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For some people, it's a question that's already been answered.

The greatest Olympian of all time? Michael Phelps, simply because of those unmatched 11 gold medals.

Done deal. Or is it?

By some calculations, Phelps isn't even the most successful Olympic athlete of all time. Gymnast Larissa Latynina has the bigger overall medal haul by five, even if she has a mere nine golds sprinkled in among her total of 18.

Phelps, of course, might bag another three in the next few days - but stats can only ever tell part of the story.

If we're talking Olympics, there are other factors we need to bring in - the competitiveness of the event, the difficulty of competing in multiple medal races, the era in which it took place.

Then there are the more nebulous aspects of being a great Olympian: sportsmanship, demeanour, post-career reputation.

Let's line up a few contenders.

In terms of medals alone, Carl Lewis's record is impossible to argue with: nine golds, spread over 12 years, with seven of them coming in individual events. Phelps currently has six golds from solo swims and five from relays.

Lewis also scores well for consistency, winning his first long jump gold at the age of 23 and his fourth aged 35.

Whether his golds in Los Angeles are devalued by the Eastern Bloc boycott is debatable. He had won the 100m, 4x100m and long jump at the inaugural world championships the previous year and had been ranked no.1 in the world over 100m since 1981.

What is unarguable is that he tested positive for banned substances three times before the 1988 US Olympic trials, initially being banned from the Seoul Olympics before being let off with a warning.

Lewis's own reaction - "There were hundreds of people getting off," does little to protect his reputation, and brings to mind the famous line from Ed Moses after the '84 Olympics, when he said of his team-mate: "Carl rubs it in too much. A little humility is in order."

Jesse Owens only ever had the chance to compete at one Games.

After his four golds in Berlin - and three Olympic records - he found himself banned by US authorities for running in commercial events, and eventually suffered the indignity of racing against horses to make ends meet.

Yet his all-round achievements as an Olympian arguably out-strip those of Lewis. Unlike Lewis, Owens' off-track behaviour only added to his myth, and not just for the significance of his performances in front of Hitler in 1936.

Michael Phelps, Larysa Latynina, Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis, Emile Zatopek

An advocate of the virtues of hard work and loyalty, Owens spent his later years travelling across the world as a US goodwill ambassador, even after being treated shabbily by the authorities on his return from Germany.

He also tried to convince President Carter to call off the US boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, arguing that the Olympics should never be used to make political points.

Of the other pre-war candidates, it could be argued that Ray Ewry (three golds in Paris in 1900, three more in St Louis four years later, two more in 1908) had nothing like the competition that Phelps faces today.

Against that is his back-story - an Olympian tale of overcoming polio and a childhood in a wheelchair to win gold in explosive if idiosyncratic events like the standing high jump and standing triple jump.

Perhaps the only weakness in distance-runner Paavo Nurmi's case is the one thing he could do nothing about - the relative weakness of his rivals.

It wasn't his fault that there were no east Africans to race against when he won his nine golds and three silvers between 1920 and 1928.

But while it seems incredible that he had just 26 minutes to rest between winning the finals of the 1500m and 5,000m in 1924, it also highlights the limited nature of the competition.

At the same time, he could have claimed further golds - had he not been excluded by officials from the 10,000m in Paris for health reasons, and then banned from the 1932 Olympics for receiving a tiny amount of money in travel expenses.

Another to fall foul of the sort of regulations that Phelps will happily never face was the wonderful Fanny Blankers-Koen.

After winning her four track golds at London 1948, she was prevented from entering the high jump and long jump - at which she was world record holder - because athletes were only allowed to enter a maximum of four events.

By the time of her triumphs, too, she was already 32 years old. Had war not forced the cancellation of the 1940 Olympics, it's conceivable she could have ended her career with as many as 10 golds.

Emile Zatopek might have won just one gold at those London Olympics, but four years later he took three more, including - famously - the marathon in his first ever attempt at the distance.

Nadia Comaneci went one better, winning five golds in addition to three silvers and a bronze.

And what of Al Oerter, winner of discus gold at four successive Games despite a car crash that nearly killed him, and an Olympian to his core?

Oerter, a talented abstract painter, even curated an exhibition called "Art of the Olympians" which included work from long jump legend Bob Beamon.

To the Brits, and a man who only won two golds but took part in 10 different events - Daley Thompson.

In Moscow and Los Angeles, Thompson proved himself the greatest all-round athlete of his era, mastering disciplines as polar opposite as the shot putt and pole vault.

Sir Steve Redgrave, meanwhile, managed the seemingly impossible task of winning five golds over five Olympics and still being the most modest man in the Olympic Village.

Phelps will find it impossible to compete for as long as Redgrave. Redgrave, equally, could never enter the number of events that Phelps can. Neither can he be marked down for winning all his golds as part of a pair or four rather than an individual.

Redgrave has proved himself a fantastic ambassador for his sport. Phelps, at 23, is growing into the role.

Finally, for now, what of the closest to Phelps we've ever had before - Mark Spitz?

The numbers are almost identical - nine golds for the Californian plus a silver and bronze and world records in every event at the 1972 Games.

Spitz even claims he could have won another gold, had the 50m freestyle been an Olympic event at that time as it is now.

What nudges Phelps ahead is the overall medal count, and the fact that Spitz won more golds in relays than individual events.

What favours Spitz is the seven golds from a single Olympics - but maybe only until Phelps equals or betters that over the next few days.

So - what do you think? Anyone I've missed or underplayed?

And for the record, I haven't made my mind up yet, although I'm edging towards Owens as the embodiment of everything the greatest Olympian should be...


Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist covering a wide range of events in Beijing. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 3:40pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    Carl Lewis is the greatest ever - no contest.
    The most perfect technically we've ever seen, and he had to battle with the greatest drug cheat ever - Ben Johnson.
    Lewis was the first modern superstar of athletics.

    Your shortlist also ignores Olga Korbet who single-handedly put gymnastics on the map!

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  • 2. At 3:42pm on 13 Aug 2008, Horowhenua wrote:

    There must always be space for 'Eddie the Eagle Edwards'. Determined, brave and in the spirit of personal endeavour.

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  • 3. At 3:47pm on 13 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:

    Tom,

    Forget Spitz. At the time it was a great achievement but he won 7 golds at a time when the competition was not as fierce. He also didn't have to contend with semi-finals back in 1972. Finally, he can't really be a contender for greatest ever Olympian when he bottled it 4 years earlier.

    We won't see the like of Phelps again for many a year, maybe never. Just wait until he adds to the haul in London 2012, the chances are he'll get bored with his dominance and have a go at a few different events.

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  • 4. At 3:49pm on 13 Aug 2008, Wystad wrote:

    Seen too much of the throw-away comment on TV about Phelps being "the greatest Olympian", so your balanced view on this blog puts it into perspective.
    I'm a Redgrave fan given the longitude of his performance in an endurance sport reaping the top awards.
    I'd further like to see the number and variation of events within swimming cut, otherwise why not take shooting for example at various distances with other aspects such as moving targets etc.

    Steve

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  • 5. At 3:49pm on 13 Aug 2008, 30STMLCFC wrote:

    We can only know if he is a true legend in about 25-30 years time when people are still talking about him, like Mark Spitz of 1972 (?)

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  • 6. At 3:56pm on 13 Aug 2008, In Vitrio wrote:

    Birgit Fischer? A German canoeist, she won gold in 1980, 1988 (twice), 1992, 1996, 2000 (twice) and 2004 - and might have won in 1984 had the East Germans not boycotted.

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  • 7. At 3:56pm on 13 Aug 2008, Spaced Invader wrote:

    I don't like the measuring of Olympians by gold medals. It is clear the difference between Phelps' eight events is not as great as the difference between the events of the decathlon, yet a decathlete gets just one gold medal for the whole lot.

    Similary, the range of events for some Olympians is extremely limited. The list above of great Olympians excludes Cassius Clay, Steffi Graf and Michael Jordan - all gold medallists, and to my mind as good if not better than Phelps. Look at their career records. Just because the number of Olympic golds available to them was much smaller - it doesn't mean they were not as great sportsmen as Phelps.

    This criticism is not to devalue Phelps - he's superb!

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  • 8. At 3:58pm on 13 Aug 2008, Rich_Owl wrote:

    SandcastleJim,

    Lewis achievement will be forever tainted by the fact that he should have been banned for taking illegal substances at the Olympic trials before Seoul.

    Tom,

    All of the above excelled in their own way in their own sports, and this type of comparison seems like yo devalue their acheivements by placing somebody above them.

    However, the greastest Olympian for me has to be Redgrave for winning gold at FIVE consecutive games. While everybody else was pretty much top of their sport for maybe two olympics (4 years) this man was top for 20. Nobody rows in more than one or two event in the rowing, so in his case total number of medals is a poor statistic but his dominance over 20 years is unquestionable

    If Phelps wins gold in 2012 and again in 2016 (when he's 31) THEN he can lay claim to be the greatest Olympian of all time. At the moment, he's probably "just" the greatest Olympic swimmer of all time.

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  • 9. At 3:58pm on 13 Aug 2008, jonny_watts wrote:

    You forgot Tanni Grey-Thompson

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  • 10. At 4:02pm on 13 Aug 2008, Hookers_armpit wrote:

    Daley Thompson is clearly the greatest.


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  • 11. At 4:03pm on 13 Aug 2008, LoneForestWolf wrote:


    Carl Lewis was just fortunate not to get busted

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  • 12. At 4:03pm on 13 Aug 2008, DaveC wrote:

    Like all questions of this type, it is an impossible one to give a good answer to. Sure, in terms of medals won, I think Phelps will eclipse everyone but that has to be weighed against the fact that it is possible for swimmers to enter so many events in a single games.

    How many gold medals can a track and field athlete hope to win in a single games? How many can a sailor win? Or a boxer?

    When you come right down to it, how does the fact that Ben Ainslie will have had to take part in around 30 races in order to win three golds, one each in three consecutive games (assuming he does ... come on Ben!), compare with the races Phelps has to take part in to win 14 (assuming he does).

    Sir Steve Redgrave "only" won 5 gold medals, one each in five olympic games. How does that display of consistency over a period of 16 years compare with Phelps' massive hauls at just two games (so far)?

    For me, the greatest olympians of all time will always be those who had the dedication and discipline to produce incredible performances at a time when they had to fit in their training around day-jobs and real life, and without the cushion of external financial support. For them, excellence in their sport really was all that mattered.

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  • 13. At 4:03pm on 13 Aug 2008, AussieInDubs wrote:

    If swimming is considered an elitist sport by jealous people on here, lord knows what rowing must be...

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  • 14. At 4:04pm on 13 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:


    Redgrave was an outstanding athlete over a long period of time, but they hid him in the four for the last one. I doubt he would have made the final in a single scull by the last one let alone won.

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  • 15. At 4:04pm on 13 Aug 2008, jenksta wrote:

    the third ronaldo.

    Good point, but then a decathlete is not the best in the world in any of the events in a decathlon are they. Would a decahlete even get to the final in more than one individual event?

    Phelps is the best world in every event he wins.

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  • 16. At 4:10pm on 13 Aug 2008, davidrandall wrote:

    And what about the Olympians who won more golds over more years than even Steve Redgrave, eg Birgit Fischer-Schimdt in Kayaking?

    Mere numbers don't answer this question as events and circumstances cannot be compared.

    So in the end it is a subjective judgement and the circumstances in which the achievement came make a huge difference. On that basis I go for Jessie Owens. To win 4 golds in the intimidating atmosphere of a Nazi stadium where it was clear he was even thought of as a lower species shows incredible strength of character.

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  • 17. At 4:11pm on 13 Aug 2008, fencerfan wrote:

    I would like to make a plea for Gerevich Aladar (who?) He was and is the only athlete to win the same event 6 times at 6 different olympics. Even more impressive when you know that WW2 meant that 2 olympics were cancelled. He won his first gold in 1932 and his last in 1960. 28 years apart. His sport? Saber of course.

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  • 18. At 4:13pm on 13 Aug 2008, adctroy wrote:

    Yes you missed Paul Elvstrom who won four successive golds in 48, 52, 56, 60 and competed in his last olympics in 88 and in addition won 15 world championships in 8 different classes of boat.

