Five Rings, One Swimmer To Rule Them All? The Last Stand Of Michael Phelps, G.O.A.T.

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps by Patrick B Kraemer

Olympic Year has dawned. No better place than to start a series of profiles on leading contenders than with the Greatest hauler of them all, all-time, all sports: Michael Phelps

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Comments

Eugene

>”Greatest hauler of them all, all-time, all sports”

Phelps is of course the best swimmer ever, and we all love him, but is it fair to compare athletes in swimming and other sports in terms of quantity of their Olympic medals? Swimmer can get three medals at the same Olympics as a part of three relays (even swimming only in morning heats), while wrestlers or weightlifters or many other guys can only win one piece of hardware per Games. As an example, Alexander Karelin was undefeated for more than 10 years and lost only one point in a controversial Olympic final of 2000… and he is not even on the list of 100+ greatest multiple Olympic medalists! 🙂

Craig Lord

It is a fact, so yes, fair, Eugene. How many swimmers have got remotely close to what Phelps achieved on Olympic tally in the pool, even on solo count? Answer: none, Mark Spitz the closest and his tally also extraordinary, including relays. The statement says ‘greatest hauler’ – and so he is. It isn’t his fault if in other sports the star is someone who won the same event for 10 years – no-one is suggesting that isn’t very worthy indeed… but it isn’t the greatest haul… that belongs to Phelps, which is what we state. His versatility in a swimming context alone is extraordinary. Anticipating any past thoughts renewed, I’m not a fan of Mr Bolt’s view that if he were allowed to run sideways and backwards, he’d have lots more medals, too: that simply shows his total lack of understanding of what it means to be world No3 ranked in nine solo Olympic events in one season and how that makes Phelps all but unique in swimming history. Nor does Mr Bolt’s view appreciate what Phelps’ achievements add up to on the athletic score, all sports, all-time.

Harold Masterson

Bolt’s comments on medal count go beyond stupid. He could train and compete in the 400 meters, 400 meters hurdles, the 110 high hurdles and 4 by 400 meter relay. All of those events are available to him if he wanted. I believe that the appropriate to Bolt should be compete in the 100, 200 and the events listed above, win them all then get back to talking about Phelps and his count.

DDias

Harold Masterson,
although Bolt talk was a pure nonsense, your talk about 400events shows a lack of Athletics knowledge.
The pool will always have more medals than Athletics because a simple factor:Injuries.
All top runners have injuries(from minor to severe) during its careers.The impact against land is not healthy to the human body.
The fibres needed to be a good 400 guy are not the same of a dash specialist. A 100-200-400 gold would be a deed rare to explain.Maybe a future BALCO man…

paolo rubbiani

@Ddias: ok, but 100 m, 200 m and long jump (and 4×100 relay) is a real possibility in athletics (and Carl Lewis showed it).
Also Michael Johnson (and he run in the 90’s when there were always 4 rounds both in 400m and in the 200m) was for many years the undisputed master both in 200m and 400m (still WR holder in this distance).
Your thesis about injuries is in general correct but also in swimming in the latest years have (unfortunately) become more frequent physical troubles and injuries.
And also in swimming the specialization has been rapidly increasing: I bet that nobody in the future will try to win the 400 im and the 100 fly like Phelps did both in Athens04 and in Beijing08.
I’d say that in swimming has become very difficult try to win even in distance apparently near, like 50 and 100 free, or 100 free and 200 free, so the “Boltian talk” is really a nonsense.

Harold Masterson

My knowledge of both track and swimming is actually pretty good, I have been a student and fan of both for a very long time. I fully understand the injury factor in track vs. swimming. The pool will always have more medals because there are more events that are similar and a versatile swimmer has more chances to win if they are willing to put in the training to race seventeen times. You also need to defeat, at the end of your program, the specialist who may be swimming only three times. My point is that there are other events that Bolt could have trained for but chose not to do the work or take the risk. Bolt’s times are almost beyond belief yet he chose to remain within a well-established comfort zone and not push the boundaries, for that reason he will always remain in Phelps shadow.

Lennart van Haaften

“to be world No3 ranked in nine solo Olympic events in one season and how that makes Phelps all but unique in swimming history”

What was the 9th? I can see 8 (100/200 free/fly/back, 200/400 im).

Lennart van Haaften

“The fibres needed to be a good 400 guy are not the same of a dash specialist. A 100-200-400 gold would be a deed rare to explain.”

