August 17, 2008

Simply stunning

by Dan Bilicki In: Olympics

How about that Michael Phelps. A whopping eight Gold medals in a single Olympics to bring his career total up to 14 — five more than anybody else. Plus, he’ll be back in the pool, swimming for even more glory in London’s 2012 Games, if he feels like it. Now, he may have “saved the Olympics” and he may be the best swimmer to ever take a dip in a pool, but let’s not go overboard on the hyperbole. Can you honestly call him the greatest athlete ever? I think not.

Sure, he is a great athlete and any time you’re the best at any sport-like activity, you would get consideration in that category but how is Phelps any better of an athlete than Usain Bolt? The Jamaican speedster literally coasted to a world record and defeated every other sprinter in the finals by several lengths. The guy ran 100 metres in 9.69 seconds! That is ridiculous. In qualifying in the 200 metres last night, he pretty much coasted again, this time for half of the race.

What Phelps does is very specialized. Being fast in a pool is a lot different than being fast on your feet. Bolt could theoretically crossover into other sports with a lot more ease than Phelps. Think about it this way: If you were out on the schoolyard drafting a football team, who would you take Phelps or Bolt first? My point exactly. The only pickup game you would ever take Phelps in is Water Polo, and you don’t see too many games of that breaking out sporadically.

If anything, the Phelps-as-the-greatest-athlete-ever is blown out proportion for one main reason — he’s American. On both ESPN’s and Sports illustrated’s websites both ran Phelps as their front story despite Bolt’s feat which, I think, is equally impressive. You can’t fault them for playing it they way that they did, but because of that, you realize they have more to gain by pushing Phelps than Bolt.

So, when talking about the greatest athletes, don’t bring up Michael Phelps to me. I’d rank him somewhere down the list (not at the bottom though, I’d take him over Tiger Woods any day).


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