The competitive world of swimming has produced some remarkable swimmers. But who are the best? Which of these great swimmers were so spectacular that they shine above all others? Let’s take a brief look at some of the top great swimmers in the male category.

Michael Phelps – Even if you were living under a rock in 2008, you heard the name Michael Phelps. The then 23 year old swimmer made the world stand up and take notice when he earned eight gold medals the Beijing Olympic Games, besting the previous record held by Mark Spitz held for 36 years. In the previous 2004 Olympics in Athens, Phelps won six gold and two bronze medals bringing his total up to sixteen gold medals. He became the youngest person ever to hold a world record in 2000 when he broke the record for 200m butterfly at only age 15. Phelps currently holds four world records.

Mark Spitz – Michael Phelps might have broken his record, but for decades, Mark Spitz was the face of competitive swimming. He won seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and held that remarkable record for 36 years. Spitz was also voted Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1970, and 1971. He holds spots in the International Swimming Hall of Fame as well as the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. Along with Michael Phelps, Spitz is one of only five people in the world to have earned nine or more Olympic gold medals in their lifetime.

Matthew (“Matt”) Nicholas Biondi – Like Mark Spitz before him, Matt Biondi earned his spot in the history books with 11 Olympic medals, 8 of which were gold. Biondi participated in three Olympic Games in 1984, 1988, and 1992. The 1988 Games in Seoul was his career hightlight as he earned 7 medals (5 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze) making him the only other man at that time to win 5 gold medals in an Olympic tournament since Mark Spitz in 1972. Biondi held the title of Male Swimmer of the Year twice and has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Johnny Weissmuller – Best known for his playing the title role the Tarzan series of films beginning with 1932’s ‘Tarzan, the Ape Man’, Johnny Weissmuller was also a world class swimmer. Weissmuller participated in two Olympic Games winning a total of 6 medals, 5 of which were gold. The sixth medal was a bronze medal won as part of the 1924 US Olympic polo team. After his acting career, Weissmuller went on to become chairman of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is probably the only Olympic swimmer with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ian Thorpe – Australian swimmer, Ian Thorpe (nicknamed the ‘Thorpedo’) won nine medals over the course of the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, five of which were gold. Aside from his Olympic successes, Thorpe holds two world records in the 200m and 400m freestyle and has been selected as Swimmer of the Year four times. A bout of sickness led Thorpe to announce his retirement from swimming in 2006,  but he recently announced his intent to try out for the US swim team for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

UPDATED 10/14/11