10 Greatest Olympian throwback photos
Back before they were stars and famous athletes, those who competed at the Olympics and won gold medals for their country were just aspiring dreamers. Maybe they one day wanted to win gold. Maybe they one day wanted to be like their hero. But they all had dreams and began training at an early age to achieve them.
We know what these successful athletes look like now, but let’s take a look at what they used to look like too.
1. Michael Phelps at age 15
Baltimore Sun photo 2000: Olympic "hopeful" @MichaelPhelps @baltimoresun pic.twitter.com/ivb1Aj7mRu
— Dan Rodricks (@DanRodricks) August 10, 2016
Michael Phelps was a mere Olympic “hopeful” from Baltimore when this photo was taken by the Baltimore Sun. That was before Phelps, 31, had even won his first Olympic medal.
Phelps went on to become the most decorated Olympian all-time with 28 medals, including 23 golds. His first Olympics experience came in 2000 when he was a member of the swimming team for the Summer Games in Sydney. He placed 5th in the 200m butterfly then. He went on to win three golds and a silver in the 200m fly event in future Olympics.
Phelps’ Olympics success includes 8 medals (six golds) in Athens; eight medals (all golds) in Beijing; six medals (four golds) in London; and six medals (five golds) in Rio.
As a bonus, here’s a June 2001 interview Phelps did with WJZ in Baltimore:
2. Simone Biles in 2004
My story began in Spring, Texas where I dreamed of being an elite athlete. @NIKE #JUSTDOIT pic.twitter.com/rgP4wmE43f
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) July 22, 2016
Here’s a throwback photo Biles shared on social media that appears to be from Christmas 2004, which would have made Biles around seven years old.
Who knew that Biles, just a dreamer at the time, would go on to become possibly the greatest gymnast ever? That’s how many are regarding her after she won five medals in Rio, including four golds. The 19-year-old Texan has won a total of 19 medals in both Olympics and world championships, making her the most decorated American gymnast ever.
Biles needs three medals at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo to surpass Shannon Miller for having the most Olympic medals in US gymnastics history.
3. Young Usain Bolt before he was an international sensation
Usain Bolt long ago established himself as the fastest man in the world and successfully defended that crown at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
The Jamaican sprinter, who is fast becoming one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, has won three gold medals in the same three events for three straight Olympics. He took home gold in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay in Beijing, London and now Rio.
Bolt is the world record holder in the 100m at 9.58; the 200m at 19.19; and he is part of the team that set the record in the 4x100m relay with a time of 36.84.
As great of a showman as he is a performer, Bolt will be missed at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo if he retires after the 2017 World Championships as he has said he will do.
4. Allyson Felix and LeBron James at the ESPYs in 2003
Allyson Felix and LeBron James were both teenagers when they took this photo at the 2003 ESPY awards where they were honored as the Gatorade National High School Athletes of the Year. LeBron went on to become the greatest basketball player in the world, while Felix went on to become one of the greatest female track and field athletes in Olympics history.
After taking home two golds and a silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Allyson Felix became the first female to ever win six gold medals in track and field at the Olympics. The Los Angeles native is also tied as the most decorated female track and field Olympian in history with nine total medals.
Felix won gold in the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams in Rio just as she did in London. She also won silver in the 400m sprint.
Felix’s Olympics success dates back to the 2004 Summer Games in Athens where she won silver in the 200m. Felix went on to win another silver and a gold in the 200m during her Olympics career.
A few bonus Felix throwbacks:
5. Ryan Lochte voted Most Likely to be Famous
The students of Spruce Creek High School, class of 2002, knew what they were doing when they predicted Ryan Lochte would become famous. They probably just didn’t realize that Lochte would become as infamous for being the ringleader in an international incident in Rio as he would become famous for his swimming career.
Prior to getting caught lying about an incident in Rio, Lochte enjoyed tremendous success as a swimmer. He has won 12 Olympic medals, including six golds, three silvers and three bronzes. As an individual, Lochte is the world record holder in the 100-meter individual medley, 200-meter individual medley (long and short course), and the 400-meter individual medley (short course).
Lochte said that if Michael Phelps did not exist, he would be the swimmer enjoying the type of success Phelps has. Still, 12 Olympic medals are not bad at all.