Phelps: Greatest Olympian ever?

Beijing, Aug 15: No sooner has Michael Phelps bagged himself an extraordinary 12th Olympic gold medal of his career and critics of swimming and other curmudgeons are falling over themselves to say why this does not qualify him to be the greatest Olympian ever. Jesse Owens in 1936, Fanny the Flying Housewife in 1948, Carl Lewis over and over again. Yes, yes, yes, they all have worthy claims. But so too do umpteen others, including, quite evidently, Mr Michael Fred Phelps.

Is there anything even left to say about Michael Phelps and his performance at the Olympics? There are few, if any words left to describe what he has been able to accomplish.Stated simply: Six gold medals, Six records. He has two more events to go in the Olympics and it seems only a forgone conclusion that he will break Mark Spitz"s record of seven gold medals. Phelps will compete in the 200 individual medley, 100 fly and 400 medley relay before the swimming competition ends and the only question left seems to be what the margin of his victories will be.

Phelps was expected to win nearly every event he entered at Beijing so the wins aren"t so surprising. But the records coming down are really shocking. It"s not tenths of a second that he"s besting the previous records, it"s been seconds. He did it in the 400 IM bettering the record by nearly two seconds and his 200 free was almost a second faster. To set a new record by the margin Phelps has is hard to really understand, but beating a record in swimming by a few seconds is kind of like light-years ahead of the others.

What else is mind-blowing is the fact that Phelps is 23 years old. He has a chance to compete in the 2012 games and add more medals. Just think about that for a second. He already has the most medals in Olympic history and can even have more. That would be a record that would last for a long, long time — unlike the ones he"s bringing down right now.


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Story first published: Friday, August 15, 2008, 16:17 [IST]
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