COMMENTARY | Michael Phelps has been named male FINA World Swimmer of the Year for the first time.
Yes, you read that correctly. Phelps has never received the award before, simply because it didn't exist until 2010. And let's be honest -- Phelps didn't have the most impressive years between the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
But somehow, the swimming legend managed to pull it together once again for the 2012 season. In doing so, he proved that, despite his less regimented training program, he was still the best swimmer in the world.
Phelps, 27, capped off his Olympic career with four gold and two silver medals at the 2012 Olympic Games, which he added to his already astonishing medal haul from the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. Ultimately, Phelps ended his career with 22 total medals -- 18 gold, two silver and two bronze. The total made him the most-decorated Olympian in history, and that's something we aren't likely to see again in our lifetime.
The only swimmer who could match Phelps' 2012 accomplishments was Missy Franklin, and on Jan. 4, she was justly named the female 2012 FINA World Swimmer of the Year. In London, the 17-year-old superstar swam seven events, winning four gold medals and one silver medal. Franklin also won the award in 2011.
Because of their spectacular performances in London, Franklin and Phelps have been winning awards together since the conclusion of the 2012 Olympic Games. In some ways, the pairing is an odd one -- but it's certainly fitting.
In fact, in some ways it's almost as if Phelps is passing the torch to Franklin. As his competitive career closes, Franklin's is just beginning. With the retirement of Phelps, Franklin becomes perhaps the most popular -- as well as most recognizable -- swimmer on the U.S. national team.
Franklin has taken over as the face of USA Swimming, and many hope she will compete for just as long as Phelps did.
Count me among those who are hopeful.
Read more from this author: Katie Ledecky Adjust to Life After the Olympic Games and Her New Role-Model Status
Sandra Johnson was a competitive swimmer for more than 15 years before she began coaching. She is a longtime Olympic fan, and while working for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo., she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46