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Marylander of the Year finalists: Michael Phelps

The human fish from Rodgers Forge was not supposed to be the star of the 2012 London Olympics. American Ryan Lochte was expected to break out of Michael Phelps' shadow, and in the run-up to the games, one of Mr. Phelps' other teammates publicly criticized his work ethic. And when the games began, it looked like the doubters might be right. After his stunning, eight-gold-medal performance in Beijing in 2008, Michael Phelps looked flat and listless in his first final of the Games, the 400 individual medley, an event he had once dominated. He finished fourth, out of the medals for the first time in any Olympic event he had entered since 2000.

Mr. Phelps came into the Games just three medals shy of the all-time Olympic record, held for 48 years by Soviet-era gymnast Larisa Latynina. And for a moment, it looked like he might not make it.

Things looked up for Mr. Phelps, if not the Americans, when he turned in the fastest time on his team in the 400-meter freestyle relay as part of a silver medal performance. He came up silver again by barely losing what had once been his signature event, the 200-meter butterfly. An hour later, he struck gold for the first time in these Games -- and took the all-time medal record -- by anchoring the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. Two days later, he took another gold, in the 200-meter individual medley, becoming the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics. He capped it off with another gold, swimming the butterfly leg of the 400-meter medley relay.

The final tally over four Olympics: 22 medals, 18 gold.

Rich Lowitz of Owings Mills suggests not just recognition from this newspaper but a statute in the Inner Harbor: "We've watched Michael grow from a gangly 15-year-old Olympic rookie into a 27-year-old Olympic champion. We've been honored to watch his amazing growth and transformation. As with all youngsters, it hasn't always been perfect, but it's as close to perfection as anyone has ever gotten. And in the end, he's our boy. This great athlete deserves our permanent recognition for his singular achievement."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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