Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Greatest?

Micheal Phelps has finally done it. Late last night Micheal Phelps (right, from left to right: Ryan Lochte, Micheal Phelps, Laszlo Cseh) and the rest of the U.S. men's relay team captured the gold medal. Although not the most exciting race, it must have been exciting for Phelps.

That gold medal was Phelps' historic eighth gold in these Olympics. That is now the record for the most gold medals in one Olympiad, passing Mark Spitz, who had seven in 1972.

So much had to go right for Phelps in Beijing this week. But somehow he got it done. In the relays, his teammates did not let him down. He could have gotten off to a bad start. He could have suffered from fatigue (I'm sure he did). One of his relay teammates could have had a bad race. But none of those things happened. The stars aligned for Micheal Phelps inn Beijing.

So is Micheal Phelps the best athlete ever. It is a very hot topic and could be discussed for ever. So let's make it easier. Let's eliminate all athletes involved in team sports. So Micheal Jordan or Wayne Gretsky or Joe Montana can't be compared to Phelps. I do think Micheal Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever. He simply dominated most of his events and even in the close races, he came up big in the clutch. I think people underestimate the ability to be "clutch." Phelps had to race in so many races and the other racers were more rested than him, but he STILL came up big.

Phelps made breaking world records look ad easy as a walk in the park. It was like a daily activity for Phelps. Just in case you picked up this illusion: world records aren't supposed to be broken that easily or that often.

Phelps had to swim the last leg of a race virtually blindfolded. His goggles filled up with water, and he couldn't see. And he STILL broke a world record. Think about that for a minute folks.

In some of the races, he made the rest of the field look like amateurs. That is a mark of a true champion. If you can perform so well that even the best in the world look boys. And that's what it was in some of these races: man vs. boys.

Although you have to realize that this could only happen in swimming. Only in the pool could a man compete in this many events. In track and field, nobody could ever compete (and be even mildly successful) in eight events. A sprinter couldn't compete in high jump or throw a javelin.

Even saying that I still think Phelps is the greatest. One of the other things you have to remember is that he is not done yet. Phelps is only 23. By the time the London Olympics (in 2012) roll around he'll only be 27. Still in his prime. And this may be a stretch, but by the time the 2016 Summer Olympics enter the picture, he'll only be 31. That's one year younger than Jason Lezak was this year.

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