People claim he’s from the future. That his body is the closest thing to a perfect swimming machine ever conceived. In the last two days, I’ve told friends that he’s “less a mortal being than a god on Mt. Olympus” and “someone who defies my (admittedly weak) understanding of physics.” The general sense is that Michael Phelps has graduated to a league entirely his own; that he can no longer be compared to any human athlete, alive or dead. The New York Times decided to kind of run with that idea.
When assessing Phelps’s performance here, an iconic sports figure from the 1970s springs to mind — not Mark Spitz, whose record of seven golds from the 1972 Munich Games is squarely in Phelps’s sights, but the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
Says Michael Phelps: “Umm… thanks?” It’s hardly an inflammatory statement (or article), but I think it would be kind of insulting to be compared to an animal bred for pure physical prowess. Not that the training is all that different. Years of intense workouts and careful diets (maybe less so in Phelps’ case) are paramount to the athletic cultivation of both man and beast. And what about a swimmer’s penchant for racing nearly nude? Maybe the Times is just saying what everybody else is afraid to admit.
Equestrian or not, the guy is just fucking unbelievable. I’m sure that like me you’ve all been glued to your television set (or computer screen, if your hardware meets NBC’s rigorous video standards) for the last four nights basking in his awesomeness. That 400 IM? Holy shit. Last night’s two golds in the 200 Fly and 800 Free Relay? Don’t even get me started on the 200 Free. Since the majority of you reading this blog are friends and family, you know that I am a swimmer (or swammer, given my retired Speedo) myself. My relationship with the sport has always been a complicated one, I’ll admit, but nothing puts those festering issues to rest like the Olympics. Every four years I rediscover my love of swimming. And with Michael Phelps tapping his Force abilities like Yoda (tonight in the 200 IM semis), these Games are even more exciting than usual. How often does a guy like this come along?
Stepping outside the pool for a moment, what have been your favorite Olympics moments so far? And who is your second favorite competing athlete?