Friday, August 15, 2008

Greatest Olympian?

We are all living through a bit of history as we start to notice that Michael Phelps has won his sixth gold medal in this Olympics underway in Beijing. At this point, he has won more gold medals than any Olympic athlete in any sport. A nagging question that comes up is if he is the greatest Olympian ever. Greater than the likes of Carl Lewis or Jesse Owens (whom I consider the best)? Jere Longman in today’s Times has an interesting explanation on why this may not be the case and I agree.

It is much easier to win multiple medals in sports like swimming and gymnastics than in track and field, because there are more individual events. And fewer countries produce elite swimmers than runners, making track a more democratic sport.

Still, that does not take away the fact that we are witnessing history.

Jesse Owens after winning Gold at the 1936 Olympics. Notice the dreaded Nazi salute from the loser behind Jesse... (picture ripped from here)

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