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Is Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
What do you guys think?

I think you can't have "THE greatest Olympian", because every sport is so different. No other sport has the opportunity to win as many medals in swimming for a start. I have no doubt that Phelps is one of the best, but not THE best.

He did an amazing job but how do you compare it to these:

Steve Redgrave who won gold in rowing in 5 consecutive Olympics!

Carl Lewis - 9 gold over 4 separate Olympics

Sheila Taormina - competing in 3 consecutive Olympics in 3 different sports!

Dmitry Sautin - also competed over 5 different Olympics with 8 medals

Paavo Nurmi - won medals from distances from 1500 - 10,000, and wanted to race the marathon as well, but got "disqualified" for apparently earning too much over a season (there was a salary cap from earnings for amateur athletes).

Larissa Latynina - won 9 gold, 5 silver, and 4 bronze over 3 Olympics in gymnastics (I think winning multiple gymnastics medals are harder than swimming medals)

Wow - and 2 athletes have competed in 9 separate Olympics! Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl and Canadian Equestrian Ian Millar.

What do you guys think?
post #2 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahp View Post
What do you guys think?

I think you can't have "THE greatest Olympian", because every sport is so different. No other sport has the opportunity to win as many medals in swimming for a start. I have no doubt that Phelps is one of the best, but not THE best.
I don't know about the best of all time, but he's pretty awesome! He went to win gold and he sure did! I was thrilled for him.

Quote:
Canadian Equestrian Ian Millar.
And he got us the first medal in that sport in 40 years!! I didn't catch the event, but I did get weepy when I heard he had won and saw the recap of the medal ceremony!
post #3 of 25
I don't think so, but this in no way is to knock him as a fantastic athlete. I've often held that men and women participating in the decathlon and men and women who do steeplechase are the best athletes in the world.

Just my little opinion.
post #4 of 25
If you were to compare sports, though, swimming is way up towards the top on any difficulty scale. Also, Phelps got 8 golds in a single Olympics, and got 6 gold and two bronze at the 2004 ones. We'll see where he stands after the 2012 Olympics, but he will probably hold the most gold medals for a long time.

So, I am not totally sure if I'd say "Best Olympian ever" either, but 14 gold medals in 2 olympics compared to 9 in 4, or most of the rest of the list, seems like a pretty clear difference.
post #5 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by lookingglass View Post
I don't think so, but this in now way is to knock him as a fantastic athlete. I've often held that men and women participating in the decathlon and men and women who do steeplechase are the best athletes in the world.

Just my little opinion.
I remember watching Bruce Jenner win gold in 1976! That was awesome!
post #6 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Natalie_ca View Post
I don't know about the best of all time, but he's pretty awesome! He went to win gold and he sure did! I was thrilled for him.



And he got us the first medal in that sport in 40 years!! I didn't catch the event, but I did get weepy when I heard he had won and saw the recap of the medal ceremony!
I almost cried when I saw that too. I've loved him since I was little, and his horse Big Ben is almost a Canadian icon.
post #7 of 25
Sarah - would your opinion be any different knowing that Michael Phelps may have a syndrome - marfans, which would work in his advantage but could kill him anytime?
post #8 of 25
I wanted to add that there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the swimsuit that he and some athletes were wearing. There is no denying that the suit gave the wearer a distinct advantage because of the number of records being broken by those wearing it.

Some are saying that the suit is the equivalent of "technological doping" and a legalized way to cheat and are calling for the suit to be banned. They claim it gives the swimmer an unfair advantage by lessening skin drag and making the water seem almost invisible.

Apparently not all teams can wear that suit because of sponsor backing limitations. And those that aren't wearing it are at a distinct disadvantage.

Would Michael Phelps have done as well in another suit? Maybe. He is an excellent swimmer and has a huge wing span which helps him a great deal, but with all the facts out there about this state of the art swimsuit, there is no denying that it helped him along to a degree. But it's something we'll never know.

And if it is banned? All the records achieved still stand, and it's unlikely that they would be broken anytime in the near future.

Here are some articles:

http://www.voanews.com/english/archi...TOKEN=18633639

http://www.dailytech.com/Speedos+Tec...ticle12636.htm

Earlier this year a double leg amputee was banned from the summer olympics because while he was able to qualify for the olympics, it was ruled that his prosthetics gave him an unfair technological advantage over other players because of the shock absorption.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olym...cs/7141302.stm

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/spo...cle3184427.ece
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwideus View Post
Sarah - would your opinion be any different knowing that Michael Phelps may have a syndrome

I'm not sure why you feel that would make him the best olympic athlete of all time?

