Jump to content
IGNORED

Michael Phelps: Greatest Olympian Ever?


Note: This thread is 3133 days old. We appreciate that you found this thread instead of starting a new one, but if you plan to post here please make sure it's still relevant. If not, please start a new topic. Thank you!

Recommended Posts

With the Olympics beginning to heat up, and Michael Phelps's 20th medal today in the 200m IM, there is much debate as to who is the greatest Olympian ever.

I don't think that there is much doubt that Phelps is the greatest swimmer off all time, and the most decorated Olympic athlete ever. However do you think that Phelps is the greatest Olympian off all time? Obviously, one must consider that there is a significantly larger amount of events in swimming, and thus more medal opportunities.

Some potential competitors

  • Carl Lewis
  • Jesse Owens
  • Alexander Karelin ( Russian Wrestler who won 3 straight golds in Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta, whilst going 13 years undefeated)
  • Steve Redgrave ( British Rower who won 5 straight golds in 5 years)

My personal opinion? Phelps, whilst the argument that there are more medals for offer in swimming is valid, more events also means that athletes are forced to train with much more variety, and become the best on the planet in multiple different events ( this is in Phelps case) in many different events, all differing in length and style. There are also many other factors that have an effect e.g. the stamina it takes to compete in the 20+ events in 9 days that Phelps did in Beijing (heats, semi's final for most events), and the relative simplicity for other competitors only having to train for one event for the 4 years between the games.
What do you think?
Link to post
Share on other sites

Add Al Oerter to the list - 4 straight discus throw wins. The last 2 he never won any events between the olympics but somehow managed to come through for the gold.

Eric Heiden winning golds in all distances in speed skating is up there too.I can't understand how that is physiologically possible.

To say Phelps is better than people who have NO CHANCE to win as many medals is silly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I would argue that the greatest individual feat in Olympic history was accomplished by Czechoslovakian runner Emil Zatopek at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Zatopek first defended his 1948 gold medal in the 10,000 meters, then won the 5,000 meters as well. On a lark, he entered himself into the marathon, despite never racing the distance before. For the first half of the race, he followed the lead of the world-record holder in the marathon, Jim Peters of Britain. Emil would eventually run alongside Peters, asking him if he thought their pace was too fast. Peters jokingly responded that it was too slow; Emil then accelerated out of sight, setting the Olympic record in his first ever marathon.

We may see athletes match Michael Phelps' medal count; we may see athletes be as spectacularly dominant in their fields as Usain Bolt; and we may see athletes with the longevity of Carl Lewis or Steven Redgrave, winning gold at four or five different Olympiads. But we will never again see one athlete win the 5,000, the 10,000, and the marathon in the same games.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Phelps is pretty amazing ... but I am putting in a vote for Usain Bolt.  Watching him absolutely destroy the fields in both the 100 and 200 for the second straight Olympics, and doing it in the most relaxed way possible, has me in total awe.

After watching the 4 x 100 prelims tonight, I am very excited to see the showdown between Jamaica and USA tomorrow  (with Bolt and Tyson Gay added to the respective rosters).

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed these Olympics.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

  • Administrator
Originally Posted by Chilli Dipper

We may see athletes match Michael Phelps' medal count; we may see athletes be as spectacularly dominant in their fields as Usain Bolt; and we may see athletes with the longevity of Carl Lewis or Steven Redgrave, winning gold at four or five different Olympiads. But we will never again see one athlete win the 5,000, the 10,000, and the marathon in the same games.

Really? I think you'd get better odds of the latter than the former. 22 and 18 is a lot of hardware.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Should have a poll attached to this thread:

Phelps, Bolt, Lewis, Owens, Ali, Spitz, Karelin, Heiden (very good argument for him by Broomhandle up above - why can't Bolt run the 5000 meters??), other.

I suspect it would end up Phelps, Bolt, Other in some order but, who knows?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Really? I think you'd get better odds of the latter than the former. 22 and 18 is a lot of hardware.

Missy Franklin is 17 and won five medals in London; she has time to improve, and could compete in three more Olympics before she's 30. The fact that swimmers have so many opportunities to medal, begin their careers so young, and yet also have the potential to have long competitive careers (Dara Torres won an Olympic medal before I was born, yet just missed being on Team USA this year), I think it's possible for someone to match Phelps' medal count. Maybe not likely, but certainly possible. In contrast, we probably won't see a marathoner even compete in the 5,000 or 10,000 in the same games (let alone win each event) ever again. The marathon is competed on a much larger scale today than it was 60 years ago, and the training has become much more specialized. Zatopek set Olympic records in all three events in 1952; new Olympic records were set in each of those events in Beijing four years ago. Zatopek's OR's in the 5k and 10k (14:06.6, 29:17.0) are both 1.088 times the current OR's Kenenisa Bekele set in those events (12:57.82, 27:01.17), but the marathon OR has advanced at a much faster pace. Following the rate of progression seen in the 5k and 10k, the marathon record would be 2:11:29, but the late Sammy Wanjiru ran a time five full minutes faster than that in Beijing. What has caused the marathon record to drop so much is that modern marathoners prepare more and race less than they did even 20 years ago. The US Marathon trials were held in January, and none of the three men who qualified for team USA have raced at any distance since March. And while it's not uncommon to see recreational or regional-level runners do back-to-back races, like running a 10k and a marathon on the same weekend, those runners are not aiming for personal bests, and those feats are unheard of among the elite ranks, where runners are aiming for personal bests in every race.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, Usain Bolt has rendered this discussion moot by not just declaring himself the greatest Olympian, but the greatest athlete of all time.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

  • Moderator
Quote:
But we will never again see one athlete win the 5,000, the 10,000, and the marathon in the same games.