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  • 19. At 4:13pm on 13 Aug 2008, leahprince wrote:

    Birgit Fischer is a good shout. I had never heard of her but what a record. 1st Gold at 18, last at 42 yrs old. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birgit_Fischer

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  • 20. At 4:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, papyrus1 wrote:

    Surely the longest lasting olympic gold medallist is Aladar Gerevich of Hungary. He won the team sabre gold in 1932, 1936, (no games in 1940, 1944), then he picked up where he left it and won in 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960! He also got some individual medals. He was 50 years old when he got his last gold medal. They did not want to include him in the team any longer because of his age, but he challenged and beat each and every other team member for his place. Six gold medals, 28 years...

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  • 21. At 4:15pm on 13 Aug 2008, Davey Bones wrote:

    This is a tremendous achievement, or it would have been done before but on the other side of the coin the amount of events in swimming is ridiculous. If an athlete did this without relays and the hurdles he would have to win every event from the 100m to the marathon. Michael Johnson despite being the greatest 200m runner ever didn't run it because it was too close to 400m, if given enough time to rest the 5000m,10,000m and marathon would be a possibility for some athletes. Also if the rowing was done over a month many of the rowers could go in many events.

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  • 22. At 4:17pm on 13 Aug 2008, skiddy1903 wrote:

    i was going to mention Brigit Fischer but you beat me to it.

    winning golds 24 years apart and every time in between except for a boycotted games is unreal and much more impressive an acheivment than winning 11 (so far) over 2 games when the difference between the events are simply that you have to do it is a slightly different and less efficient way.

    the number of swimming events should be reduced to just the 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m swim plus the relays. you can use whatever stroke you fancy to get the job done.

    it he's still winning golds in 2028 then open the debate, untill then i'm afraid as talented as he clearly is he's just the best olympic swimmer of alltime.

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  • 23. At 4:19pm on 13 Aug 2008, r1200gsbiker wrote:

    Surely, we can never allow such a comparison. Only when the Athletics events feature the events below will be be able to compare.... otherwise, Daley Thompson and Carl Lewis, in a dead-heat:

    50 Meters Swagger
    50 Meters Run
    50 Meters Run Backwards
    50 Meters Run Sideaways
    50 Meters Run on your Hands
    100 Meters Swagger
    100 Meters Run
    100 Meters Run Backwards
    100 Meters Run Sideaways
    100 Meters Run on your Hands
    50 Meters Swagger - Team Relay
    50 Meters Run - Team Relay
    50 Meters Run Backwards - Team Relay
    50 Meters Run Sideaways - Team Relay
    50 Meters Run on your Hands - Team Relay
    100 Meters Swagger - Team Relay
    100 Meters Run - Team Relay
    100 Meters Run Backwards - Team Relay
    100 Meters Run Sideaways - Team Relay
    100 Meters Run on your Hands - Team Relay

    And so on, and so on...

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  • 24. At 4:19pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    Aren't we forgetting Eddie the Eagle? Or Eric the Eel? They competed for the fun of it regardless of ridicule.....

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  • 25. At 4:20pm on 13 Aug 2008, Ryan86 wrote:

    For the BBC to state almost as fact that Phelps is "the greatest" has sat uneasy with me all day. This is not a slant on Phelps obvious talent or the number of swimming events, as sheer numbers don't prove you to be the greatest, only the most medalled.

    Phelps is a great Olympian, but can we really decide amongst all these different athletes and disciplines whether one is inherently greater than all others.

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  • 26. At 4:22pm on 13 Aug 2008, Vishwa wrote:

    What about Ian Thorpe? even he has around 5 gold medals 4 silver medals and a bronze in the olympics...Not a word about him!

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  • 27. At 4:22pm on 13 Aug 2008, Iggleton wrote:

    Good call on Aladár Gerevich. Only athlete to win the same event 6 times, and only he and Fischer won medals in 6 olympics. The only guy to win Olympic medals 28 years apart. Brilliant.

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  • 28. At 4:23pm on 13 Aug 2008, Iggleton wrote:

    To be fair, Phelps himself used the phrase 'most decorated'.

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  • 29. At 4:23pm on 13 Aug 2008, SHAmor wrote:

    i think Team GB and all the complainers who wish they could swim should learn from this 6ft 4in, 4% body fat, greatest olympians with all the golds around his neck. And especially Team GB should stop staying, its a good exprience for 2012!!!!. come 2012 they will have another excuse. stop hating!

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  • 30. At 4:23pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    I also think it's a bit unfair on 'non-swimmers' who haven't had a chance to emulate Phelps....

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  • 31. At 4:25pm on 13 Aug 2008, AussieInDubs wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 32. At 4:27pm on 13 Aug 2008, bush_n_blair wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 33. At 4:29pm on 13 Aug 2008, Tom Fordyce wrote:

    The_Third_Ronaldo - I decided to limit my chat to summer Olympians rather than bringing in Paralympians and winter Olympians for reasons of brevity, but feel free to dive in with some Tanni or Killy votes.

    Also reckon we should limit it to athletes whose careers were defined by the Olympics, rather than great athletes who happened to appear at a Games (Steffi, His Airness, Federer etc).

    J'Hingsen - nice touch bigging up Daley. Wonder what Siggi Wentz thinks.

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  • 34. At 4:29pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    To bush_n_blair....can you let me have the title of that book of yours? Sounds like a cracking read!

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  • 35. At 4:30pm on 13 Aug 2008, rjecnik wrote:

    Another of those amusing but ultimately pointless lists, beloved by sports reporters with nothing substantial to report. Look...... in any given sport you can only be the best of your generation. Over several generations the performances improve as our knowledge of health, diet, training etc improves. You can only compete in the events that are available within the discipline. You can only compete if you are lucky enough to be healthy in one particular month out of 48. Phelps is undoubtedly one of the best swimmers ever to compete at the Olympics, and he is lucky enough to have lots medal opportunities. Here's a test: who knows the name of the outstanding athlete who has utterly dominated her discipline for over a year, has only one chance to get a gold (but is pretty much certain to get it), and will barely get a mention in the world press?

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  • 36. At 4:30pm on 13 Aug 2008, slasher wrote:


    Greatest ever has to be Carl Lewis, greatest sprinter ever in my view and also incredible at the Long Jump. He also won the 200 Metres if I remember correctly. Also won various world championship medals.

    An absolute legend !!

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  • 37. At 4:35pm on 13 Aug 2008, c_murphy86 wrote:

    I remember Carl Lewis making a comment along the lines of if I could win medals for running backwards and sideways I'd have as many golds as Mark Spitz.

    Ultimately there are very few objective means of comparing over disciplines. Jan Zelezny and Steve Redgrave pretty much won as many golds as is possible in their disciplines but the total medals available per Olympics for their disciplines were effectively 1.

    Equally World Records are no mark firstly since world records in some sports are pointless since every event is different with different conditions, different courses or different race styles, and secondly because WRs are far more common in some sports than others. How many Track and Field records have been broken at the last 4 Olympics? Probably fewer than have already been broken in the pool this year.

    All you can say is that Phelps has joined a select band of athletes like Redgrave, Zelezny, Longo, Carl Lewis etc who have taken their disciplines to the absolute maximum and in doing so have transcended their sport.

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  • 38. At 4:35pm on 13 Aug 2008, SudaNim wrote:

    Excellent and thought provoking post Tom. I have been pondering this one since the breakfast news this morning.

    I don't think a comparision can really be made between athletes in different disciplines as the number of medals up for grabs in (for example) swimming compared to track and field or rowing is too disparate.

    Best Olympian? How about Luz Long (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luz_Long)? He only got a silver, but the circumstances of that second place were pretty notable, and sum up what the Olympics are all about.

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  • 39. At 4:36pm on 13 Aug 2008, piehutt wrote:

    I think it is pretty difficult to compare athletes across different events and eras.

    But I guess it's an interesting discussion point....

    If you consider the number of different people Phelps has beaten on the way to his medal tally, then it is fairly indimindating.

    Also, it seems like in this meet, he is setting the world record with every race which is definately something that stands up through the ages.

    The other person of note is Steve Redgrave (from my memory at any rate) and I think in terms of longevity in an endurance event his record is the greatest. However rowing is nowhere near as high profile a sport as Swimming and therefore I feel Phelps success is in an event which is harder to dominate given the increased participation.

    Final point... Phelps is still 23, and if he stays fit and motivated for the rest of these games and into 2012 then I don't think there will be many doubts that he is the greatest Olympian ever.

    Assuming this week goes to plan and he wins all 8 and he wins say, another 6 in London, realistically his medal tally will be almost impossbile for anyone to beat in the current format of the games.

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  • 40. At 4:36pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    rjecnik....is it Yelena Isinbayeva in the Pole Vault?

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  • 41. At 4:38pm on 13 Aug 2008, bush_n_blair wrote:

    >To bush_n_blair....can you let me have the >title of that book of yours? Sounds like a >cracking read!

    Jools69, happy to oblidge buddy. Read on ..

    Dr Wade Exum, the former USOC director for drug control from 1991 to 2000, released more than 30,000 pages of documents to Sports Illustrated and the Orange County Register detailing cover ups by the US olympic commitee.

    here's the web link to the item, happy reading bud :-)

    http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/04/17/1050172707806.html


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  • 42. At 4:39pm on 13 Aug 2008, vamos2000 wrote:

    Phelps is a phenomenal athlete, of course he is, but for me the big thing not mentioned is the fact that he is a swimmer. It may sound obvious, but swimmers have a big advantage in winning multiple medals. Although some athletes can do multiple events, the body shape required generally is quite limiting. You don't expect Usain Bolt to run a sub 1.45 800m for example. However, in swimming, although the strokes are different, most events are over a similar length, and if someone has that superior athletic ability that Phelps possesses, it is only a matter of mastering the techniques. If the swimming was over 2 weeks, perhaps Phelps could get another 3 or 4 golds, such is the ability he possesses on each stroke. In athletics, the only other conceivable multiple medal sport, you could possibly get a 100, 200m 4x100 relay and a long jump champion, but each of these has specialists and the above would take something extraordinary to achieve.

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  • 43. At 4:39pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    Cover-up? In the USA...well I'll be Area 51'ed!

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  • 44. At 4:40pm on 13 Aug 2008, nobody00 wrote:

    I cant believe that no one has mentioned Max Woosnam, not only the greatest olympian but also the greatest sportsman ever...google him and prepared to be impressed.

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  • 45. At 4:44pm on 13 Aug 2008, Board14 wrote:

    Phelps is a great swimmer maybe the greatest, but never the greatest olympian.
    The longevity of Redgrave and others who have competed at the top of their game for so many years beat his achievements hands down.

    I think it's ridiculous how many events there are in swimming, next thing they'll introduce multiple weight categories for the swimmers too.

    The olympics are all about the fastest, highest, strongest etc. so how is breaststroke the fastest obviously crawl is much quicker, it would be like having 100m skipping as well as sprints! or hockey on 4 different size pitches with different sticks... i could go on and on.

    Although i think they should put more distances in for rowing, i.e an endurance time trial or similar.

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  • 46. At 4:49pm on 13 Aug 2008, Ian_the_chopper wrote:

    Does anyone know if we have had people winning medals in completely different events rather than dominating one sport or one event?

    If Rebecca Romero wins a gold medal in the womens pursuit cycling she will have been a world champion and Olympic gold medallist in one sport cycling and before that a World Champion and silver mdeallist in another rowing.

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  • 47. At 4:51pm on 13 Aug 2008, Campioni-del-Mondo wrote:

    If Phelps beats Spitz's record and then goes on to add more golds in 2012 then he will be the greatest ever Olymipian. However for me it will always be Jesse Owens for proving Hitler's aryan superiority propoganda to be absolute rubbish in front of Hitler and Nazi Germany.

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  • 48. At 4:53pm on 13 Aug 2008, c_murphy86 wrote:

    I think it's ridiculous how many events there are in swimming, next thing they'll introduce multiple weight categories for the swimmers too.

    --------------------------------------------------------

    I'm waiting for the 100m 2-steps-forward-1-step-back event, I'd kick ass at that.

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  • 49. At 4:53pm on 13 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:

    Based on some of the comments I think a few villages are missing an idiot.

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  • 50. At 4:55pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    Isn't that 1 forward, 2 back Murphy?

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  • 51. At 4:55pm on 13 Aug 2008, _FFF_FFF_ wrote:

    What about people who win medals in different sports? To reach the pinnacle in an olympic final is incredible, to win medals at successive games is even more so - but to return and win in a different sport even more so...?

    Also, what about the winter olympics - any suggestions from there?