Ian Millar is 61 years old, that's really old to be in the olympics. That doesn't make him the greatest equestrian or olympic athlete ever to compete. I see no difference with the fact that Michael Phelps has Marfan Syndrome.

If you do a net search you will see that while he does require monitoring, his case is mild and doesn't prevent him from pursuing the activities that he loves.
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwideus View Post
Sarah - would your opinion be any different knowing that Michael Phelps may have a syndrome - marfans, which would work in his advantage but could kill him anytime?
I hadn't heard about him having Marfan's, but I had commented to my husband that he looked like a "typical" Marfan patient, and I wondered if he'd been tested.

He hasn't actually been diagnosed with any problems from it from what I just Googled, but no, it wouldn't change my opinion wouldn't change. Yes it would be what gives him such a good wingspan, and the long, lean physique, but if it's not causing any problems, it's no big deal.

It's not likely to "kill him anytime". If his aorta is very enlarged, or he gets smacked in the head and gets a detached retina, then he has problems, but I assume given his physique he would be getting monitored regularly. I also assume that he hasn't had genetic testing to have it confirmed?
post #11 of 25
Right now Phelps has the record for the most gold in ONE Olympics. If he competes in the future and earns more, then he would be the best.........until someone comes along and beats all his records
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Natalie_ca View Post
I'm not sure why you feel that would make him the best olympic athlete of all time?

Ian Millar is 61 years old, that's really old to be in the olympics. That doesn't make him the greatest equestrian or olympic athlete ever to compete. I see no difference with the fact that Michael Phelps has Marfan Syndrome.

If you do a net search you will see that while he does require monitoring, his case is mild and doesn't prevent him from pursuing the activities that he loves.
I don't feel that it makes him the best Olympic athlete of all time, I am just throwing that in for discussion
post #13 of 25
I think Michael Phelps will go down in this generation as the most memorable Olympic Athlete. Like Mary Lou in summer 1984, or Torville & Dean in Sarajevo, or Shaun White in the last winter games. But I do think he'll go down in history as one of the greats, along with some of the greats that Sarah listed in the first post. He's an amazing swimmer.

I really think it's impossible to say "best of all time" simply because every sport is so completely different and requires different skills and techniques and training.
post #14 of 25
post #15 of 25
Swimming is a very grueling sport and it takes a lot of discipline and sacrifice to even be good much less be an Olympian. But all of the sports are like that to a degree. What makes him remarkable is the fact that in order for him to be successful a perfect storm has happen. Then to have it happen 8 times is incredible in one Olympics.
However I think the title is subjective. It depends on the criteria a person uses to make that claim. If he is the one that is generally thought to hold this title I would not disagree and it would seem fair enough.

I have not watched the Olympics only the news reports but it seems like he is the face of the games.
post #16 of 25
While I would not say THE greatest olympian I would put him up there as one of the greatest olympian. He put in the hard work, sacrifice and at the same time there was no trash talk. As a former swimmer I can appreciate how hard his accomplishments are. At the end I was a little done with all the media but that was not his entirely his fault and I though he handled it very well. Giving lots of credit to his teammates and his family.

As for the swimsuits I don't see the controvery. As technology advances times will get better. The pool was extra deep to encourage record breaking times as well. In sports it is hard work, talent with a little bit of luck of the draw. These olympians drew a very fast pool. Outdoor track and field athletes have to contend with favorable or unfavorable weather. There are alot of variables to performance. Back to the suits. There was not a swimmer on the blocks in the finals that I saw that did not have one of the new suits. Which to me that is a level playing field. While they might not be prevalent at the lower echelons of swimming that does not effect these elite times in the pool. I could be wrong but I just didn't see any of the traditional suits. The swimmers that did not make the final heats were behind by seconds. I am not sure a suit, no matter how good, would make up the difference. If the agrument is going to be made that less wealthy countries may not have access to the suits well that goes for just about every sport in the Olympics. Where would you stop? And I definately think calling the suits legalized cheating or technology doping is going too far. Until you make it illegal to wear these suits that is insulting to the athletes.

BTW - Kudo to Dana Torres, who I really loved, sportsmanship for going to an official when anouther swimmer was having problems with her suit to hold up the start to give her a chance to work it out.
post #17 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sohni View Post
I almost cried when I saw that too. I've loved him since I was little, and his horse Big Ben is almost a Canadian icon.
I'd say that there have been many great and awesome athletes and to label one as the best of all time is not fair to the others so no, I don't agree that he is the best.