Before Phelps, an 11-time individual Olympic champion would be hard to explain too. That’s the whole point of changing what is considered possible.

Lennart van Haaften

By the way, in men’s track and field there are ca. 9 athletes who won 3 individual gold medals at the same Games, vs how many male swimmers? Two, Phelps (twice) and Spitz. So it is hard to argue how swimming makes it easy to rack up medals compared to track. Bolt must have had some personal agenda for his comments.

Lennart van Haaften

As for Alexander Karelin, the special thing about Phelps is mostly how he measures up against other swimmers. 11 individual gold medals, while the numbers 2 only have 4 such medals (men, Egerszegi has 5), that’s a huge gap (almost a factor of 3) in term of the most important prize that you don’t see in many other sports.

Bad Anon

There is some merit in Bolt’s assertions. Multiplicity of strokes and medley too can see swimmers winning multiple medals.. In both sports however ; potential medallists are limited ; no matter how stacked a 100m track race is or a women 200m freestyle event is for that matter, only 3 medals up for grabs. Track and field has several rounds in prelims unlike swimming with heats (+/- semi) and finals. Risk of injury much higher in track and field

Bad Anon

In Beijing Phelps won golds in 200m freestyle; 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley ; track and field only exists one 200m race. Phelps trained hard and had to overcome worthy rivals (granted); so that’s partly a credible observation. To put the matter to bed ; no other swimmer; man or woman has been remotely close to what. Phelps has achieved making him truly outstanding in what’s an incredibly competitive sport. Someone like Hosszu, Sjostrom or Lochte even will be incredibly fortunate to win 2 individual olympic golds, even just one

Craig Lord

And two of the three examples you give will attend their 4th (KH) and 3rd (SS) Games in Rio and have yet to win a medal of any colour, Bad Anon. Each example we find, and, of course, there are many multi-medallists in swimming who could be mentioned, brings a different story to the table. The overcoming of worthy rivals is a whole not partial observation. How many swimmers do we know capable of winning Olympic 200 free, fly and IM and holding world records in all 3? One. That one is the achievement beyond all of them in the pool, well beyond: Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympic hauler of all-time and an extraordinary athlete. No Bolt downplay nor nothing else can change that.

aswimfan

s the most competitive person on earth, there’s a carrot dangling in front of him that motivated him to “unretire”. This is the exact thinking why in early 2012 -when Phelps announced his planned retirement- I was the very first person commenting on swimmingworld, speedendurance and the other swimming site that Pheps will come back to swim in 2016:

1. To be the first swimmer man or woman to win olympics individual gold in 4 olympics
2. To beat Latynina’s total individual golds.

I also was among the first if not the first who had written in several swimming sites and predicted that Phelps would swim 400 IM in London even after he had publicly stated several times in 2011 he would never swim 400 IM again. Interestingly, some of the so called Phans even heckled me for even doubting the word of Michael Phelps.

Phelps has two individual events to make him the first swimmer to fourpeat: 100 fly and 200 IM and you can bet your bottom dollar he will swim those events.
He might even swim 200 fly to avenge Le Clos ( remember, for Phelps, losing is traumatic), but I would advise him to scrap 200 fly. Sure, he swam the fastest time last year, but Olympics is a different matter and he will be a year older. Better focus on 100 fly and 200 IM, where in the case he will win it, it will be the toughest record in swimming olympics history.

This is the similar advice I wrote in swimming websites about Lochte’s plan to swim both 200 back/IM on the same night: he need to pick one where he has bigger chance for gold, otherwise he won’t win either. Which came to materialize exactly.

Craig Lord

aswimfan, the record goes deeper than that on Phelps and retirement, of course. In a 2011 interview with Michael Phelps (with me), he stated he would retire after 2012 (so earlier than early 2012) and also stated “I wouldn’t say I’d never race again” on the basis that “you never know”. The various shades of likelihood on Phelps’ racing longevity were covered far and wide from 2009 (first time he mentioned the possibility of retirement) onwards. We may never see him at an Olympics again after this summer but I wouldn’t necessarily think we will never see him in a race again.

aswimfan

Craig Lord,

Had Shane Gould and Egerszegi been americans (and had three relays to swim in), they would have been close, if not equal, to Phelps’ Beijing medal haul.

Swimming has three relays which inflate total medal hauls of swimmers from, the strongest swimming country with most depth, almost invariably, USA.

It is a pity track does not have 4×200 or 4×100 mixed run and hurdles, in which case Bolt’s total golds would have been boosted.

