The greatest Olympian

SPORTS EYE - Raffy Uytiepo (The Freeman) - June 22, 2021 - 12:00am

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greatest Olympian of all time? This query would spark another heated debate, but Sports Illustrated has already made up its mind. In August 2004, a 19-year old -from Baltimore won his first Olympic medal, a gold in the 400 individual medley in Athens, Greece, four thousand three hundred eighty two days later, Michael Phelps won his 28th and last (another gold) in the 4x100 meter-relay in the Rio Olympics. Phelps has won a total of 23 gold medals and if he were a country, he would have ranked 13th, if we count the gold medals won from 2004 to 2016. China leads the tally with 147, the U.S, 141. He’s just two medals short of the Netherlands with 25. Gymnast Larisa Latinina of the USSR, has won 18 with 9 golds. Since the 1896 Games, 16 Olympians with nine gold medals are tracksters Usian Bolt, Carl Lewis and Paavo Nurmi of Finland and American swimmer Mark Spitz. Three U.S Olympians combined gold medals is 23, these are from Ryan Lochte, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi.  Phelps was only 15 years old when he set his first world record with a time of 1:54:92 in the 200M-butterfly at the World Aquatics Championships, making him the youngest swimming world-record setter ever. There are several world records set by Phelps that remain standing today.


But it was not all a bed of roses for Phelps, who’s glittery world went dark when the tabloid News of the World published on February 1, 2009, a photo of him drinking from a bong at a party at the University of South Carolina. Phelps apologized but USA Swimming suspended him from competition for three months. The fallout from the photo was wrenching for Phelps who looked like he’s lost interest in the sport.  Somedays, he would train for 20 minutes, somedays he didn’t swim at all.  But he recovered in time to win medals in the 2012 London Olympics.  Then another trouble came up when in the evening of September 29, 2014, Phelps drove from his home to the Horseshoe Casino, near Baltimore Harbor, when he was  stopped by police as his white 2014 Range Rover was speeding at 84-mph in a 45-mph zone. He also failed two alcohol tests and was charged with DUI, excessive speed and crossing double-lane lines. Shattered and depressed, Phelps entered a rehab center in Arizona called the  Meadows where he spent 45 days.  Among his  closest friends at the Meadows was Morgan Gaynes, a Hollywood special effects technician and brother of actress Demi Moore.

2016 Rio Olympics

After picking up the pieces, Phelps was back in the pool to train for his last Olympics in Brazil, where he would test his new found emotional peace and restored fitness. He delivered a series of stunning workouts at a pre-Olympic training camp in Atlanta. In Rio, Phelps at age 31, won four more gold medals, one silver and a bronze.  Now retired, Phelps is busy with the Michael Phelps Foundation IM Program (IM refers not only to individual medley, but also to “I Am”).  Since it’s inception in 2019, it has already attracted 16,000 individuals who undergo water-safety courses, recreational activities, swim training and wellness education. Phelps also envisions to have his own racing swimwear, MP and planned to get Katie Ledecky, who won four gold medals in Rio, to assist him. Dubbed the American Superfish, Phelps wing span at 6’7” is three inches longer than his height. Normally, one’s wingspan and height are equal. The Los Angeles Lakers Anthony Davis’ wingspan is 7’4” to his 6’10” height.

 So do we agree with Sports Illustrated that Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever?  Your answer is as good as mine.

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