I was a great feat, but it was just in one games.  There was also less competition back then, especially in the distance races.  He was phenomenal though.  But, everyone is gunning for Phelps and he still did it. Tremendous competition and some of the races were won by mere lengths of finger nails.

To add to Eric Heiden's cred, he also won the US Championship in Road Bicycle racing. He raced Pro in Europe, while attending medical school to be an orthopedic surgeon, all at the same time. And he won all the distances in speed skating, sprint through distance.  Emil would have had to win the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, and 3000 to top that.

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Originally Posted by Golfingdad

Should have a poll attached to this thread:

Phelps, Bolt, Lewis, Owens, Ali, Spitz, Karelin, Heiden (very good argument for him by Broomhandle up above - why can't Bolt run the 5000 meters??), other.

I suspect it would end up Phelps, Bolt, Other in some order but, who knows?

How about May and Walsh?  Three gold medals in three games, and only one dropped set.

Heiden has to be on any list simply based on what Boogielicious posted.  What goes for Emil goes for Bolt as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Total medal quantity should not be a very big factor, I believe, in this debate.  How many have Larisa Latynina or Paavo Nurmi on their greatest ever lists?

I'm guessing none, and they are 2nd and 3rd, respectively, behind Phelps for most medals won in history.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Originally Posted by Golfingdad

Total medal quantity should not be a very big factor, I believe, in this debate.  How many have Larisa Latynina or Paavo Nurmi on their greatest ever lists?

I'm guessing none, and they are 2nd and 3rd, respectively, behind Phelps for most medals won in history.

Perhaps true in regards to Latynina, since gymnastics is a fundamentally different sport today than it was 50 years ago, but there are a lot of people who would put Paavo Nurmi on their greatest ever lists. Ask that friend or co-worker of yours who enters a lot of 10k's, and ask him or her about the Flying Finns. You'll get a mouthful.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Originally Posted by Chilli Dipper

Perhaps true in regards to Latynina, since gymnastics is a fundamentally different sport today than it was 50 years ago, but there are a lot of people who would put Paavo Nurmi on their greatest ever lists. Ask that friend or co-worker of yours who enters a lot of 10k's, and ask him or her about the Flying Finns. You'll get a mouthful.

Possibly ... but I was basically going off of the fact that I had never heard Latynina's name until last week when Phelps got close to passing her.  And, the name Paavo Nurmi I got from wikipedia today and although I may have heard it before, it didn't ring a bell.  And, to further back my hypothesis, neither name had been mentioned in this thread yet either.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

  • 5 weeks later...

I've said for years that medal counts in some sports (track, swimming, diving, rowing, speed skating, cross country skiing, running, cycling, etc) gives some athletes inflated medals totals relative to other athletes. I remember when the decathlon winner was considered the best athlete of the games, but they only give out one decathlon gold every year.

My opinion - if Phelps isn't the greatest, he's on a very short list. My vote might go to someone who competed over more games and won in entirely different sports.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Note: This thread is 3133 days old. We appreciate that you found this thread instead of starting a new one, but if you plan to post here please make sure it's still relevant. If not, please start a new topic. Thank you!

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.



  • Want to join this community?

    We'd love to have you!

    Sign Up
  • Support TST Affiliates

    TourStriker PlaneMate
    Golfer's Journal
    Whoop
    SuperSpeed
    FlightScope Mevo
    Use the code "iacas" for 10% off Mevo and the code "iacasfeb21" for 10% off SuperSpeed.
  • Posts

    • Had my best day ever today. Back stillll is not open so me and a buddy played the front 3 times. Par 36 I shot 36, 37, 37 through 27 holes I had 6 birdies and 8 bogies had a few chances to blow up but short game was great and I scrambled my a$$ off. Still am yet to shoot under par, the first time through I was actually 1 under going into the easy par 5 9th and had a meltdown ended with bogie but I know it's coming soon enough. It wasn't even a great ball striking day either. I had a great day with the driver and wedges were pretty solid, I had multiple tap in birdies, and I even made a few decent putts today which was confidence inspiring but my irons are still a little all over the place. 
    • Xander with an eagle to take a share of the lead! 😄  And Rose with a birdie to reclaim the lead right after. And Matsuyama with an eagle to take it over both of them.  Xander right back to two back seconds after an eagle to take a share of the lead.  Jim Nantz tells me the sequence I described above was all of 90 seconds. 
    • He can sure pound the ball, though.
    • If it was really windy, they’d half to put a weight belt on Zalatoris to keep him from blowing away!
    • My set top box died on me, my OTA antenna only works for the small tv, found out I could stream the broadcast on my phone and Airplay it to the big tv. Had no idea I could do that. Thought I was going to do a trial period of YouTube Live or something. The picture is probably better quality than the set top box (FIOS).  
  • Today's Birthdays

    1. butchammon
      butchammon
      (60 years old)
    2. Joe P
      Joe P
      (71 years old)
    3. Lookylookitzadam
      Lookylookitzadam
      (35 years old)
    4. Muzza
      Muzza
      (36 years old)
    5. ocduffer86
      ocduffer86
      (51 years old)

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Welcome to TST! Signing up is free, and you'll see fewer ads and can talk with fellow golf enthusiasts! By using TST, you agree to our Terms of Use, our Privacy Policy, and our Guidelines.

The popup will be closed in 10 seconds...