Phelps is the GOAT swimmer in history no doubt, but comparing one athlete (generic term) in an olympic sport to another athlete in different sport is a debate that can never be concluded even by majority.

If only gymnastics had three team events just like three relays in swimming, her record would have been unmatchable for a long time.

I LOVE swimming and am a crazy swimming fan, but I myself can admit that swimming olympics medals are inflated. It is easier to cross over between events in swimming than in most other olympics sports. Even breaststroke specialists have won olympics and worlds IM medals.

Yes, they are hugely talented, but there’s a reason why in swimming we have had Gould, Caulkin, Otto, Egerszegi, Biondi, Spitz, Gross, Hosszu, Phelps, Lochte. Hell, even Thorpe decided to swim 200 IM for fun in 2013 world champions and voila.. a nice silver he won.

No one who knows track would ever in a million years believe that Genzebe Dibaba (who broke the “unbreakable” 1500 WR this year) would ever run and then win wolrd championships silver in 400 hurdles.
This is the analogy of Thorpe winning 200 IM silver.

There’s no way in this galaxy or far far away galaxy that even the most super talented gold medal winning 800-1,500 track athlete would ever win 200-400 golds the way Ledecky did, or they way Hackett and Yang almost did it. Or distance specialist Evans won 200 free silver in 1991 worlds. Genzebe Dibaba will never win 200 m world championships silver in a million years, the same goes for the super talented and super drug fuelled Jarmila Kratochvilova who broke ridiculous WR in 400/800 could never sniff a 200 final had she even decided to run, let alone winning medal or even gold the way Thorpe/Ledecky/Evans/Hackett did.

Hicham El Guerrouj, the greatest 1,500 track athlete in history, could never even dream of winning anything close to a medal in 800, meanwhile, swimming’s 1,500 greatest swimmers easily won 800 worlds gold medals like it’s nothing : Gould, Wickham, Evans, Salnikov, Perkins, Hackett, Yang, Ledecky. Even the not so great ones like Bennet, Ziegler and Stockbauer have done it too.

We must admit the truth: It is relatively easier to win more medals in swimming than in most of any other olympics sports, especially the major ones.

Craig Lord

aswimfan, we know well what swimming offers; and we know what track and field and the rest offer…. Greatest haul is what I wrote, and greatest haul it is, no question whatsoever. As to where that sits in the pantheon of all greats, all sports, I’d say it is right up there with anything we have seen in the athletic realm. You provide the reason for counter argument in your own argument: it is not about Beijing alone (a result that took Phelps beyond all, Spitz and any other) – here is a man with 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold. He had to do it and he faced some of the finest athletes on the planet. We admit nothing but the truth at this site – and that includes stating that it is NOT ‘relatively easy’ to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming – it is a towering achievement, so to win 18 is something else (even if you strip away the relays, which would be daft in that he had to stand up and race again and again and again, USA strength as relevant to the result as the contribution of each individual concerned, Phelps included): something beyond, a demonstration of versatility that Bolt and others have simply not been able to demonstrate in the context of their own sports, as others here have pointed out. And in swimming, we are talking about a very few folk who are capable of having a genuine shot at Olympic medals from 100 to 1500 free and similar ranges on and across strokes. The vast majority in the sport are not in that realm – and the history of Olympic medals shows us just how extraordinary Phelps’ achievement is … nothing relatively easy (I know what you mean but again say ‘not swimming’s fault’ if other sports have organised themselves differently and set up their own traditions in a specific fashion down the years) in it at all, as far as I can see. I agree that comparing sports and athletic accomplishment in very different realms, some relying on equipment and machinery, some not etc etc, is all but impossible. What I’m happy to say is that Phelps, the greatest hauler in Olympic history, the most decorated athlete in that realm ever, is among the greatest athletes who every lived, all sports, all time.

paolo rubbiani

I don’t agree with some Aswimfan assertions, so..just to debate..

“Had Shane Gould and Egerszegi been americans (and had three relays to swim in), they would have been close, if not equal, to Phelps’ Beijing medal haul.”.
Absolutely not, because both Egersgegi and Gould (eponimous swimmers, that’s clear) won a maximum of 3 individual golds in a single edition of Olympics. And Egerszegi was a backstroke-medley specialists, so it was impossible for her winning a gold medal in a free relay.