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  • 52. At 4:56pm on 13 Aug 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    I think that he is the greatest.!

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  • 53. At 4:56pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    Doc_kev...Clear this up for me? Is that 1 idiot covering numerous villages....or numerous idiots....?

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  • 54. At 4:58pm on 13 Aug 2008, niceWillCo wrote:

    Carl Lewis - end of

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  • 55. At 5:01pm on 13 Aug 2008, supergunner07 wrote:

    Steve Redgrave is the greatest olympian? oh please stop deluding yourself, yes I hear people talking about how wide spread redgrave won his medals but who cares, what about much physical exertion that Phelps has to put into 8 events, plus many has he World Record has Phelps set now in the last 2 Olympics.

    Like i said before there are quite a few people ahead of Redgrave and that would be confirmed if a stratified random poll was taken around the world not just in Britain.


    All nuthuggers, Redgrave is not DEFINATELY not greatest olympian even what he achieved was great, M Phelps is, so stop making Steve what he isnt.

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  • 56. At 5:02pm on 13 Aug 2008, c_murphy86 wrote:

    Isn't that 1 forward, 2 back Murphy?

    then you'd have to start facing the wronf way, unless you did a very big first step then two short backward ones, suppose that could work too, I'd have to perfect my technique.

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  • 57. At 5:02pm on 13 Aug 2008, Gooner-Get-Ya wrote:

    An excellently balanced article.

    I wish Phelps well and certainly hope he achieves his goals, primarily because I find anyones' quest to be 'the best they can be'... inspiring.

    That said, I agree with many of the opinions here which suggest that a bland gold medal count shouldn't be the sole measure of an Olympian's greatness. Their achievements are all relative to the performance standards of the era that they are from, along with many, many other factors... training facilities, diet, social and political conditions, and more.

    What some of the athletes of the past have had to go through to get to their respective pinnacles makes them great. Phelps is just another great. We can categorically say that he has more Olympic golds than anyone before him, and that he is one of the finest swimmers the world has ever seen, but greatness (for me anyway) isn't simply a count of medals and world records. Once somebody finds a way to measure the human spirit, then they will all be equal in their greatness in my eyes.

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  • 58. At 5:03pm on 13 Aug 2008, a_bit_of_crumpet wrote:

    Let's not be disingenuous here - Phelps is a phenomenal sportsman, and also seems to be very modest and well grounded.

    Those who suggest Redgrave is the best ever (obviously Brits!) must remember another important factor here - how many people at the world participate in that sport?

    There could be millions of people who would be great rowers but have never got into a boat. Most people in western countries swim at some stage, if only at school. Naturally talented school kids often go on to swim clubs - I know they did at my school which was just about the most anti-sport school imaginable.

    Phelps looks as though he was designed to be a swimmer, his physique is perfect for it. Yes, there are lots of events in swimming, but that means Phelps has as little as 50 minutes between races.

    In turth, the question is impossible to answer, Tom Fordyce spelled out why. Let's celebrate Phelps though - you are witnessing something special.

    A Brit non swimmer.

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  • 59. At 5:07pm on 13 Aug 2008, U5177928 wrote:

    if you think about it. in swimming you got the 100m in many 'versions' breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle then you the relay. thats 4golds in just 1event. now if you look at the track events, you got the 100m and 200m which sprinters can take (gay, bolt) and then theres the relay and thats it. swimming is tough sport no doubt about that. but you cant compare it with other track events. theres a higher possibility to win more golds in swimming than there is in all other events. that russian women who dominates the pole vault - shes probably the greatest ever at that. but she only gets 1gold for it. in swimming you got 50m, 100m, 200m etc and all in different versions (freestyle, backstroke) and if one can compete in all those theres a possibility of 8+ gold medals. so for me i say NO hes not the greatest Olympian but he is the greatest swimmer.

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  • 60. At 5:07pm on 13 Aug 2008, c_murphy86 wrote:

    Steve Redgrave is the greatest olympian? oh please stop deluding yourself, yes I hear people talking about how wide spread redgrave won his medals but who cares, what about much physical exertion that Phelps has to put into 8 events, plus many has he World Record has Phelps set now in the last 2 Olympics.

    --------------------------------------------------------

    You have obviously never rowed, it is proven to be the most physically draining olympic sport above cycling, why do you think no rower in the history of the sport has ever won more than two medals at a single Olympics.

    As for world records, the idea is virtually non existant in rowing as every course is different the water the current wind etc you can't measure performances against one another. Also how many other people have broken records in the pool this Olympics including the times they've been broken by multiple people at the same time? It seems they are easy enough to come by.

    Incidentally I agree with you only because Elisabeta Lipa beats Redgrave with 5 Golds 2 silver 1 bronze in rowing.

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  • 61. At 5:08pm on 13 Aug 2008, Mel0dymaker wrote:

    How can you even call someone the BEST or GREATEST olympian ever. Surely that is what world records are their for. So Phelps is the fastest swimmer ever (Why they need 8 different medals to prove this I don't know) but he ain't the fastest sprinter ever. being a great olympian is being a true ambassador for your sport outside the olympics as well. Having a best olympian is personal preference to sport. A boxer could never win that many medals. Which in turn makes the sport harder for the individuals involved as they have 1 chance. SO to sum this little rant up I am going to say that believing in a greatest olympian on medals alone disrespects every other athlete throughout the whole time the olympics has existed.

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  • 62. At 5:08pm on 13 Aug 2008, BrucieW wrote:

    Whilst I believe Jesse Owens is the man, I cannot believe no one has mentioned the legendary JIM THORPE. Notwithstanding his other wonderful sporting achievements, Thorpe won gold in both the pentatholon and decathlon in the 1912 games. That decathlon was his first olympic-style decathlon, yet he set a world record that lasted 20 years!

    Sadly he was stripped of his medals because he had played some semiprofessional baseball (and thanks to Avery Brundage - the same man who would attempt the strip Owens of his medals many years later) and died a pauper. The medals were only returned to his family 30 years after his death

    Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thorpe for more information about a true Olympic hero.

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  • 63. At 5:09pm on 13 Aug 2008, nightmair wrote:

    I can't be doing with people claiming Lewis to be the greatest anything, the guy was caught cheating dozens of times and somehow got away with it. I know they were all on it, so it was sort of an even playing field but that's not being great.

    As for Phelps, I think the guy is fantastic. I find it hard in general to cheer for the Americans (for mainly political reasons) but Phelps seems genuinely down to earth and genuinely pleasant. He also has me setting my alarm for 3am to watch his races. I hope he can afford it when I sue him for failing my postgrad...

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  • 64. At 5:12pm on 13 Aug 2008, supergunner07 wrote:

    Also if the theory of longevity will be used, Elisabeta Lipa deserves to be mentioned before Redgrave's name is shortlisted. Her medals range from 1984 -2004 and she has medals than Redgrave, hope all you nuthuggers are happy.

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  • 65. At 5:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, Pete wrote:

    you forgot Johnny Weissmuller, 5 golds in 1924 and 1928. However the important thing about him was that he was never beaten in any swimming race - he retired undefeated. He did get one bronze medal, but that was for the water polo.

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  • 66. At 5:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, ClarenceSquare wrote:

    Let's not make ridiculous comparisons between unrelated Olympic events.
    How well Michael Phelps would do jumping over a bar, throwing a discus, running 1500 metres is not known!
    Let's stick to saying he is an amazing swimmer. His "athleticism" in the water (speed, stamina, technique...) is
    outstanding. In Olympic Swimming Medals his total has surpassed previous winners.
    This does not make him the best ATHLETE ever, or even now.
    Comparisons between sports, disciplines and eras are meaningless.
    It shows over-hype and is anti-Olympian in its spirit.
    Medals recognize specific achievement. They don't measure overall "greatness"!

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  • 67. At 5:18pm on 13 Aug 2008, LordProsperity wrote:

    I would think it is too simplisitc to just measure by gold medals won. No denying that Michael Phelps is a lgend and he is surely to be counted among the best ever sportsmen. The margin with which he beats his opponents is a valid proof enough.

    For me personally, I feel Vitaly Scherbo was one of the greates I have personally seen perform in Olympics. He won only 6 gold medals and all in Barcelon Olympics in 1992. Had it not been for all his perosnal tribulations in life, he would have won many more gold medals.

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  • 68. At 5:18pm on 13 Aug 2008, jinius wrote:

    If athletes ran 50m, 100m, 75m and however many other variations of distance as the swimmers do then Carl Lewis would have won 20+ golds. I am not knocking Phelps achievements, but lets be honest winning the 100m and 200m golds on the track is a thousand times more difficult than the same feat in the pool. You only have to look at the number of people who have achieved each to appreciate this fact.

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  • 69. At 5:18pm on 13 Aug 2008, gilod224 wrote:

    Personally, I'd pick Daley Thompson - he was the Olympics when he was competing. It didn't matter how many other golds we won or lost, with him we had the greatest all-round athlete in the world. His will to win, the injuries, the ups and downs of the decathlon saga - nothing compares.

    Very importantly, he also starred in the greatest ad of all time - Daley Thomspon, Iron Maiden 'Phantom of the Opera', traffic lights, 80s all one 30 sec spot - suit you sir...it's even better than big John Barnes' "after 90 minutes of sheer hell" and the scouse kids "Ian Rush says if I don't drink my milk...etc."

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  • 70. At 5:20pm on 13 Aug 2008, hank-kingsley wrote:

    Phelps is the most successful as he has won more golds

    Whether he's the greatest or not is entirely a matter of opinion but anyone who disparages his achievements in any way is an idiot

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  • 71. At 5:21pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    Greatness is directly related to moments in time; captured in the imagination of the public who saw them. You can win nothing and still be incorporated into great moments of Olympic history. The images of Jesse Owens in front of Hitler; Carl Lewis claiming his golds; Seb Coe defiantly retaining his 1500m title....it's totally subjective because it is summed up in a single snapshot/image when we think 'Olympics'. The question isn't about the 'best' but the 'greatest'.

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  • 72. At 5:23pm on 13 Aug 2008, spiritualwolf wrote:

    I would discount all swimmers' medals by about a factor of 5, so Phelps' medals don't really get close to some of the other Olympians, whether it's Redgrave or some of the gymnasts...

    ...but there are track and field athletes whose achievements are far greater, for me. What about Lasse Viren? His golds covered greater distances and two very different Olympic games, at a time when competition was very strong.

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  • 73. At 5:23pm on 13 Aug 2008, jtjcp88 wrote:

    Jesse Owens won four gold medals, impressive, but please for goodness sake stop with the crap about how he disproved the Aryan myth. The Germans won the games!!

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  • 74. At 5:24pm on 13 Aug 2008, Wystad wrote:

    So two debates.....One along the line of "top trumps" for Olympic champions of different abilities and context (Perhaps I should patent this....)
    And events within a discipline that lend themselves to talented individuals walking away with a hat full.
    Swimming does seem over represented with multiple chance options. I guess because of the traditionalists, it will never be rationalised.
    Heres a different tack.....dump Taekwondo and substitute with another martial art such as Karate, or at least rotate them....

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  • 75. At 5:25pm on 13 Aug 2008, Ten_Thousand_Fists wrote:

    Phelps certainly is not the greatest, he may be the most prolific though.

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  • 76. At 5:25pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    jtjcp88....t"the Germans won the games....? What are you talking about? Let me know who WON Barcelona and Los Angeles????

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  • 77. At 5:26pm on 13 Aug 2008, djambo1985 wrote:

    You're all wrong......

    Erik the Eel!

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  • 78. At 5:26pm on 13 Aug 2008, AFormerRower wrote:

    By his own admission Mohamed Ali was "The Greatest"

    Admittedly he was called Cassius Clay at the time, so perhaps it doesn't count...

    Perhaps we could also measure it by Column Inches, i.e. the most written about or what about the most watched?

    Perhaps the most medals for the least effort - a measure of natural talent surely. I've no idea who that would be or how to measure it. Perhaps total number of medals, using 3 points for gold, 2 pts for silver and 1 pt for bronze divided by calories expended during all their olympic events/races.

    Sorry but I seem to be in a slightly silly mood...




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  • 79. At 5:27pm on 13 Aug 2008, Larger_Athlete wrote:

    How can Phelps be the greatest ever when he didn't compete in half of his events??

    Confused? Let me explain.

