie Ledecky [signed].”

On how his role changed at the 2016 Rio Olympics compared to his previous appearances: “I was never a leader, I was never even really there … This time I was part of the team.”

Watch “Behind The Scenes” footage of the making of Phelps’ 12th cover:


  1. Linda Engledow

    Awesome! A true American Olympian.

  2. avatar
    Bill Bell

    Stay retired, Michael.

    Make Boomer your focus and get him ready for the 2016 Olympics in…Baltimore?

  3. Maric Tse

    The only person can pull off so much gold without being tacky

  4. Michelle White

    He is truly the greatest athlete of our time and it will be decades before anyone will come close to what he has accomplished-if ever!?????

  5. Matt Coward

    Laura McDonnell

  6. Dave Askew

    He’ll b back…..I hope. ..

    • Marilyn Marchment

      that will be so heavy for isabella – she can do it!! xo

  7. avatar
    Chuck Kroll

    I want a lifesize poster to go with my Mark Spitz poster from ’72!

  8. Clare Higgins

    Just as well he’s strong! Lesser mortals would tip over ????

  9. Stacy Owens Bishop

    I’ve met him. Not so nice but DAMN – hell of a swimmer. He is the GOAT!!