“Hell, even Thorpe decided to swim 200 IM for fun in 2013 world champions and voila.. a nice silver he won”.
Thorpe trained seriously for 200 im at Worlds2003 because he tried to increase/change his schedule of events (he swam at those Worlds 100 free, 200 free, 400 free and 200 im, instead of 200, 400, 800 free like at Worlds2001) towards Olympics2004.
Thorpe swam great in 200 im with a nice Australian record (1.59.66), but unfortunately for him Phelps was super-great with an incredible WR at 1.56.04 (the historical Sievinen WR smashed). Losing with such a wide margin (more than 3 seconds and a half) by his greatest rival for world swimming predominance, persuaded Thorpe to not swim that event at Olympics2004, when other swimmers, like Cseh, tried to challenge Phelps’ supremacy.

“Hicham El Guerrouj, the greatest 1,500 track athlete in history, could never even dream of winning anything close to a medal in 800”,
Ramzi, at 2005 WC, won golds both in 800 and 1500 m in athletics. At Olympics 1964 Peter Snell won the double 800-1500m.
That’s said, it’s clear that swimming offers more chances than athletics to win more medals, but it’s also perfectly clear that what Phelps did both in Athens2004 (4 individual golds) than in Beijing2008 (5 individual golds) is an “unicum” also in swimming.

“Phelps is the most competitive person on earth”
Still I don’t agree. Phelps could have won much more medals during his career, and swam more WRs if he would have been hungry in a “Ledecky mode”.
Instead, already after Athens2004 Phelps had troubles in training (and the first Dui), signals of that relative boredom, lack of concentration and motivation in swimming that was, then, plainly evident between 2009 and 2012.

CharlesB

Said Aouita won Olympic Gold at 5,000m in 1984 and Olympic Bronze at 800m in 1988, a unique achievement, although he injured himself in that latter race and did not run his more favoured distance of 1500m. Usain Bolt was just 0.12s off Johnson’s 300m World Best time at 300m in 2010 but does he really want the 400m WR badly enough to train for it? It is not just Phelp’s innate talent that is remarkable, but his willingness to put in the necessary training required for each discipline coupled with his extraordinary racing toughness.

Lennart van Haaften

aswimfan, several of your comparisons go wrong. You treat the 200m is being a similar event in swimming and track, but the 200m in track is a sprint while in swimming it is middle distance. Of course a runner can’t combine 1500 and 200m, same as a swimmer can’t combine 400m and 50m.

“This is the analogy of Thorpe winning 200 IM silver.”
Well, no.

Thorpe could do well in the 200im in part because 200m was his best distance (maybe together with 400m). Comparing his 200im with Dibaba’s 400 hurdles doesn’t make sense at all, since Dibaba is not a 400m runner. A hypothetical 1500 hurdles she may be able to win if she trained for it.

El Guerrouj also won the 5k, the 1500 was his lower range.

Lennart van Haaften

I agree with most that comparisons between sports are hard, but we can still look at how far someone is above the rest in their own sport. In that sense, Phelps does a lot better than Bolt and almost any other athlete. If Phelps can more easily win titles than Bolt, so can other swimmers. But they don’t, no swimmer comes close to Phelps. Maybe because Phelps actually is good? And also, Bolt never won than 2 individual golds at a single Olympics (or WC), while many other athletes, including sprinters/long jumpers (Lewis, Owens), did.

Bolt has the longevity (pending Rio), but not the versatility, while Phelps has both. That’s what you need to rack up many titles.

Craig Lord

Indeed, Lennart

gheko

I doubt Usain Bolt will ever equal the Olympic record of Betty Cuthbert of Australia Gold medals in the 100m 200m 400m and 4x100m

aswimfan

Lennart, I can’t think of any other olympics sports which have equal or nearly the same number -percentage wise- of “versatile” athletes as there are in swimming.

On top of my head, Here’s the list of versatile swimmers since 2008 (by versatile I mean those who can and have swum times in the top 3 of the year in at least 4 individual events):
Phelps, Lochte, Le Clos, Ledecky, Sjostrom, Franklin, Hosszu, Sun Yang, Park Tae Hwan, Trickett, Coughlin, Hagino, Seebohm, Belmonte, etc etc.
I’m sure I missed so many others.
When you go further back, there were Thorpe, Hackett, O’Neill, Thompson, De Bruijn, Van Almsick, Biondi, Salnikov, Otto, Gross, Caulkins, Gould, Spitz, Ender, Meyer, Rose, etc etc.