    Steve Redgrave and many other olympians who may or may not have a recognisable "hoarde" of medals,competed in every round of every olympics to win their medals. Phelps, along with many others listed, competed only in the finals of these events. Realistically speaking this means they didn't even qualify for the finals.

    Therefore these people need to be respected for their undoubted qualities in their respective fields, but the titles of the greatest ever should go to someone who has proven themselves a great, not only in the finals, but also in their qualifiers.

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  • 80. At 5:31pm on 13 Aug 2008, beckywaller17 wrote:

    What about Geoff Capes!? He always gets overlooked.

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  • 81. At 5:32pm on 13 Aug 2008, Sir-Herbert wrote:

    I don't think it's Phelps, not by a long shot, but he does certainly deserve to be mentioned in the debate. Whilst I think Carl Lewis is somehting of self serving idiot his point that the number of disciplines involved in the sport of swimming (the distances don't change), do see to it that a swimmer has a far greater chance of upping their medal tally than in most other Olympic sports.

    Here's one person the rest of the posters seem to have missed as well as you yourself:

    Jim Thorpe:

    - won Pentathalon and Decathalon golds in the same year. That's 15 events.
    - in the Pentathalon he won 4 of the 5 events
    - in the Decathalon he won 4 of the 10 events and placed in the top 4 of all 10 events
    - his points total for the Decathalon stood as the record for almost 20 years.
    - that same Olympic year he came in 4th in the High Jump

    I also agree with the guy who put Lasse Viren up there with the greatest of all time. Nobody peaked like Viren, and nobody knew just how to run a competitive race quite like he did. When it mattered most, Viren took it to the best the world could offer (although he did benefit from the African boycott in 76).

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  • 82. At 5:33pm on 13 Aug 2008, Vacca wrote:

    If somebody could just define what the criteria for "greatest Olympian" is, then maybe we'd get a definitive answer. There seems no consensus here and in fact, the whole question is a bit pointless. It's like comparing two teams from different eras. You just cant. Training methods, motivation, menu, opportunity, competition etc all go into making someone/team great, and that differs from year to year, so comparing people/teams over the decades is a pointless exercise and highly unfair to all involved.

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  • 83. At 5:37pm on 13 Aug 2008, dpbeijing wrote:

    As it's nigh on impossible to compere a swimmer with an archer or a table tennis player etc. why bother?

    Yes Michael Phelps is an amazing athlete and has the greatest tally of gold medals and is certainly one of the great Olympians.

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  • 84. At 5:40pm on 13 Aug 2008, Cossackathon wrote:

    I don't know about all-time, but when it comes to a Spitz vs. Phelps comparison I would have to go with Phelps just owing to the level of competition. In 1972 the US was head-and-shoulders above the world: Australia was down at this time and it wasn't until 1976 that the East German women emerged. Phelps has one all of his gold medals at time when there are medal contenders from nations that probably did not have an Olympic-sized pool in 1972.

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  • 85. At 5:43pm on 13 Aug 2008, Howard wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 86. At 5:43pm on 13 Aug 2008, Bob Long wrote:

    Phelps is a fast swimmer and getting lots of medals for basically the same thing isn't really very impressive - yes, he is a fast swimmer all 'round at the moment. But the ridiculous number of swimming events is behind his score of golds.

    Redgrave won five gold in the same sport, but did so for 20 years - a much bigger achievement.

    On the other side, Daly Thompson ruled the decathlon for a decade. Winning one decathlon gold is a greater achievement than Phelps' entire record. Can Phelps also run? Hurdle? Throw a javelin etc?

    Phelps is a great swimmer - perhaps the greatest ever - but he's a footnote in terms of history's greatest athletes.

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  • 87. At 5:46pm on 13 Aug 2008, rgh1066 wrote:

    Vera Caslavska single-handedly put gymnastics on the map. More individual golds than any other athlete in history and she was banned from training by her cruel and morally bankrupt government until just days before the 1968 Olympiad in which she made her mark. She trained in secret and in exile in the countryside by lifting sacks of potatoes. Then she amazed the world with a floor routine that for sheer triumph of spirit has never been bettered. Still the authorities tried to humiliate her by gerrymandering the scores to give her a tied gold - and by a blatantly unfair decision on the beam that forced her to silver. She rose above them all by her famous silent protest on the podium even though she knew this would be met with a harsh punishment (she was forced to retire). You cannot gauge the greatness of an Olympian by gold medals alone - to do so would be in direct conflict with the Olympian creed, but Caslavska will be remembered long after many of the names in this blog have passed into obscurity.

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  • 88. At 5:49pm on 13 Aug 2008, pikeyj wrote:

    Jesse Owens is untouchable. Being a great Olympian is more than just winning some bling bling. The contexts of his victories are (thankfully) unlikely to be recreated, and the humble efficiency with which he went about achieving them only cements his position. He is to athletics what Mandela is to humanity - an unsurpassable legend.

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  • 89. At 5:50pm on 13 Aug 2008, sensiblewiseoldman wrote:

    1) Relays don't count..Kirsty Coventry, for instance, from Zimbabwe can't win relay medals. You have to be born in the correct country.
    2) Swimmers can win many medals because of the proliferatrion of similar events...why no doggy paddle?
    3) If you were a Hammer Thrower it would take over forty years to win as many golds. for instance.
    He's the most prolific, but not the greatest.
    My choice would be Al Oerter, 4 times Olympic Discus Champion (56-68 inc), the last won against doctor's advice. His comment. "This is the Olympics, you die for them"

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  • 90. At 5:52pm on 13 Aug 2008, Mike wrote:

    What Spitz did in 1972 was amazing but what the writer of the blog failed to mention was that Spitz publicly came out stating that what he did, pales in comparison to Phelps considering the competition, time between swims and the amount of effort put in for training and the like.
    Phelps is, the miles of training he has put in for the last umpteen years, swimming EVERY day for 3/4 years and beating other world class competitors convincingly. The fact that people say that a long jumper is the best Olympian puts it into perspective the arrogance of people towards swimming...if it isn't in track and field, forget it.
    And I guess you could say that Lewis won them over a 12 year period but Phelps has said that he intends to still be competing after London 2012. And Lewis was done for drugs cheating in 88, so who's to say that he hadn't been before. I'm not accusing him of anything, but can anyone prove he hadn't?
    And think of the competition in coparison to 20/30 years ago...a tad harder I think.
    Phelps has got to his place by sheer sweat and tears and without the help of banned substances. In my opinion, he is the best Olympian ever.

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  • 91. At 5:57pm on 13 Aug 2008, What Would Clough Do wrote:

    So many of these athletes are from the West: developed countries, wealthier countries or super powers. Then, in 1968 Kip Kino opened up a tradition of running and hard work out of Africa and won 4 medals. That may not compare to the accomplishments of some, but it means a lot to mankind.

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  • 92. At 5:58pm on 13 Aug 2008, chris_stead wrote:

    The greatest Olympian needs to embody the Olympic ideal, they need to be beyond reproach or drug controversy, compete on their own rather than be part of a team, and compete in a sport that is universally available. I also would respectfully suggest that one Olympic gold medal would not be enough and neither would medals at just one Olympic Games.

    I therefore give you....


    Emile Zatopek.

    Four golds at two Olympics, the Baron de Coubertin medal and aguy who did some amazing things in an amazing way. He truly was a remarkable athlete.

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  • 93. At 6:02pm on 13 Aug 2008, spiritualwolf wrote:

    Just as a matter of interest, it's not quite true to claim, as some have, that 'Phelps has got to his place by sheer sweat and tears and without the help of banned substances'. We don't know that. All we know is that he hasn't been caught taking banned substances...

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  • 94. At 6:04pm on 13 Aug 2008, seidhus wrote:

    I think you have forgotten about the greatest Marathoner of all time, Abebe Bikila.

    He was told to go to the 1960 Olympics at a short time notice because the athlete who was supposed to run for it was injured playing football.

    He went there and run the whole marathon barefoot and won convincingly. Take this as amazing and look to his next achievement.

    Four years later at the Tokyo Olympics, barely running for the past four years, and just 40 after having his appendicitis removed, competed in the event and won (but this time with shoes).

    And the funny thing, after finishing the marathon, to the astonishment of everybody, he began exercising while other marathoners were collapsing from exhaustion. When asked about it he said, "I could have easily run for another 10 kms".

    A really great marathoner. Moreover, four years later at Mexico city he would have won it had it not been for the injury he sustained and left the competition at 17kms, but getting rewarded by his countryman Mammo Wolde by winning the gold.

    He surely is one of the best Marathoners and sportsmen of all time.

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  • 95. At 6:07pm on 13 Aug 2008, hello_larry wrote:

    Has the Beijing pool been measured recently? So many world records are being set in it a lot of them by the most decorated Olympian ever Mr Phelps!!!

    It must only be 48 meters long right??

    If Phelps keeps those records for all time and he has the most individual golds ever won for all time. I think we can then say he is the Best Olympian EVER without any doubt or debate.

    There must be an equation that works it out mathematically.

    Difference of events medals and so increased skill required x number of golds x number of world records still held x number of years gap between first and last medal won / number people in team to win medals.

    Is got to be easy to put every factor so that we have a measurable figure to compare each sports person over the years. Please can someone do this so we know for sure.

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  • 96. At 6:08pm on 13 Aug 2008, Mel0dymaker wrote:

    Phelps is the best swimmer the world has ever seen (In a swimming pool). However to say that swimming itself is a tougher challenge (or whatever) than any of the other olympic sports is plain wrong. It is no better than shooting in terms of what the IOC view it as. Agreed your opinion of swimming maybe very high but it does not outshine any of the other olympic sports as they are also olympic sports. Maybe this is the problem with this debate and also a big reason why the olympics are not my favorite sporting event. They are not even the event that decides for me the greatest physical and mental achievement a human can get. As the Iron Man triathlon always amazes me and shows the true limit to which the human can be pushed.

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  • 97. At 6:12pm on 13 Aug 2008, nephron6 wrote:

    Evelyn Ashford deserves a mention.

    One of the most fluid and graceful - and fastest - sprinters in history.

    Made the 100m final in 1976 as a teenager.

    Was denied the chance to win gold in Moscow when she was the clear world number 1.

    Won gold in 100m (setting an Olympic record) and 4x100m in LA.

    Won silver (behind Flo-Jo, RIP) in Seoul, along with another gold in the relay (where her anchor leg took her past the Soviets and East Germans).

    Won relay gold again in Barcelona and just missed making the 100m final at the age of 35, five Olympiads after making her first sprint final.

    Always totally embodied the spirit of fair competition. I wish she was talked about more.

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  • 98. At 6:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, Expato wrote:

    As others have said, no doubt Phelps is a great Olympian, but if there were just single races, no relays nor multiple strokes, for the 100m, 200m and 400m, he'd have a total of 4 gold medals - including 3 medleys.

    He has shown that he's the best in the world over 200m, but not over the 100m or 400m, and that he is the most flexible, but he definitely benefits from the oddities of swimming.

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  • 99. At 6:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, TechnicallyPerfect wrote:

    I think the point is, if you lined every one of your selected Olympians in a medal-style table, Phelps would be on top.

    You can only beat what is put in front of you.

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  • 100. At 6:28pm on 13 Aug 2008, docdredd wrote:

    For me it will always be Daley Thompson. Watching the big guy cry whilst God Save The Queen was playing showed that he truly had the heart of a Lion.

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  • 101. At 6:30pm on 13 Aug 2008, Azixtgo wrote:

    As some have probably said, this is swimming. All he does is swim; it would hard for most other Olympians in their respective events to attain the same number of medals if it were even possible. I pretty much ignore the talks of most decorated because of this and simply accept that he is the best swimmer there is right now.

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  • 102. At 6:30pm on 13 Aug 2008, ronrafferty wrote:

    In terms of significance Jesse Owens wins by a mile.In my book though Daley Thomson takes a lot of beating and would get my vote.Sure he is not a world beater at any individual discipline but then again none of the specialised gold winners could beat him over ten disciplines.

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  • 103. At 6:33pm on 13 Aug 2008, ironingdrew wrote:

    Great article and a lot of good posts although I must say this

    " At 5:23pm on 13 Aug 2008, jtjcp88 wrote:

    Jesse Owens won four gold medals, impressive, but please for goodness sake stop with the crap about how he disproved the Aryan myth. The Germans won the games!!"


    is one of the stupidest things I have read for long time.

