What a Summer Olympics.
I could stop right there an it would sum up nicely how fantastic the London Games have been and not just for the United States.
You just don’t understand how fast Usain Bolt is until you actually see him run…unless you blinked and missed him run.
The United States’ women’s gymnastics were absolutely as stellar as advertised with America’s sweethearts earning the gold and doing well individually.
Women’s soccer will enter the finals with the women of the US taking another shot at Japan for the gold after beating Canada in the final minute of extra time in the semi-finals.
And those are the sports we weren’t talking about before the games started…
Obviously the men and women have dominated in basketball, particularly the women who have not yet been tested with such an array of talented WNBA players at their disposal. We can expect two more golds to add to the medal total in a few days, which is good to hear with China edging the United States in a total count.
Then there’s swimming…
The question that has circulated for the entirety of the Olympics has been whether or not Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this issue, but I will just add a few thoughts about it and try to move on through gritted teeth.
Is Phelps the greatest swimmer of all-time? Fact.
With 22 medals (18 gold) he is the most decorated Olympian of all-time. Fact.
Scale that to the rest of the list of most total medals: former medal leader from Russia Larissa Latynina in gymnastics with 18, two other Russians also in gymnastics Nikolai Andrianov with 15 medals and Boris Shakhlin with 13, and then Edoardo Mangiarotti of Italy with his fencing medals.
Or gymnast fans, what about Romania's Nadia Comaneci who blazed a perfect score at the 1976 Montreal Games? That just doesn't happen very often.
There are several notable Americans who were simply amazing at their sport that made the medal list including Phelps’ predecessors Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi (both with 11 medals), US runner Carl Lewis (10 medals), and Jenny Thompson in swimming (10 medals).
And what about Bruce Jenner? I know we all can't stand his daughters on six different reality shows, but as a decathlete he was one of the greatest stories of US Olympic history and will be for years to come.
What is the common thread to these greats? Multiple chances at gold.
There are certain sports like swimming, gymnastics, and track/field that allow the athlete to shine in more than one event allowing for ultimately more glory. For the most part there are only a handful of events that are like that but they seem to be major events that Olympic fans all clamor about.
Soccer has one medal. Tennis has a singles gold and the potential to win a doubles medal as well (if you have a sister and your name ends in Williams). But even Serena Williams, arguably the most dominant tennis player since Billie Jean, would have to play tennis well into her fifties to catch Phelps’ medal total of 22 simply for lack of opportunities.
There’s still a load of sports with only one glorious gold on the line every four years. Volleyball, boxing, and basketball to name just a few.
The United States have put forth their dream teams in basketball since Bird, Jordan, and Magic paved the way. Why aren’t we talking about them as the most impactful Olympians of all-time? Because they only won once and some twice?
Do I think that Phelps is an athlete of incomparable talent in the pool? Absolutely. No one will come close to his record for a long, long time. Having said that, ask me if I think he’s in the conversation as the greatest Olympian ever…
Not any conversation I want to be involved in.
Give the kid his props for being dominant in a sport that is getting more and more popularity in this country. Heck, even give him a photo shoot for Gatorade and put him on a box of Wheaties. Just please don’t tell me he’s a greater athlete than Lewis or anyone who has ever played on the Dream Team.
That’s just silly.