Now, in track&field, has there been any equivalent “versatile” athletes since 2008?
I am struggling to think a name. Someone who know T&F please tell me if there has been such “versatile”

Does this mean that track&field athletes are worse athletes overall than swimmers? Or do they have just less motivation or work less harder than swimmers?

Or..as I suspect
does this mean that it is easier to be “versatile” in swimming compared to track and field? In addition that almost all T&F events are “specialist” events, meaning most athletes focus on one event only.

Case in point:
in 2012 London, USA team members for 100/400 m and 110/400 hurdles are all different people.

I am probably among the biggest swimming fans in the world, and I also hate it whenever fans of other sports saying things to undermine swimmers’ achievements, but I can also recognize that it is easier for swimming’s greats to win more

aswimfan

Lennart,

I was saying that Gould would have been close to Phelps’ Beijing medals had she been an american and there had been three relays.
And why did you say absolutely not? She won 5 individual medals (including 3 golds), and with her addition, USA would have swept all relays (had there been also 4×200). so that’s 6 golds and another two medals. Not 8 golds, but quite close enough.
Egerszegi would have won 5 golds in Barcelona
Inge De Bruijn would have 5 golds in Sydney.

Biondi and Spitz already won swag of golds.
Gross would have won more golds. etc.

Jenny Thompson who never won individual gold actually won 12 medals total.

This is nothing but to underline my point again that it is relatively easier to win more medals in swimming than in any other olympics timed sports.

aswimfan

Gheko,

Betty Cuthbert is among the track greats, but she did win 400 in 1960 while she won 100 and 200 in 1956.
Would she have won 400 in Melbourne had it already been an olympics event?
We never know.

Charles B,
So Said Aoita won 5000 gold and 800 bronze 4 years apart. This again, support the assertion that taking (and winning) more than two T&F events are much more difficult than swimmers taking two events and more. Very few did it quite successfully: Heike Dreschler (100/200, long jump) and we know about East German PED use, and Carl Lewis (100/200, long jump) who actually has failed a drug test.

aswimfan

Let me give an illustration:
in 2012 London, Mireia Belmonte swam this schedule:

Event Time Place
400m IM 4:35.62 8
400m Freestyle 4:08.23 13
200m IM 2:11.54 10
200m Butterfly 2:05.25 Silver
4 x 200m Freestyle Relay 7:54.59 10
800m Freestyle 8:18.76 Silver

That would be like a T&F athlete doing 800m steeplechase, 800m run, 400m hurdles, 400m run, 4×400 relay and 5000m run.
NO ONE T&F athletes would ever attempt such schedule, and yet Belmote went home with two silvers.

ThereaLuigi

This pound-for-pound ranking of athletes across sports and ages that some of you are attempting is entertaining, but a futile exercise in my humble opinion. Too many variables to factor in. Let’s just state the facts, as CL says. He has hauled more Olympic medals than anyone else, period.

When talking about Phelps, most like to remember his 2007 campaign, of of course the Bejing amazing feat (I suspect hardcore fans prefer the former, because of the suit argument and because it was in 2007 that he crossed over to freestyle in a big way). However, I like to remind that in 2003, in the space of a few weeks (WC and Summer Nationals) he set 5 WRs and won 5 national titles in 8 or 9 (I can’t recall, but I believe they included 200 back, 100 and 400 free) different individual events! In the process he also set personal bests in each event.

Lennart van Haaften

aswimfan, T&F athletes may be less versatile in recent year rankings, but at the Olympics they have historically been more versatile than swimmers, especially men. Maybe something changed recently, then (I’m assuming your lists are more of less correct.)

Either way, other swimmers are much less able to transfer that versatility to Olympic gold than Phelps. And Bolt is less versatile than many other T&F athletes, so the number of events is not what is primarily holding him back in medal count, his range of ability is. (although, people have argued that he would be a medal candidate in the long jump and 400 m, but he decided not to try those events in major competition).

I agree that swimmers benefit much more from relays, and therefore I carefully excluded those from any analysis.

PS I didn’t mention Gould, someone else did.

aswimfan

ThereaLuigi,

No argument from me that Phelps is the GOAT swimmer and biggest hauler of olympics medals.

Thankfully, in swimming, it seems almost all in agreement that Phelps is the GOAT.
Check out fan forums of almost all other sports and they bicker all the time who is their sports’ GOAT. Tennis, cycling, football (soccer), T&F, cricket, etc etc forums are full of this debate.