Some years ago when our daughter was into riding and horses, we went to the Royal Canadian Winter Fair at the CNE grounds in Toronto. I worked at that time with a woman whose parents were very involved with the Fair and had their own family box seats. This young woman was a rider herself in the events and also babysat Ian Millar's kids when she was younger. Anyway, she invited me and our daughter, Jennifer, to share their box one night during the fair to watch the horse show. After the show, she took us back to the stables so Jennifer could meet Ian Millar. My daughter, who never usually shuts up, was totally awed and speechless to the point that Mr. Millar said he had never had quite that affect on a young woman before. Jennifer mumbled and stumbled and finally got out that it was amazing to meet him. He was a lovely man.
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Natalie_ca View Post
I wanted to add that there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the swimsuit that he and some athletes were wearing. There is no denying that the suit gave the wearer a distinct advantage because of the number of records being broken by those wearing it.
Misattribution of cause and effect. The swimmers most likely to break world records and do extremely well are also the ones most likely to wear the suits. Also, swimmers who did not endorse them wore them. And they were approved by the Olympics.

The highest benefit I've seen attributed to the suits is 2% off their best time. Considering most of the people in the pool were wearing the same suit, I don't think it matters.
post #19 of 25
As long as the suits had the ok from the O. committee, I see nothing wrong with using them. Sad that some countries would not allow their people to use them. Maybe next time around they will seeing they work well
post #20 of 25
If you go a ways back there is a fellow called Jim Thorpe that did really well at the Olympics. Unfortunately he had his medals stripped, but they were later returned. (He was paid a small amount to play baseball when he was 15).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thorpe
post #21 of 25
Ian Millar's wife, Lynn, was also a force in equestrian, though not so much in the riding (more in supporting her equestrian family). Everyone knew her name. Sadly she died of cancer a few months ago, so it's wonderful that Ian finally got a metal, in her memory.

And Big Ben almost an icon? Oh, how I laugh. He's already an icon. He's got a Breyer model (most famous horse figurine company out there) and he's one of only two non-humans to be in the Hall of Fame (alongside Northern Dancer). He's as famous as Secretariat, lol; bring up his name and everyone's heard of him. It's a shame he died so young, by the colic that constantly plagued him. He won the Grand Prix only a couple months after being in a terrible trailer accident, but couldn't hold off a final attack of colic. I wish there was a way to see some more footage of him, since I haven't seen hardly anything, and I personally think that's a travesty (oh yes!). This Legend needs some of his competitions on youtube, darnit!
post #22 of 25
I had absolutely no idea who Ian Millar is. So I looked him up and I will say I am very impressed. He went 9 times and finally got a medal at 61. That is pretty amazing and talk about not giving up. I think that is a great life lesson.
He dedicated his medal to his deceased wife which kind of choked me up. He does sound like a lovely man.
post #23 of 25
Thread Starter 
Wow, and after these Olympics, Usain Bolt has seriously impressed me. The mens 100m and 200m sprints have to be THE hardest events to win - especially when they go through preliminary heats, quarters, semis, THEN the final, and everyone is always so fast. Bolt has smashed everyone else, and had so much fun doing it.

It's amazing watching him run, he is so tall, he just covers an amazing amount of ground.

If he can do that again at the next Olympics, he will also go down as one of the greats.
post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahp View Post
Wow, and after these Olympics, Usain Bolt has seriously impressed me. The mens 100m and 200m sprints have to be THE hardest events to win - especially when they go through preliminary heats, quarters, semis, THEN the final, and everyone is always so fast. Bolt has smashed everyone else, and had so much fun doing it.

It's amazing watching him run, he is so tall, he just covers an amazing amount of ground.

If he can do that again at the next Olympics, he will also go down as one of the greats.
How true! Hubby was at band practice last night and missed the coverage - he was so disappointed to miss Bolt.

I just have to say that all these athletes are amazing. The time and dedication they expend on their sport is more than most of us would be willing to sacrifice so they deserve every bit of support we can give to all of them.
post #25 of 25
Natalie_ca, Oscar Pistorius actually failed to qualify for the Olympics after the ruling you cite was reversed. So, as it stands now, runners with that prosthetic can enter the regular Olympics, but no-one has made the qualifying times. (I know some people here don't like linking to Wikipedia, but there are tons of good sources on this particular page, including a lot of news articles and the final ruling, linked from the page, and it's easier for me to make one link.)

I was a bit annoyed at all the bluster over Phelps, but I really did love watching the swimming, anyway. I don't think it makes sense to label any single "best athlete"; the medals are awarded for who is best in each event, and let's leave it at that, yes? Celebrate Phelp's accomplishment, sure, but please let's not rank athletes in different sports who lived at different times.
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