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  • 104. At 6:38pm on 13 Aug 2008, newton41986 wrote:

    I think we should all realise what happened just a short while ago to our new hero Phelps. Bare in mind that the legal drinking age is 21 in the US, and he was 19, not to mention the fact he then starting driving. For that reason he will never ever ever be anything more than a good swimmer to me, and certainly not a role model people should be harping on about.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/3994567.stm

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  • 105. At 6:42pm on 13 Aug 2008, emperor_o wrote:

    even if he isn't the greatest ever, he is at least one of them

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  • 106. At 6:43pm on 13 Aug 2008, Observer666 wrote:

    As for Brits, what about Sebastian Coe? Easily our finest athlete and probably our best ever sportsman. Double 1500m gold (never done before in such a major Olympic event) silvers and world records in every event, some lasting decades! Hard to beat.

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  • 107. At 6:51pm on 13 Aug 2008, cedders_b wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 108. At 6:56pm on 13 Aug 2008, alecinboulder wrote:

    What about Eric Heiden? He won _every_ gold medal available in speed skating in 1980, from the 500 meter sprint to the 10,000 meter distance event.

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  • 109. At 6:59pm on 13 Aug 2008, The Fickle Finger wrote:

    Spitz did it with a moustache - a bigun too - something todays swimmers wouldn't dream of!

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  • 110. At 7:02pm on 13 Aug 2008, Observer666 wrote:

    You've also got to consider athletes who were first to do something. Carl Lewis was just doing what Owens had already shown was possible. Those who broke new ground:
    Zatopek --the long distance triple
    Juantorena -- 400 and 800
    Frosby -- the flop


    Then there all those might've beens, like Henry Rono who held multiple middle distance world records, or that Russian pole vaulter in the 1940s (forgot his name)

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  • 111. At 7:03pm on 13 Aug 2008, The Fickle Finger wrote:

    How many of these swimming records have been set in this brilliant new swimming suit that everyone's raving about?

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  • 112. At 7:07pm on 13 Aug 2008, dan239 wrote:

    Not seen Michael Johnson being mentioned here yet. Totally dominated the 200m and 400m for his entire career.

    It's a real shame that he suffered from food poisoning in 1992 as he was a dead cert for the 200m, but instead recovered to win gold in the 4 x 400m.

    At Atlanta in 1996 his gold winning 200m World Record of 19.32s was for me the greatest moment i've ever seen in athletics. Sprint world records are normally lowered by hundredths of a second not tenths. I just don't think that record will be broken for decades. He also completed the double when he won the 400m.

    He then went on to win the 400m at Sydney in 2000, though he recently returned the gold from the 4 x 400m after Antonio Pettigrew admitted to drug taking.

    He probably would have won more medals if it were not for illness, inury and drug taking team mates.

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  • 113. At 7:11pm on 13 Aug 2008, msPOOLIE wrote:

    No He's like many others achieved his record with the help of others, i.e. the relay teams. to be the greatest one must reach the records by his or her own efforts single handed

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  • 114. At 7:11pm on 13 Aug 2008, jtford wrote:

    I have read many of the entries, but measure this as you will, golds, world records, olympic records, stamina day after day and true talent in their own arena. There are many great athletes, sports people and performers, surely no one can deny what the 23 year old has achieved so far this week and that he leads the field by head and sholuders, (half a length at times).

    Yes there are other greats but all round, no one touches him

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  • 115. At 7:12pm on 13 Aug 2008, wingcommanderthrush wrote:

    My first thought these days when I see someone dominating like Phelps is 'he's on drugs' - that's not to say I'm accusing him of being on drugs. What I mean is I've seen so many cheats caught or behaving suspiciously like those two greeks that I cannot believe the acheivements and I cannot take the Olympics seriously anymore, which is a shame, because as a child I believed in the Olympic ideal.

    Not anymore. My faith has totally crushed.
    That's why Phelps will never be the greatest Olympian ever - because he is around NOW.

    Has to be Owens for me - a true Olympian in the spirit of the name.

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  • 116. At 7:15pm on 13 Aug 2008, Colin wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 117. At 7:15pm on 13 Aug 2008, gc wrote:

    I Like Astylos of Croton who apparently won both racing events on 3 different occasions and also the hoplite event: a race wearing a full suit of armour.

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  • 118. At 7:16pm on 13 Aug 2008, cousteau696 wrote:

    Re #104, newton41986

    Thanks for drawing attention to this tale.

    Phelps is not, and now will never be GREAT in my eyes - no matter what his achievements within sport or elsewhere.

    It is high time that sporting authorities viewed the homicidal disregard for life inherent in drink-driving as sufficiently serious to ban the individual FOR LIFE.

    I no longer feel it appropriate to view ANY of the swimming events in which Phelps is competing. I feel sick....

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  • 119. At 7:20pm on 13 Aug 2008, Saltwaters wrote:

    Let us not forget Jeannie Longo, nearly 50 and near abronze medal and at her peak miles, or maybe kilometres ahead of everyone else.

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  • 120. At 7:20pm on 13 Aug 2008, robbie15 wrote:

    You can't just reach a conclusion based on the number of medals. As previously stated swimmers have more chances to win medals than some other Olympic sports. For my money it would be between Zatopek, Fanny Blankers-Koen(who remember lost chances to win medals because of the world war) and Jesse Owen. Parvii Nurmi should also get an honourable mention

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  • 121. At 7:22pm on 13 Aug 2008, F1holic wrote:

    Can anybody tell me of any other olympic sport where an individual can win 4 or more medals? Phelps is an outsatnding athtlete but he is competing in the only category where multiple medals can be won. It is therefore difficult to determine the best olympian ever based only in the medals tally.

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  • 122. At 7:23pm on 13 Aug 2008, ankur1979 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 123. At 7:25pm on 13 Aug 2008, Sweder wrote:

    PLEASE BBC - STOP THE HYPE!
    Phelps is an exceptional swimmer - no question - but greatest ever Olympian??? Utter tosh. Michael Johnson said it when he said - on a BBC One clip tonight - that perhaps if some of the sprinters were allowed to run their races backwards, sideways or whilst waving their arms around in several different ways they too might come in with multiple medal hauls.

    If you can compete in three or four races on the same day it simply isn't demanding enough of a test. Look at the rowers - they're exhausted after every race, incapable of running after a bag of chips let alone competing at the top level.

    Greatest ever Olympian? Hard to say - possibly Carl Lewis, perhaps Jesse Owens, maybe Sir Steve Redgrave for doing it over a remarkable TWENTY YEAR SPAN - lets see what Mr Phelps is doing in ten years, never mind twenty.

    If Gabby Logan drools any more over that cardboard cut-out in the studio you're going to need a new one.

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  • 124. At 7:27pm on 13 Aug 2008, NLondon wrote:

    Phelps is so good, its unatural, maybe he is part mermaid?

    Redgrave is so far the Greatest Olympian, not just for his medals but also the way he has carried himself off and provided youngsters with a brilliant role model.

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  • 125. At 7:27pm on 13 Aug 2008, jbvh2008 wrote:

    Arguments that decathletes only get one medal despite competing in multiple events are meaningless. Few, if any, modern decathletes could make it to the finals in any individual events (or approximations thereof) from the decathlon. They are at best the Track and Field equivalent of swimming's IM swimmers, although even then that's being generous. The whole point of their event is that they are jacks of all trades and rarely masters of any.

    What makes Phelps - and like him, Ryan Lochte - so special is that Phelps is actually world class in three of the four strokes and showed that he's no slouch in breaststroke either, with his performance in the 400 IM. He has already eclipsed Spitz several times over. Spitz swam in an era where his only competition came from his own teammates; Phelps competes in an era in which the best swimmers in the world are as likely to come from Australia, Russia, or even France in any given year - it is truly international in a way it was not in Spitz's era. Spitz's relay medals were automatic. Phelps's mother could have won gold with the teammates Spitz had. Also, his performance in Mexico City should be compared with Phelps's perfomance in Athens - they were the same age.

    Aside from that, too much has changed to make comparisons. It is possible for a Phelps to continue swimming as long as he wants; this was not an option open to most Olympians prior to the age of global media/celebrity and state-sponsored pro athletes. If you tried to support yourself at your sport in those days, you were banned from "amateur" competition.

    So I think it's safest to say that Phelps will retire as the winningest Olympian of all time (until the next phenom, a decade or two down the line-although by that time we'll have to wonder wheterh he/she is bioengineered) and that he is undoubtedly the greatest swimmer, Olympic or otherwise, ever.

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  • 126. At 7:28pm on 13 Aug 2008, What Would Clough Do wrote:

    One must also consider 1996 Gold Medal winner Nwankwo Kanu who's only Olympic appearance is from the Atlanta games where it was discovered he had a heart defect. But the Olympic organizers seem to think so much of him, they named an event after him. Also, sadly, some have made the ultimate sacrifice in going to the Olympics. When I hear the words of who was the greatest: I'm not sure if that is in the spirit the Olympics sometimes strives to achieve, afterall, a lot of it is marketing too.

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  • 127. At 7:30pm on 13 Aug 2008, kimi1978 wrote:

    After watching 20 minutes of this so called superstar, I am now compeled and angry enough to get of my olympic sofa to put my point forward. The greatest olympian of all time is carl lewis...thats only my opinion though as there are many contenders. However, Phelps is not even on the radar. There are too many ways to swim every distance in the pool and swimmers are unfairly rewarded against their track counterparts. Lets try in London, 100m walk, 100m skip, 100m backwards...etc. We get the idea, he can swim but lets have a reality check.

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  • 128. At 7:32pm on 13 Aug 2008, douglaslong wrote:

    If you're really trying to capture the Olympic spirit of good sportsmanship, then I suggest that winning medals isn't the best measure of greatness at all.

    My nomination for the individual who best embodies that ethic of great sportsmanship is Lawrence Lemieux. He is the Canadian sailor, who in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul abandoned his Finn race (and any chance of a medal) while lying in second place to go to the aid of a Singaporean 470 crew whose boat had capsized nearby.

    His selfless and heroic actions on behalf of others was recognised through the award of the Pierre de Coubertin Medal - possibly a better illustration of the Olympic ideal than any number of golds.

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  • 129. At 7:33pm on 13 Aug 2008, AntonDeck wrote:

    F1holic asked "Can anybody tell me of any other Olympic sport where an individual can win 4 or more medals?"

    Gymnastics; e.g. all round individual, bars, pommel, vault, floor, rings.

    IMO the decathlon must be the hardest medal to win. It should be twice the size of a standard gold. ; )

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  • 130. At 7:35pm on 13 Aug 2008, dan239 wrote:

    AntonDeck the medal should be the size of a discus. :)

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  • 131. At 7:35pm on 13 Aug 2008, jbvh2008 wrote:

    "Can anybody tell me of any other olympic sport where an individual can win 4 or more medals?"

    Track and field. Gymnastics. Almost any non-team sport for that matter.

    Track has the most opportunities. If Michael Johnson thinks that he was limited in the events he could pursue, he is wrong - as Carl Lewis proved. If you think the same skills are at work in butterfly and breaststroke, then you don't have a clue what you're talking about. It's just like saying Johnson could just as easily have been a long jumper, high jumper, and 1500 meters runner too.

    He could have - but he chose to remain specialized to increase his chances of winning. Swimmers do the exact same thing! That is why Phelps is phenomenal - he is breaking boundaries that restrict most swimmers.

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  • 132. At 7:36pm on 13 Aug 2008, Sandrasoto wrote:

    Let's face it, the British will never accept an American to be called the greatest at anything. The names mentioned here as "the real greatest" ar erisible and many unknown. You have to be really ignorant when it comes to swimming to underestimate the greatness and difference of each race. Phelps is the greatest and he is clean, get over it.

    One good thing Americans have: They are not sore losers and they cheer for winners, wherever they might be from. Example: Padraig winning the US Open. Some people here in Europe have even suggested that Phelps retire to give others a chance to win. Ha!

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  • 133. At 7:37pm on 13 Aug 2008, Rebecca Hillary wrote:

    To jools69:

    jtjcp88 is right to say that Germany won the games in '36, as they had the highest medal tally in the final table. Though I'm not very impressed with the way that this member has chosen to voice their opinion as it is not 'crap' that Owens dispelled the Aryan myth.

    In terms of who is the greatest Olympian of all time I would find it hard to choose, as all most events seem to have competitors who would justify such a title.