Craig Lord

indeed, aswimfan – that’s because Phelps stands out in his own sport when compared to other super athletes and other big medal haulers – and therefore it follows all the more that he stands out, too, in the realm of all sports

Craig Lord

Yes, 2003 a big season, Therealuigi. When he’s done, we can all debate a ranking of career highlights 🙂

Craig Lord

Aswimfan, would, could, might (schedule with 3 relays with gold in mind on top of 5 solos untested by most of those you mention, of course) – fact is something else, as we all know. I don’t accept the relatively easy view. What Phelps has done is soaringly, searingly challenging stuff, no edge of softness to it, relative or not.

aswimfan

Lennart,

I disagree that T&F athletes were historically more versatile than swimmers in the old days. In the old days, swimmers may have seemed less versatile, but that is mostly due to fewer events than they are now.
There have always been swimmers with amazing range. Think how many more medals Dawn Fraser would have won had there been 50 free, 200 free, 100 fly and 4×200?
Or Jim Montgomery had there been 200 free and 4×200?
The versatile Spitz, Gould, Gross, Biondi, Ender, Egerszegi, Evans, Otto, were swimming in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. It is not recent phenomena.

The obvious explanation is that training for different swimming events is less different/specialised than those in between T&F events.
Example: the greatest butterfliers in the past 30 years have also always been great, medals winning freestylers (or vice versa): Gross, Biondi, Caulkins, Otto, Sanders, Thompson, Otto, Meagher, O’Neil, Klim, Jedrejcak, Thomas, De Bruijn, Alshammar, Crocker, Phelps, Lochte, Cseh, Trickett, Vollmer, Sjostrom, Le Clos etc etc.

It is also not true that T&F athletes used to be more versatile. Since 1960 Rome (I am not counting pre war games or the 1950s since there were decidedly fewer swimming events before 1960s), there have been only Two athletes who won more than 2 individual medals in an olympics :
Carl Lewis in 1984 LA and Heike Dreschel in 1988 Seoul.
Meanwhile, since 1960 the swimmers who won more than 2 individual medals in an olympics:
Debbie Meyer, Mark Spitz, Shane Gould, Kornelia Ender, Shirley Babashoff, Kristina Egerszegi, Janet Evans, Michael Gross, Matt Biondi, Kristin Otto, Daniel Kowalski, Ian Thorpe, Inge de Bruijn, Yana Klochkova, Otylia Jedreczak, Kirsty Coventry, Michael Phelps, Laszlo Cseh, Ryan Lochte, Sun Yang.
And I’m sure I missed some names.

Craig Lord

And the list of great swimmers who won one Olympic gold (or even medal) in their careers is much, much, much, bigger, of course, aswimfan. Such facts are best considered within the context of the individual sports, just as the record of records shows us that swimming will never be associated with the ‘oldest medallist ever’, the ‘oldest gold medallist ever’; the ‘longest time between medals’ record and so on, because of the nature of the sports and sportsmen and women involved… none of which makes it ‘relatively easier’ for a sailor to win a medal 28 years apart, nor a shooter to collect his honour at 72 years of age… and so on and so forth: such achievements should not be put down as ‘relatively easy’ because they are closer to impossible in other sports – to do so plays down achievement when it needn’t be so.

aswimfan

CL,

I agree with you. However, I am not playing down anyone’s achievements.

This discussion started from earlier poster who claimed that if great T&F athletes like Bolt want to win as many medals as Phelps, they should just start training in many events, implying the same nature of events (and types of training required) and same level of competition between swimming and track and field.

Craig Lord

Sure, aswimfan – your point is valid on that level, of course. I just think it the height of disrespect for one athlete to play down the achievement of another (and in so doing, disrespecting and misunderstanding just how hard it is in a swimming context to win one or even a few Olympic medals, let alone 22, 18 of them gold) – and all the more galling when that comes from a man who hardly thirsts for status, publicity, fame and all that comes with it.

ThereaLuigi

Well if you really want to drag me into the Bolt argument ( 🙂 I know nobody wants to drag me anywhere, relax), I believe it should be mentioned that he actually WAS a 400 (and 200) specialist in his teen years: he had to fight his coach over him competing in the 100.

Now these rumors about him possibly focusing back on the 400 in the dusk of his career are interesting. It seems indeed that in track & field older athletes may successfully switch or return to longer distances (there are several examples of 10.000 specialists becoming marathon runners) while in swimming it generally goes the opposite way and it’s very hard to see older swimmers in mid or long distances. Or at least I used to think so until last summer with Cseh’s and Phelps’ performances in the 200 fly.

