Phantastic Phelps

e-mail Pete

Three years ago Michael Phelps was the best swimmer in the world, nearly reaching an unprecedented goal of eight Olympic gold medals. Phelps already earned comparisons the greatest of all time like Mark Spitz and Ian Thorpe. Back home, we threw parades for his accomplishments and the American sporting culture accepted him as a household name, as the face of his sport. The best example of that comes of course with a seven figure endorsement deal.

So what are we going to do now? Throw bigger parades? The best swimmer in the world right now is now arguably the best of all time. His performance thus far at the 2007 World Championships makes his eight medals in Athens look human, even flawed. Three days, three world records, the first of which completely eviscerated the previous mark (of course held by Phelps).

The Sun’s Kevin Van Valkenburg offered a compelling piece on Phelps and his place in historical domination of a sport. Van Valkenburg used Bob Beamon’s world record long jump from 1968 for a comparison on shattering a record. A fair comparison for sure although he points out it doesn’t quite match. He also used Tiger Woods’ humiliating the field at the 2000 U.S. Open.

I think even better though might be Secretariat at the Belmont in 1973. The footage of Secretariat winning by 31 lengths is a combination of the comical and surreal. Did that really happen?

That’s where we are with Phelps. He’s winning by comical lengths, leaving his competition to utter things we don’t hear other professional athletes say. Ever.

Here’s China’s Wu Peng on trying to catch Phelps in time for the 2008 Olympic Games in his homeland.

“To secure that gold medal is impossible,”

What?? Even when facing Michael Jordan in his prime, did you ever hear Karl Malone say he couldn’t beat him? Athletes have too much pride to say something like that. At least they did before. Another swimmer said it an honor to be in the same pool with him.

We may have to soon leave the sports world to find a true comparison for Michael Phelps. Beethoven, Einstein, Machiavelli, pick your prodigy. True genious is at work in Sydney this week. Get ready for another parade.


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