    Phelps is certainly a determined young man and has done well to claim so many gold medals and world records already. I hope he continues to shine as he will be as much an inspiration to my children's generation as he is to mine (and I'm only two years older than him!) I only hope they don't end up skipping school to watch him race!

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  • 134. At 7:37pm on 13 Aug 2008, AyeTea wrote:

    I think it’s going a little over the top when it is said of Michael Phelps becoming the greatest Olympian of all time,
    To start with he has achieved his medal haul solely with swimming. Compare this with the achievements of Decathlon champions such as Roman Sebrle and our own Daley Thompson who have had to compete in ten events, and then I think that it puts it a little more into perspective.

    What about injury risks? Anyone who followed Dean Macey’s career knows how much punishment his body had to endure. Track and field athletes are far more prone to injury than swimmers.

    Some of my greatest Olympians are Kelly Holmes, Seb Coe, Steve Redgrave and Carl Lewis - but the list is endless……………

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  • 135. At 7:38pm on 13 Aug 2008, Thisisyou wrote:

    Why don't people give this guy the appreciation he truly deserves?

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  • 136. At 7:38pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    ive been involved in national and international bodybuiding for 25 years....what makes me laugh is this.....CLEAN Athletes.....it doesnt happen...the human body just isnt capable of the recovery required by these athletes training the amount of time required.....HGH,IGF-1 and Insuling are all undectectable.....when are peope going to admit this as apposed to being 100% hypocryticle......polygraph is the best way ........sebation coe should take one......please stop treating us all like idiots

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  • 137. At 7:47pm on 13 Aug 2008, jbvh2008 wrote:

    "Compare this with the achievements of Decathlon champions such as Roman Sebrle and our own Daley Thompson who have had to compete in ten events, and then I think that it puts it a little more into perspective."

    Sure, as soon as you show me the decathlete who can also take gold - or even make it to the finals - in any one of those individual events or approximation thereof. Just one.

    The decathlon is its own event, the point of which is to determine the best decathlete. Saying these guys are the best athletes in the world is idiotic because they are simply the best at their event - the decathlon. Put them in any individual event and they wouldn't make it to the semifinals, if that.

    Roman Seberle competing for gold in the 100m or 1500m or shotput - please. He couldn't win those events at the NCAAs.

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  • 138. At 7:50pm on 13 Aug 2008, MartinTennis wrote:

    he is the most succesful olympian ever, but why even try to decide if he is the "greatest" ?

    what does the "greatest" mean ?

    is the greatest the best ?
    no, just like Federer is the best tennis player, but not the greatest, yet.

    is the greatest the most succesful ?
    no, because longevity adds to greatness, Lewis, and especialy Redgrave showed that they were good for a very long time, but swimmers just don't last that long.

    lets just compare him to swimmers, is he the best ever ?

    probably,

    Spitz did one thing that sets him appart from Phelps, he won the 100m free.

    but, until tonight at least, Phelps beat Van Den Hoogenband on the 100m free (arguably the fastest swimmer ever, his second 50 is unbeaten, he would still be top of the world if he had a better start)

    so, even if Phelps is not contesting the 100m free, he showed he is very good.

    conclusion:

    he is the "greatest" swimmer ever.

    and he is the most succesful Olympian ever

    but

    there is no such thing as the "greatest" Olympian, and if there was, it would not be him, but Lewis and Nuurmi, or maybe Commaneci ?, and why not Redgrave, Zatopek ?

    Or Owens ?, it's really great that he made Hitler leave the stadium !

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  • 139. At 7:52pm on 13 Aug 2008, Thomas wrote:

    I think the achievements of Phelps, Owens, Lewis etc are remarkable, but for me the greatest Olympian has to be Steve Redgrave.

    OK, 5 gold medals may not seem much by comparison, but when you think of the physical demands required in rowing and to do it for 5 Olympic games running and clinch gold in every one, bearing in mind he had to work with new and different team mates each time, for me, Redgrave's 5 gold medals hold a lot more meaning. We will never ever see another Olympian get 5 golds in 5 games, I highly doubt there's many athletes who would be capable of taking part in 5 games. Steve Redgrave made his mark in 5 games, 5 different cities in 3 era's - to me that ticks all the boxes for that of the greatest ever Olympian.

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  • 140. At 7:56pm on 13 Aug 2008, jbvh2008 wrote:

    "so, even if Phelps is not contesting the 100m free, he showed he is very good"

    Yes. His relay swim the other night in the 400 was the third fastest time in history (47:51) at that point - 1/100 of a second behind Bernard's world record when he jumped into the pool.

    It didn't look that impressive only because he was swimming next to the guy who just broke the world record - the guy I'm betting will win gold in the 100m and with an amazingly low time (sub 47) - Eamon Sullivan.

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  • 141. At 8:05pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jon_WB wrote:

    Michael Phelps is having a great Olympics and combined with his achievements in Athens, is dominating his sport like no other before him. He is the most decorated olympic athlete and that is a fact. You can argue that there shouldn't be as many medals in swimming.

    However, Phelps has been beaten (in individual events - relay's shouldn't count). Both in Sydney when 15 where he came 5th in the 200 metres Butterfly and also when he claimed bronze in the 200 metres Freestyle in Athens. He has also 'lost' races before getting to the finals.

    Steve Redgrave is in the same position. Let's not forget he won five golds, but also 'lost' one - he finished with a bronze in the 1998 Coxed Pairs. Also, you have to detract some element when it isn't an event where it is down the individual.

    Elisabeta Lipa is more decorated as an Olympic rower (although her World Championship record is comparatively poor), so Sir Steve whilst a British favourite isn't clearly defined as the best in his sport at the Olympics.

    A few observations:

    1) I think there is an outside chance Phelps will lose the 100m Butterfly to Ian Crocker. I was poolside at the 100m Butterfly final in 2004 when Phelps pipped Crocker on the touch.

    2) Phelps hasn't had the best swim of the Olympic meet (in my opinion!). That goes to Jason Lezak who did an unbelievable 46.06 split in the 100m Freestyle relay. OK it had a flying start but still, to haul back the current (at the start of the race) World Record Holder and then take the Gold to allow the winning streak of Phelps that was something special and an unofficial time would be closer to 46.70 say facotring in the flying start - still well under the current 100m freestyle world record.

    3) To those who say that it is easy due to the multiple events / distances for swimming look no further than Katie Hoff - A big swimming schedule, always there or thereabouts, but not doing good enough to win.

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  • 142. At 8:06pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    did anyone watch eurosport last night....the commentator broadcast that phelps girlfriend was banned for steroid use...when asked what hemeant by the comment he said ' phelps knows her better than us'.......what does that say and why hasnt the BBC mentioned this fact instead of idolising everything phelpsdoes

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  • 143. At 8:07pm on 13 Aug 2008, DocHott wrote:

    Honestly, I think it is hard to tell these days who is a "true" olympian.

    With all the drug use (in all countries) and lax monitoring/corruption one can never tell if the medal results are skewed or not.

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  • 144. At 8:08pm on 13 Aug 2008, alinelena wrote:

    Just to add
    Abebe Bikila, Ethiopia, Rome 1960, won marathon running barefoot.
    Tokyo 1964 run and won one month after having the appendics removed. He had shoes that time.



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  • 145. At 8:10pm on 13 Aug 2008, stoatsnest wrote:

    I think the whole thing is a farce and i am sick of seeing it on TV. The only good thing is it's giving the Tibet protesters good publicity.

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  • 146. At 8:21pm on 13 Aug 2008, Ros wrote:

    One good thing Americans have: They are not sore losers and they cheer for winners, wherever they might be from.

    Um, did you see Katie Hoff coming second to Rebecca Adlington? I watched it in America and I can tell you that no one there was cheering for the winner of that race.

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  • 147. At 8:21pm on 13 Aug 2008, ClarenceSquare wrote:

    A discus thrower would have to compete for over 40 years in order to gain 11 gold medals.

    The only thing we know is that Phelps is the dominant swimmer in the current format.

    He is exceptional. Yes.
    A legend. Probably, but only time will tell.
    The "best" Olympian. NO. Nobody is that.

    Comparisons are spurious, impossible to make and .........in the end, demeaning to all other Olympic Champions ... be they a beach volleyballer or a rifle shooter ...or any other Olympic "discipline".

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  • 148. At 8:22pm on 13 Aug 2008, welsh_clarky wrote:

    phelps has done well but the greatest cannot be decided on the amount of gold medals, steve redgrave has been at the top of his sport for 20 years. Its unfair philps gets to be in more than one race. if phelps can win golds at 5 olympics in a row then he may be in contention

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  • 149. At 8:24pm on 13 Aug 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    Forgive me if i put a damper on anyone's Olympic spirit. But am i the only one who has lost confidence and trust in athletes' perfomances following recent numerous doping scandals. And the current record breaking feats has raised my eyebrows rather than bringing amusement and envy.With all due respect to all those who "honestly" work hard for their achievements.I would not be surprised if we were to later discover some more "Marion Jones" after the Olympic games.The IOC has to try and repair the tarnished image of the games somehow. This year I donot even feel excited about watching the Olympic games.
    REST IN PEACE FAIR PLAY.

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  • 150. At 8:25pm on 13 Aug 2008, Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso wrote:

    The Biggest Athletes in US Olympic History are the following: Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz, and Michael Phelps. The Biggest Athlete in US Olympic History for the 21st Century is Michael Phelps.

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  • 151. At 8:28pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    the athleteswho genuinely do not take any performance enhancing drugs are the CHEATS....They are cheating their country from ever winning anything.....GET REAL

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  • 152. At 8:32pm on 13 Aug 2008, vsrini wrote:

    Why restrict the choices to only summer olympics? Here's my nomination for the greatest olympian - Eric Hayden. He won 5 golds, in every ice skating race from the shortest sprint to the long distance race! Is that even within the realm of probability in swimming or track and field.

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  • 153. At 8:32pm on 13 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    I've posted this elsewhere so apologies but I think it is relevant.

    Just checked and in both summer and winter games, of the 59 competitors with 5 or more golds, 11 are swimmers, 16 are gymnasts, 4 are from athletics, 6 fencers, 5 shooting.......and 2 from rowing.

    There are 17 swimming events for men and 17 for women. It is not uncommon for swimmers to compete in multiple events. Phelps however is competing in almost half of them!

    In athletics there are 24 events for men and 23 for women. Athletes too (usually only track) can compete in more than one event but even Carl Lewis did a maximum of 4!

    In rowing there are currently 8 events for men, and 7 for women. Now that the coxed pairs has gone most rowers compete in one event.

    In terms of most medals, gymnasts hold the top slots. But note that apart from modern rhythmic gymnastics, a gymnast has a chance of a medal in each of the disciplines, an overall individual title and a team title!

    So despite having fewer events swimmers occupy more places than athletes in the multiple medal holders.

    My conclusion - it is far easier for a swimmer or gymnast to gain multiple golds despite having (theoretically) fewer events to do.

    I would guess that in practice both swimmers and gymnasts alike have more medal chances per olympiad than other sports.

    so I think its clear - if medal haul is the standard by which we judge olympic greats you are statistically better off being a swimmer or gymnast. Oh and preferably from the USA and Oz if a swimmer cos then you get lots of good team mates for the relay!

    So either cut down the number of disciplines in swimming and gymnastics, add others in athletics (e.g. 60m) or.....more realistically how about we all just recognise that these comparisons are ultimately pointless and we all recognise that we cannot pinpoint one person as being the greatest - and on that note I hope the BBC does so too!

    so greatest olympian - there simply isn't one - there are just a lot of olympic greats!

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  • 154. At 8:33pm on 13 Aug 2008, Sweder wrote:

    Did anyone catch the clip of the US TV coverage of their man? You'd have thought he'd cured world famine, brokered peace in the Middle East and found Wally.

    Hype is killing sport. I take my hat off to a remarkable young man taking his sport by storm. Nothing more or less than that.

    I'm more disturbed at the rather clumsy manipulation of western media by the hosts. Did anyone else feel rather ill when the story broke about the substitute mimer at the opening ceremony - replacing the singer as the 7-year-old who sang was deemed 'not pretty enough' to represent China.

    I've actually been to and worked in Beijing. Your average local ain't no oil painting.

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  • 155. At 8:37pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    ben johnson had an epitestosterone level of 10-1.................
    diana modhal had a level of 42-1....
    johnson gotbanned... modhal got away with it.
    how does that work??????????

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  • 156. At 8:48pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    phelps would be the greastest if he stands up and says he had help!!!!!!!

