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Why Michael Phelps is still great at an age when most swimmers have faded

The American is the only person to have won an individual swimming gold past the age of 31. Persistence, money and freakish talent have helped

Age 31 isn’t over the hill in most endeavors. Baseball players routinely play into their 40s, Phillip Dutton just won an equestrian medal at age 52, and writers often peak in their 50s or 60s (we hope).

But what Michael Phelps has done in the pool is unusual. The list of individual medalists (excluding relays) in swimming who’ve past their 30th birthday is a short one – SportsReference.com counts 15 (add relays, and the list expands to 23). Of that group, only Dara Torres won multiple individual medals in one Olympics, taking three bronzes in 2000.

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