Is Phelps the greatest Olympian?

By John Mehaffey

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I think that if u can do the same thing - ie swim in 4 different ways and add almost the same number of relay team events then swimming has more than twice as many opportunities for medals as say athletics . Wouldnt a better measure of success be the athlete that has set the most world records that stand for a significant period. He has won 8 relay medals - so that gives us some perspective. Still probably the greatest swimmer - 11 individual olympic medals - nothing to be sniffed at. My picks for what its worth are phelps, carl lewis, dawn fraser, jesse owens and that awsome norwegian cross country skier - cant remember his name

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swimming has more than twice as many opportunities for medals as say athletics

I agree. There are too many swimming events with two many strokes. The deciding factor should be speed. Not stroke or style. No-one woudl care that you gimped and hobbled to a 3-minute mile. Why should swimming be different?

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"The greatest Olympian?" This is a silly, meaningless and irrelevant question. Why this particular Western (American) fixation with the greatest this and the greatest that? (Part of the over-competitive nature of American culture that is partly responsible for its decline.) And how can you quantify athletic prowess . . . speed, balance, strength, endurance, agility, etc? All medal winners in all sports are great athletes; probably even those without medals. Why not simply leave it at that?

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I would give him more credit if he competed in other events "out of a pool." Phelps may be the most decorated Olympian, but certainly not the greatest Olympian. See Jim Thorpe, Babe Zaharias, etc. Jesse Owens and Cassius Clay (Ali) for historical significance, 2012 means the "Sayounara Tour." Kitajima, Phelps, and the others are passing the torch to the new breed. This happens every 12 years on average.

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Steve Redgrave?

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This is like comparing oranges and apples. Some people specialize in a particular event. Others do well in a sport which offers many many events. Others do well over a decade or two. Others do well in events which involve a lot of sub-events like the decathlon.


Steve Redgrave?

NO. Daley Thompson!!! Ha ha ha!

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If Phelps did the high jump, middleweight boxing, hurdles and won gold in all then I would say yes

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He's certainly among the greats, which is all that matters. It's getting harder to like the guy on camera, though - he's acting kinda surly these days.

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Larisa Latynina is greater than Phelps.

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Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time. What he's done is unbelievable - and there were few experts who said publicly that he could do it. The only thing he could have done better - is to have been born Australian!

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The greatest. Hands down.

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Why this particular Western (American) fixation with the greatest this and the greatest that?

It's a Reuters piece. The reporter is a British national. Jealous much?

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China and the US are TIED for GOLD. 18/18. It's the GOLD that REALLY counts!

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In terms of Olympic medals ... Phelps is undoubtedly the best Olympian ever. But we must not forget those other great Olympians of the past. Remember, there was a time when only amateurs could compete, and most had to forego other attempts at getting medals later in life because they had to go out and earn money so as to make a living. There were many top-quality athletes from those days who surely could have won more medals if they weren't limited to amateurism only.

In addition to my home state (Maryland) boy Phelps, there are many other great Olympians, such as Carl Lewis ... well, I could go on and on ... but their names are in the medals categories from years past ... Russians, Romanians, Japanese and on and on ...

And I admire even Canadian Ben Johnson, the disgraced runner who built up on steroids. His performances were breath-taking. Although he bulked up on illegal drugs, he worked himself into the "perfect" body with super speed ... and ran like no other person before him ...

In their own way ... all Olympic gold medal winners are great ... each one being the greatest at that time ... and often for all time ...

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And butterfly stroke - a way of swimming devised specifically for racing as far as i can see. No one would choose to swim butterfly. It is not the fastest stroke and it is not comfortable or intuitive, like backstroke or breast stroke. It is rather like introducing the hundred metres hop to give athletes the chance of another gold.

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Yeah, greatest Olympian ever. He's so good that winning another gold isn't as big news as it should be. So, he's really in a class of his own. Nobody thought there'd be another Mark Spitz, but he did it.

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This question is why the triathlon was created: who is the most fit - bikers, runners, or swimmers. Maybe the triathlon should be an Olympic event. After all, they have or had the decathlon and the pentathlon. (I believe the decathlon is mostly track and field events?)

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@Borscht Triathlon IS an Olympic event :)

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