Felix Sanchez

11 golds in individual events is more than double any other swimmer.

However you compare potential medal hauls across different sports, there are not many sportsmen doubling their nearest rivals total for the ultimate achievement. It’s that statistical dominance over his sport that stands out.

paolo rubbiani

Aswimfan, nobody wrote what you affirm: “This discussion started from earlier poster who claimed that if great T&F athletes like Bolt want to win as many medals as Phelps, they should just start training in many events, implying the same nature of events (and types of training required) and same level of competition between swimming and track and field”.
This is a joke because everyone here perfectly knows what I, among others, have written: “it’s clear that swimming offers more chances than athletics to win more medals, (but it’s also perfectly clear that what Phelps did both in Athens2004 (4 individual golds) than in Beijing2008 (5 individual golds) is an “unicum” also in swimming)”.
In your realm of “would, could, might” there have been some superficial assertions that, frankly, surprised me because you said that you are a great swimming fan, assertions that fueled the discussion (in many ways futile like Therealuigi rightly said is this pound-for-pound ranking of athletes across sports and ages).
Anyway, I’m both a swimming and an athletics passionate, and I think that in the future I’ll have more chances to watch a sprinter winning 100, 200 and 4×100 relay in an outstanding, dominant fashion, like Bolt did in Beijing, than re-watch a swimmer winning 5 individual golds and 3 relays (with WRS) like Phelps did in Beijing. And absolutely no chances to rewatch an athlete/swimmer with 18 (or more, pending Rio2016) Olympic gold medals.

Rafael

While Phelps 5 individual golds were the most of a swimmer, I still am divided to put that or Vitaly gold medal count on 1992 olympics from gymnastic (5 individual gold medals + team medal) or Heiden 5 speed skating gold medals as the greates olympic perfomance (for a single OG)

aswimfan

Paolo,

no offense, but I was not referring to you or your comment. This is what I referred to:

Harold Masterson
January 4, 2016
Bolt’s comments on medal count go beyond stupid. He could train and compete in the 400 meters, 400 meters hurdles, the 110 high hurdles and 4 by 400 meter relay. All of those events are available to him if he wanted. I believe that the appropriate to Bolt should be compete in the 100, 200 and the events listed above, win them all then get back to talking about Phelps and his count.

gheko

Its not always about the most medals won, but how they conduct themselves, and Michael has come up short on a few occasions!

Craig Lord

There but for the grace of God, gheko – that would be a different topic entirely – and MP would be a man with a great many to keep him company, of course, sports stars, blazers and a great many others in the mix. In the sporting realm, I am unaware of any unsporting behaviour that would merit special mention. I could reach for a great many other stories from the sporting realm ahead of MP, of course (indeed, he wouldn’t make the book of a 1000 and more misdemeanours in sport)

aswimfan

Gheko,

Every human being makes mistakes all the time. I am also not the biggest fan of Phelps, but I think he has finally grown up.

Not every sports star can be like Donald Bradman or Roger Federer in their exemplary conduct, and I am not excusing Phelps’ behaviour especially the latest one which could have resulted in fatality of himself or other people. Even Dawn Fraser has done/said things that made you go “huh?”

We may wish Phelps were more like Jordan or Federer. But we are lucky he is nowhere like Tiger Woods.

gheko

When you look at the greats of sport Phelps is nowhere near the top, it takes respect and he has none!

Harold Masterson

I was trying to make a point in response to Bolt’s denigration of Phelps and other swimmers accomplishments.

However it is not as much a joke as you make it out to be. In track the 200 meters is a 20 second event and the 400 is a 44 second event. Very similar to the 50 and 100 meters in swimming. Nobody considers a swimmer competing in both events exceptional, in face it is expected. Why is that? Agreed that the aerobic conditioning to compete for 44+ seconds is different than that required for a more pure sprint event. We have all seen both track and swimmers falling apart at the end of both events. Michael Johnson has demonstrated that the two distances are not incompatible.

Bolt’s talent is incredible, his top speed and length of stride are well suited for the 400, yet he refuses the challenge. Had he accepted the challenge and succeeded I would be more tolerant of his comments. Please reread my second posting.

Craig Lord

That would depend on your personal view, Gheko, and things beyond sport – in the realm of sport, I have seen nothing in all the years I’ve followed him and interview him that would constitute disrespect from him or by him towards others.

gheko

I am not suggesting that he is not the best swimmer ever, just that his behavior outside the pool has taken off some of the gloss of his achievements, that is all.

