Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two Women Outrank Phelps as Greatest Olympian?

Looking back on the phenomenal performance of swimmer, Michael Phelps, it's hard to believe he is not the greatest Olympian of all time, but if you listen to veteran Olympic historian, David Wallenchinsky, Phelps ranks sixth on the list of magnificent Olympians. In fact, two women are graded ahead of him. Phelps' eight gold medals, notwithstanding, are a remarkable accomplishment; however 18 swimming world records were broken during the games in Beijing. Of course, the enhanced swim wear and pool design played a large role in the record setting performances; but envision 18 world records being shattered in track and field, or weightlifting; two sports tremendously more demanding on the human body. According to Wallenchinsky, Phelps routinely competed in two events on the same day; imagined a runner having to double in the 800 also the mile within 24 hours...not happening. Wallenchinsky does not try to discredit the great Michael Phelps, instead he puts the prodigy in perspective. According to Wallenchinsky, the top Olympians above Phelps are: Olympian, Carl Lewis; runner, Paavo Nurmi; Gymnast, Larisa Latynina; Birgit Fischer-Schmidt, Germany, kayak; and Steven Redgrave, United Kingdom, rowing. Compare Lewis, for example, to Phelps. Lewis won Olympic Gold in the long jump in four Olympic games spanning 16-years of competition. That's not even considering the gold medals he won in the 100, 200, or the relays. Phelps acknowledges he will not compete beyond the 2012 London Games. From 1920 to 1932, Numri furthermore, won 9 gold medals in long distance track. He was so dominant the Olympic committee banned him from the games. As far back as 1980, Wallenchinsky notes Brigit Fischer won eight gold medals in rowing, and 24 years later as a 42-year old mother of 2, she won 5. Finally, the gymnast, Larisa Latynina, won 9 gold along with 18 total medals over three Olympic Games. Phelps, on the other hand, is an extraordinary athlete; however he gets a great assist from the streamlined Speedo dolphin outfit designed by NASA scientist. In contrast, Abebe Bikila, for crying out loud, won an Olympic Marathon barefoot. Of course when Phelps was asked if he considered himself to be better than Bikila and all the other greats, he replied, "That's for you to decide."

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