I had no idea. This time last week, I was not really excited about the Olympics. I certainly didn’t care about Michael Phelps. Eight golds? No way. It’s all hype.
Just like when Matt Biondi tried to tie Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals (plus seven world records) in the 1988 Seoul Games. He ended up with five golds and seven overall medals. Great feat, but not better than Spitz. Even the great Ian Thorpe managed only three golds and two silvers at the 2000 Olympics in his home country of Australia. Thorpe who was thought to be unbeatable was actually taken down twice.
These “failures” by the greats proved to me that swimming all those races, preliminaries, semifinals and finals, in a short amount of time to equal or break Spitz’s mark was too daunting.
This Michael Phelps guy, pretty good, I thought, probably better than Biondi and Thorpe but there’s way too much pressure and way too much competition for him to set the new standard.
Well, I know better now after staying up into the night to watch him flipper kick and butterfly stroke to six gold medals and six world records. WOW.
One swimmer at the games probably described it best. “We’re not chasing world records anymore,” said Great Britain’s James Goddard, who finished sixth behind Phelps in Friday’s 200 IM. “He’s the world record, so really we’re just chasing him.”
I have seen some great athletic feats. I marveled at Carl Lewis as he won the 100, 200, long jump and 4x100 track events at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. I saw Flo Jo, Michael Johnson, Edwin Moses, Mary Lou, Greg Louganis, Shannon Miller, Janet Evans, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and the first Dream Team. I witnessed Mary Decker, Mia Hamm, Karch Kiraly, Joan Benoit and Oscar de la Hoya.
But really, have anyone of us seen anyone as great as Michael Phelps? Maybe Tiger Woods? Already Phelps is the greatest summer Olympian in history with 12 gold medals.
Apparently having his goggles fill with water can’t stop him as evidence of his performance in the 200-meter butterfly. His goggles came off slightly as he dove to start the race.
They say he was identified as a potential swimming champion when he was 11. That his body, which stands at 6-foot-4, is disproportional but that helps him be great in the water. His torso is that of a 6-8 man, but his legs are usually found on someone 6-feet tall. Evidently, his shorter legs allow him to have less resistance in the water and a better kick off the wall on turns. That’s not to mention his double-jointed elbow and ankles.
It’s amazing to watch him swim, especially from those underwater shots. He was clearly born to swim.
It’s also clear that he has a champion’s heart and intelligence to know that he can’t waste his blessed talents by not giving maximum effort each time he dives into the pool.
I don’t feel cheated when watching Phelps. That’s why I root hard for him to accomplish his goal of eight gold medals and eight world records. He’s got two more races. Go get’em Michael.
OUT AT HOME: My daughter has learned to give me timeouts when I argue with my wife. Funny how my wife never gets one. The little girl also knows how to improve my mood immediately after a brief row with the wife. “Daddy, are you happy or mad?” she would ask with a big smile. There’s really only one answer to that question. Suddenly, I’m much better and so is my wife.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK: As much as I’ve enjoyed the Olympics, I’d much rather watch a Redskins preseason game. Here’s something from one of my favorite players.