Lennart van Haaften

“I would advise him to scrap 200 fly” -aswimfan

Very interesting point. I still haven’t formed an opinion yet on whether he should swim it. A medal seems likely, but it is about gold medals. I can easily see Le Clos returning to 2012 form, and probably even better. They may both be able to swim below 1:52.5 (assuming Phelps will be better prepared than in 2012). Revanche on Le Clos would be a huge thing, but he needs to be fresh for the 200im and 100 fly too. The 200 fly is two days before the 200im, the 100 fly one day after the 200im. The 4×200 free is on the same night as the 200 fly. If he skips the 200 fly, he may have a relative edge on Le Clos later on in the 100 fly. I think he should swim all three events at trials if he is in good shape, and if he qualifies for all three, then make a decision, partly based on his times.

aswimfan

Lennart,

I think he will swim 200 fly in the trials, and if qualifies, in Rio too, just like he did the 400 IM in 2012. Although I had predicted he’d swim the 400 IM in London despite his statement of never swimming 400 IM again, I still thought it was a bad idea.

And his 400 IM was not pretty in London. Did 400 IM performance which was on the first day affect his 200 fly swim?
Fortunately for his 200 IM, his main opponent made more gave mistake: swimming 200 back final just an hour beforehand.

For me, Phelps swimming 200 fly this year is like him swimming 400 IM in London. Sure, he had the fastest time last year, but in much easier circumstances than what will be this year.
In my opinion, securing golds in 100 fly and/or 200 IM is the most paramount for him and I feel that the energy expended on 200 fly swims will negatively affect his performances later in the two events.

But Phelps being Phelps, he just loves to prove the naysayers wrong.

Felix Sanchez

Lennart,

I don’t understand understand how you can see that ‘easily’. Le Clos hasn’t been close to his 2012 time since, and all of a sudden he’s going to go half a second faster. Peaking for the Olympic year is obviously common, but that’s still a very big shout.

He is a great competitor though, and maybe needs that to get the best out of himself. Having a fast Phelps in the lane beside him, might be all he needs to crack 1.53 again.

paolo rubbiani

Phelps’ choice of races for Olympics will be THE TOPIC regarding Phelps in the next months.
The best choice for winning gold medals would be swimming two individual races, not three, that’s clear, because the age is a factor also for Phelps.
But there’s Phelps’ story, in every Olympics, to tell us that will be unlikely.
Anyway, swimming 400 im in London2012 was a clear mistake (and Bowman acknowledged it recently) particularly considering how much Phelps’ training was discontinuos between 2009 and 2012, and even in the last months of 2012 before trials.
So, as usual, the choice of Phelps’ schedule will be a challenge between wisdom/ rationality (2 individual races and 3 relays, i.e. 9 swims, are more than enough for a 31 years old at Olympics, even if that 31 years old is Phelps) and Phelps’ will of challenges, of attempting difficult, not “normal” targets.
And there is a challenge for 200 fly (ending on a high note in the race swum in the first Olympics, at 15, after the narrow defeat in London) and 200 im and 100 fly (the fourpeat).
I think that Lennart gave the right clue: Phelps will swim the 3 events at trials in Omaha and then Bowman will make a decision , partly based on times, partly on Phelps’ fatigue.
At trials 2012 Phelps qualified also for 200 free and then Bowman decided to keep in the schedule the 400 im and not the 200 free. We’ll see this time which will be Bowman’s choice.

Lennart van Haaften

Yes, the 400im in London was a surprising mistake. The 200fly could take the place this time around, but then again, Phelps seems like he will be in better shape come Rio compared to London, despite his age. But his age will also affect his recovery, so you’re probably right aswimfan, is suggesting he should scratch the 200 fly.

Lennart van Haaften

Felix, ‘easily’ may be a bit exaggerated, but I do expect Le Clos to be better than in 2012. He’s still young, and will be highly motivated to beat Phelps, especially in the 200 fly if Phelps were to swim it. He’ll be better than in the past few years for sure and he seems to get better when facing challenging competition.

Felix Sanchez

Definitely agree with the last point, but still don’t think it will that fast.

Also, do agree with the comparisons between 400IM last time and 200fly this year. However, a slight difference in terms of how he flip flopped over quitting the 400IM. At least this time he’s clearly been working on his 200fly the season before, and obviously performing well.

Lennart van Haaften

Yes, he could do very well in the 200 fly, he seems very focused again, like he was up to 2008.

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