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  • 157. At 9:02pm on 13 Aug 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    dixie12345 i think You must Get Real. How does it help a country to receive medals from dishonesty and blatant breach of athletics rules. Fame,Praise,Pride,Money what?....... If so then athletics is for "junkies" .Why compete if you know that you have given yourself advantage ever your opponents. With such sentiments i'm glad that i'm not avidly following the events of the Olympics.If the top perfomers are truly using perfomance enhancing drugs, then it is not a matter of who is the greatest but a matter of which drug is the most effective one and who has managed to elude the long arm of the law.

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  • 158. At 9:07pm on 13 Aug 2008, augustian wrote:

    Tom, thank you for starting what turned out to be a most interesting, contested and informative (if brief and of necessity partial) thread of discussions of Olympic sports’ history, and meanings of sporting achievements beyond merely numerical and sport or competition format specific procedural incommensurateness. As to ‘Anyone I've missed’ , please do the homework on that famous Russian Olympic Weight Lifting giant with more world records than any and all the individual athletes you had mentioned. It pays to keep in mind that while in many events winning by a nanometer or a femtosecond is a new record, with Olympic weight lifters (who unfortunately arbitrarily lost the chance to secure three medals instead of only two – classic standing press being omitted as an event) do not win or set records by tiny arbitrary fractions, and when the difference between silver and gold is what could have amounted to over 20 separate distinctly incremental world or Olympic records, there is still only one medal to be had. Alexeev was the name.

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  • 159. At 9:09pm on 13 Aug 2008, mrmichaelh wrote:

    I think Michael Johnson summed it up when he said if Athletes could do 100m one way and get a Gold for it and then 100m the other way and get a Gold then maybe they'd start stacking up all the medals.

    Phelps - a phenomenal athlete, the winningest Olympian (oh how I love what the Americans do with our language..ahem.. ;-) ) but for me not the Greatest Olympian.

    Another thing..full credit to the BBC for recognising Phelps' Achievements..the BBC's coverage has been superb..and when I hear that hardly anything's live in the US or it's just Beach Volleyball, I feel grateful for the wall-to-wall excellent coverage we have here..and let's be clear: If Phelps was British, do you think the inward-looking Americans would be making such a fuss? No way - I don't think they knew Adlington and Jackson were in the 400m. The Commentator.." And Hoff takes the Gold...oh!?" :-)

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  • 160. At 9:09pm on 13 Aug 2008, surfer81 wrote:

    Sorry, but no one can match the achievements of the greatest all time olympian, who won gold medals in 2 of the most completely different disciplines imaginable, namely music and chariot racing; I refer to none other than the legendary Nero

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  • 161. At 9:13pm on 13 Aug 2008, kwinquark1 wrote:

    Ah, that tragic Anglo-Saxon obsession that requires quantification of - well, everything.

    Was Hitler or Von Schirach the greatest at their discipline? Stalin or Beria? Mao or Sun Yat Sen? Ho Chi Minh or Nguyen Giap?

    Who cares.

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  • 162. At 9:13pm on 13 Aug 2008, Karl wrote:

    Thanks, Tom, for putting things into perspective, again. Just a remark on the lack of competition for the likes Koenders-Blank and Nurmi. They obviously did not have the type of support structure and pretty much had to motivate and coach themselves without any sponsorship during and in between the games.

    Karl

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  • 163. At 9:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, Mizuno93 wrote:

    Do not count out other sports which aren't given as much publicity - such as judo.

    Ryoko Tani from Japan has won a medal in every olympics since 1992 including 2 golds 2 silvers and a bronze.

    As judo is such an unpredictable sport with a slight error possibly resulting in being thrown, this simply greatens the achievement.

    Combined in addition with the fact that she has been reigning world champion since 1993, except in 2005 when she took time out to have a baby. Then coming back to win the worlds in 2007 simply added to her achievements. This is a considerable factor which adds to womens achievements, by being able to come back after a pregnancy and succeed at the highest level.

    Also the fact that lightweight judo relies heavily on a lot of speed and being well over 30 years old and still competing at the top level, truely shows her class.

    A great ambassador for judo, as well as for her country with a great personality and willingness to talk with media, combined obviously with no record of drugs abuse, in a sport with only 3 ever cases of drugs abuse - truely remarkable in the sporting world of today.

    Forever a legend in the world of judo and across Japan.

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  • 164. At 9:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, What Would Clough Do wrote:

    Not only should we enjoy Phelps' accolades at the present, we should enjoy swimming. This sport is not often on the mainstage and we see too many of some other sports year around. We need to appreciate that and some of these other Olympic sports.

    If Phelps is the greatest, then I guess before now, the greatest was the next biggest gold or total medal winner but many of us would not be persuaded by this statement.

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  • 165. At 9:16pm on 13 Aug 2008, chimiratastic wrote:

    When every Olympic sport offers up the same number of medals for essentially doing the same thing several times we can actually base our estimations on medal counts.. Until then defining greatness by medals won is about as useful as defining it by hair colour. Idolizing Phelps just because of the bare stats is ignorant, distasteful, an insult to athletes all over the world in many other disciplines where medals aren't dished out like confetti, and just plain lazy.... Come on BBC, use some brain cells and report on the REAL heroes, I'm sure I'm not the only one who switches channels whenever I hear the "P" word.

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  • 166. At 9:18pm on 13 Aug 2008, DJHDJH wrote:

    What was the name of the shooter who won gold in shooting, lost his arm during one of the world wars and then won the next games shooting left handed?

    He's got to be up there.

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  • 167. At 9:33pm on 13 Aug 2008, kooga61 wrote:

    New Zealand TV1 did a poll for the greatest Olympian of all time. Guess who came out on top......Peter Snell!!!!!!!!. Spitz, and Redgrave didn't even get in their top ten!!!!!!

    Typically one eyed!!!

    Although Snell was an outstanding tallent, he wasn't the greatest ever....not even close!

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  • 168. At 9:43pm on 13 Aug 2008, triathlete02 wrote:

    While there is a good argument in favour of many athletes' to be the "greatest olympian", I am afraid I personally would discount that of Steve Redgrave for one reason. He never competed and won as an individual. He won as a member of a pair and a four. Winning as a member of a team is different. He can never say that he personally and individually was the best in any Olympic competition.

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  • 169. At 9:47pm on 13 Aug 2008, sschmidt wrote:

    What about Jim Thorpe from the 1912 Olympics? It seems to me he won the pentathalon which included swimming, horseback riding, shooting and I don't know what else, but I know he was considered the greatest athlete in the world until they took his medals away for getting paid to play baseball when he was only a kid.

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  • 170. At 9:47pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    tgubt....you obviously are an armchair athlete.....if you know so much then tell me about nutrition and also list all the performance drugs avilable.........I CAN ive trained alot of guys and girls to the top in, well lets just say i know all about drug use in sport....and an expert in sport nutrition...it just makes me sick to keep hearing that 'clean sport is what we all want'..............if the 100 metres world record was 11 secondes no-one would want to watch it.....too much money means win at all costs........dont be so naive

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  • 171. At 9:47pm on 13 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    Redgrave was nothing special in the scheme of things, if we are talking of world standards, not just british. What Phelps is doing is unreal, he is not just breaking, he is smashing every record in signt, best that might ever be.

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  • 172. At 9:49pm on 13 Aug 2008, birendraadhikari wrote:

    In swimming, yes. He has 11 golds now, which means he is the greatest olympic swimmer ever. Today, not three days after today, he is just ahead of Mark Spitz in terms of swimming. But, the greatest olympian is Carl Lewis. To be ahead of Carl Lewis, he has to win remaining three with world record times and he has to win at least 2 more golds in London 2012. Then, we can consider him the greates ever.

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  • 173. At 9:50pm on 13 Aug 2008, LeginSenoj wrote:

    Sorry but Phelps may be a good swimmer but to label him "greatest Olympian in history" is just nonsense and an insult to those that have gone before. He is able to compete in 8 events in each Olympics, unlike those that compete in other events. It is not his fault that he is able to do so, but there has to be a balance and it is not balanced to give him the accolade that he seems so willing to accept

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  • 174. At 9:53pm on 13 Aug 2008, wannawin wrote:

    Cassius Clay was the greatest.

    Joking apart, for a boxer to win a medal he needs more than just a 9.7 sec or 60 sec effort...

    Put your pants back on Mr. Phelps !

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  • 175. At 9:55pm on 13 Aug 2008, Crowperson wrote:

    My vote is for Eric "The Eel" Moussambani.

    All right, so he never won anything, but he had a go, and had entry restrictions not been tightened up we might have seen him in action again, but that is what counts - participation.

    Seriously though, Phelps is a great not because of the ease of swimming but because he looks good, is a team player and extremely good at what he does. Anyone who goes for gold needs determination, stamina, a positive mental attitude and, in events such as the relay, to be a good part of the team. Those who don't live up to the high mental demands of Olympic or other world-class competition don't do so well. And most events are as demanding as swimming, whether team-based (encouraging co-operative play), showcases of individual talent (meaning the individuals have to rise to the challenge of their opponents even though they are not going head to head against them) or individual races (probably the most demanding because you have to keep an eye not only on your opponents but on your own performance).

    Anyone at the Olympics is the best in their sport in their country, and thus deserving of the title of best Olympian. Simply to write off someone for never having won an individual medal shows naivete because many events can be won or lost on the performance of a team member and test the quality of that person's ability to swallow individual pride for the sake of their country's or friends'.

    And who do you think NZ TV is going to hail as the greatest Olympian?! We were all over Kelly Holmes last time round, this time we'll all be trumpeting Rebecca Adlington. Give over and accept different viewpoints and different perspectives and enjoy the Games as they are meant to be enjoyed.

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  • 176. At 9:55pm on 13 Aug 2008, tr_doe wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 177. At 9:58pm on 13 Aug 2008, wannawin wrote:

    The swimming records make me laugh now. The suit is making the difference. And the analysis I read somewhere on the BBC site explaining how the swimming pool design in itself helps is another indication that Phelps is the best of the moment, but surely not the best of all times.

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  • 178. At 10:00pm on 13 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Redgrave nothing special? Have you checked his record in rowing outside of the Olympics?

    Have you seen what illnesses he suffered from whilst still winning Gold?

    The guy is a legend in his field.

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  • 179. At 10:01pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    perhaps thats why he has huge feet.....
    joking aside.. at hthe end of thedayif there were no drugs , the people winning now would still be winning due to exceptional genetics and commitment,,,,its just the records would be knowhere near what they are today..........

    as for cheating.... how can proffesional tennis players etc compete in an AMATUER event......

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  • 180. At 10:04pm on 13 Aug 2008, gvloved1 wrote:

    Swimming medals are not handed out like confetti - there is Gold, Silver and Bronze for each event in each of the disciplines.

    Maybe the 4x200 freestyle relay is a bit pointless, but there's no 50 breaststroke, which is odd.

    Phelps is the greatest swimmer ... and people forget that he actually has to WIN these events - he is there to be beaten ...

    Overall, no-one should be labelled as the greatest Olympian.

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  • 181. At 10:05pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    i agree with what you say about redgrave and admire his acheivments//////but insulin is the most anabolic hormone in the body......give it a tweek and hey presto.....improvmentn in performance....................................

    if youve never used insulin yourself for sport and performance, please dont reply because you will not know how it works

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  • 182. At 10:07pm on 13 Aug 2008, riffler wrote:

    It's far from impossible to argue about the quality of Carl Lewis's achievement, not just because of the boycott but because of the near certainty that he was not drug-free.
    Far too many of the multi-medallists' achievements are in sports in which it is relatively easy to assemble a large medal haul because they have so many similar events - particularly swimming and gymnastics. Lewis would be something of an exception were it not for other reservations, but for my money Daley Thompson stands out - all the more disgraceful that he was omitted from the recent list of top British Olympians, apparently at the demand of the sponsors.

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  • 183. At 10:12pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    having read the comments above, the person who told us about brigit fischer deserves a pat on the back.
    that is a great record, and surpasses Redgrave for me, as she did it on her own.
    We all know in Sydney, Pinsent carried Redgrave to Gold, and anyway Rowing is such an elitist sport that i would never put a rower first. I mean honestly how many people do you know who have ever got in a rowing boat, it's not exactly open to the masses is it?
    For that reason i stand by Carl Lewis - a phenomenal athlete, over a good range of events, and the man who was at the top of his game when athletics was at the height of its powers.
    As for the drug slurs, i would be amazed if any gold medalists in the 80s didnt dabble with some legal/illegal remedies. I dont think Lewis ever took anything before Johnson came on the scene though. Still the best for me - no amount of drugs can make you run and jump that well.

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  • 184. At 10:13pm on 13 Aug 2008, tigerCraigM wrote:

    Your gripe about Paavo Nurmi could be made about anyone, in almost any sport, 90 years ago. At the time, though, the runners he ran against were considered astonishing -- men who revived human skills that hadn't been raised to that level since the time of the Greeks.

    Sure, that may sound bizarre now, but even a few years back, we could put ourselves in the minds of that first generation of the modern Olympics (remember Chariots of Fire). Nurmi was the very best of that crowd and, given that, he was one of the very best of the modern Olympians.

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  • 185. At 10:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, triathlete02 wrote:

    Before you can identify the greatest ever olympian you obviously have to establish a set of criteria against which he or she can be judged.

    Dominance seems to me to be the most important one - not only in terms of winning but also in terms of times (or the equivalents in other sports) - how often does he she win and by what margin. By this standard Phelps must rank very highly - more so than for example Lewis.

    A related criteria (though a separate one) must be the standard of competition.

    Longevity is a double edged sword. On the one hand, being able to maintain dominance for a long time is impressive. On the other the human body has a relatively short "peak" and staying ahead of the pack for too long might (emphasis on the might) cast doubt either on the quality of the competition if not on the demands of the sport itself. Al Oerter's reign as champion might be a case in point here.

    Also there must be credit for versatility. What made Borg a great tennis player was his ability to win Wimbledon and the French within weeks of one another. Phelps scores highly here too. Swimming four different strokes over distances from 200 to 400 m is not just one skill. Ian Thorpe - himself a great Olympian - tried to diversify the events he competed in to win more gold medals and failed. Indeed, notably no other swimmer since Spitz has been able to accomplish the same range of events. That to me says a lot.

    Finally I think the sheer number of events competed in and won also counts - heavily. The effort of race after race - heats, semis and finals and having to gear up for competition after competition often against world class swimmers who have concentrated their efforts on this one event - and winning all the time. Yes, that counts a lot.

    As I say good arguments could be made for many. But a very good argument can indeed be made for Mr Phelps.

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  • 186. At 10:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    a little bit of history on drug use in sport
    the first nation to use drugs in sport was USA in the 60's track and field..........

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  • 187. At 10:17pm on 13 Aug 2008, ninjali2004 wrote:

    Honorable mention:

    Chinese shooter Zhang Shan, gold medalist in 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona is the only woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal in an event open to both men and women. Zhang was not able to defend her title as the event was open to men only in 1996.

    Talking about a tough lady!

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  • 188. At 10:19pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    good shout on the chinese shooter - that's a bit harsh isn't it, banning her from 96 because she was a sister sticking it to the man!

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  • 189. At 10:21pm on 13 Aug 2008, What Would Clough Do wrote:

    Doping, ever hear of the Tour de France Dixie? Speed, on and on. You did not do much research on your statement. TdF will be performance type drugs. Weightlifting and steroids too, have been around a while and what they use to catch people at.

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  • 190. At 10:22pm on 13 Aug 2008, alphaPhilA wrote:

    It is very easy to belittle Phelps' achievement by making up all this nonsense about running whilst flapping arms (idiots). All male runners at the olympics have the option of competing in 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 4x100m, 4x400m without even having to change their running style (similar to doing same distances in swimming with a single stroke). Those that can handle a slight change in style, by jumping over the odd hurdle, can also take on the 110m hurdles and the 400m hurdles. So who was the last runner to dominate these events completely, whilst destroying world records across the them?. If your argument is that people dedicate their lives to succeeding in a single event, let alone two, then the news is that it is exactly the same in swimming. The chances of any swimmer holding a world record in more than one distance within a single stroke is slim, let alone across different strokes. Let's not forget that swimming is not a new sport, but has been included in the olympics since (and perhaps before) the first modern Olympics.

    Phelps is probably not the greatest the Olympian of all time as that metric is near impossible to define (is it better to win 5 golds across 20 years of Olympics, or 5 golds in a single Olympics? What role does build-up play in a great victory?), but what he has, and is on course to, achieve is quite simply staggering; by any standard. The most amazing part is that he has only just begun.

    Whilst on the topic of swimming, I think we should be celebrating the achievements of Rebecca Adlington (first female swimming gold for Britain in 48 years is fantastic!).

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  • 191. At 10:24pm on 13 Aug 2008, Magnifecento_red wrote:

    I think you have to wait until Phelps is finished collecting medals in future olympics before you can compare. Because collecting medals is what he does as he is far superior to every other swimmer. Is he going to win the most gold medals ever? Yes. Will he win the most medals ever? Probably.

    When his career is over and he has stacked up more medals than any other olympian, will he be the best olympian ever? Well most definitely if he continues breaking his own world record with every race he's in. In my eyes he could become the best sportsman in the world in terms of dominace and overall achievement.

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  • 192. At 10:26pm on 13 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    im talking about the olympics. the first anabolic steroids were used in 60;s by track and field athletes......blood doping and epo and speed etc are what has been used for cycling........testosterone has been around since 1880 dianabol has been arounf since the 50's.........i know my stuff..

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  • 193. At 10:29pm on 13 Aug 2008, Superman740 wrote:

    Tom, you and the others here overlooked the most amazing human being who was also an Olympic gold medalist (three times). That person is Wilma Rudolph.

    Her biography is at

    http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/rudo-wil.htm

    Being #20 of 22 children, here's a paragraph from the above URL:

    "Wilma was born prematurely and weighed only 4.5 pounds. Again, because of racial segregation, she and her mother were not permitted to be cared for at the local hospital. It was for whites only. There was only one black doctor in Clarksville, and the Rudolph's budget was tight, so Wilma's mother spent the next several years nursing Wilma through one illness after another: measles, mumps, scarlet fever, chicken pox and double pneumonia. But, she had to be taken to the doctor when it was discovered that her left leg and foot were becoming weak and deformed. She was told she had polio, a crippling disease that had no cure. The doctor told Mrs. Rudolph that Wilma would never walk. But Mrs. Rudolph would not give up on Wilma. She found out that she could be treated at Meharry Hospital, the black medical college of Fisk University in Nashville. Even though it was 50 miles away, Wilma's mother took her there twice a week for two years, until she was able to walk with the aid of a metal leg brace. Then the doctors taught Mrs. Rudolph how to do the physical therapy exercises at home. All of her brothers and sisters helped too, and they did everything to encourage her to be strong and work hard at getting well. Finally, by age 12, she could walk normally, without the crutches, brace, or corrective shoes. It was then that she decided to become an athlete."

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  • 194. At 10:29pm on 13 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 190 - Utter nonsense.

    The fact is there haven been no atheletes capable of doing what you suggested because the PHYSICAL demands of racing over those distances are so different.

    The fact remains (look at the list of medal winners) that they have been many swimmers capable of attaining multiple medals.

    Why?

    Because the PHYSICAL demands are so similar - it is the TECHNICAL demands that differ.

    In other words - get yourself on a PHYSICAL level and in swimming at least if you are technically proficient you can dominate.

    In athletics it just does not translate.

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  • 195. At 10:38pm on 13 Aug 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    di...12345 no wonder you chose this name, it just says a lot about you...."you obviously are an armchair athlete"....wat are you insinuating about armchair athletes.Just because you are privileged to be able bodied does not give you a right to ridicule or demean the armchair athletes lest you be fallen by a worse predicament.Come to think of it they are the legends as they honestly try to utilise their talents.By the way having knowledge on something does not mean you are an expert.Your judgements are flawed and begging the question.No reasoning whatsoever.The way you use words such as "naive" with baseless facts gives me a pretty good idea that you are a layman masqueradering as a trainer.Who are the unlucky athletes,you worked with.Are they in any way near Beijing or you made them up.Be careful of making serious derogative statements without facts,because you might be burned.

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  • 196. At 10:41pm on 13 Aug 2008, dermiebutt wrote:

    I have just created membership to blogging cos I felt that some-one had to stand up for the paraplegig olympians.
    They have to be, and I cannot stress that enough, the greatest athletes.
    They start from a position that the others just could not even consider.
    Hats off to them all, and give them the status they richly deserve. Far more so than their able bodied counterparts.
    And why do we not see more of the "other" olympics?

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  • 197. At 10:42pm on 13 Aug 2008, What Would Clough Do wrote:

    Wilma Rudolph, I am learning about so many athletes today, thanks to all for sharing, Jesse Owens not only faced the 3rd Reich, but there was plenty of orneriness(a word?), callousness and lawlessness and crude hate back in the country he ran for!

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  • 198. At 10:46pm on 13 Aug 2008, Welsh_Hurdler_1992 wrote:

    I dont think it is fair to label phelps as the greatest olympian because he is a swimmer. Being a swimmer he is able to compete in a lot more swimming events than any other athlete. Bolt of jamaica for example has a target of 2 golds (100m, 200m) and he cant attempt any more where as phelps and fellow swimmers can aim for 8 medals which is considerably more than any other athlete. I think it is fair to give phelps the title of the best olypian swimmer ever but unfair to give him the greatest olympian ever title.

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  • 199. At 10:46pm on 13 Aug 2008, annehansen wrote:

    There are more opportunities for track and field athletes to win medals than there are for swimmers.

    The reason that they don't do this is that they don't train as hard.

    Well done Michael Phelps.

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  • 200. At 10:48pm on 13 Aug 2008, MisterDavid wrote:

    Yes Phelps is the most successful, but please PLEASE let's not go using the word 'greatest'. It's unlikely that he is, but even then, accolades like that can only be given in retrospect.

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  • 201. At 10:49pm on 13 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Anne hansen post 190 - what a load of utter rubbish.

    Look at the stats - why with fewer events to more swimmers win multiple medals?

    Simple - cos the physical demands of swimming are so similar across the strokes - if you master the technical demands then you're quids in.

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  • 202. At 10:50pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    197. both good shouts, certainly legends in the hall of fame.
    196. get real mate. you dont see the other olympics because sports fans like me aren't interested! the best olympians of all times are the ones that peform their sports to the max. obviously we can be inspired by the efforts of disabled athletes, but their performances are for obvious reasons never going to be as good as the able-bodied athletes. the olympic motto remember is higher, stronger, faster.

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  • 203. At 10:50pm on 13 Aug 2008, henrystewb wrote:

    Who here is more tired after running 100m than swimming 100m (and that question includes butterfly)? Not me, I give Phelps credit for racing in 8 disciplines.

    That said I count what you do outside the sport as much as what you do in it

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  • 204. At 10:53pm on 13 Aug 2008, triathlete02 wrote:

    I just wanted to add one further comment. Yes, it is true that some athletes had to overcome obstacles that others did not - racism, deprivation, all the evils of the world. But in judging "the greatest Olympian" I don't think you can take these into account any more than that someone was "a great ambassador for the sport" as opposed to being "a spoiled brat". The great thing about the Olympics is that when you are on your starting blocks none of these things count. Only your talent, will and perhaps a bit of luck determines who wins and who does not. And for me the same goes in judging who the greatest Olympian is. It must be on the basis of sporting achievement alone because that alone is what counts in competition.

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  • 205. At 10:54pm on 13 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 203 - thats cos you are not a swimmer! Even 100m swimmers swim in distance terms far far more than their track equivalents run.

    Its because of the difference in the demands on the body of swimming and running.

    Same for cycling - non impact sports afford far quicker recovery!

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  • 206. At 10:54pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    190. Michael Johnson is the nearest we've seen who could have tackled the range you set out - but be realistic, the physical demands of track and field are much greater than the physical demands of Phelps' 17 swims in one olympics, however great his achievement is.

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  • 207. At 10:57pm on 13 Aug 2008, bringbackhumph wrote:

    Matthew Pinsent. He single handedly won a 4 man event in Athens.

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  • 208. At 10:59pm on 13 Aug 2008, skodadog wrote:

    You are all joking! This is just swimming and when you're the best, you're the best.
    Being able to do it every day shows that it is nothing compared to a track event.
    If Michael Johnson could compete in the 400m, 410m, 390m etc, then there could be comparison. Swimming is nothing compared to track.

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  • 209. At 10:59pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    right i've read the lot - here is the definitive list of choices - all legends - but take your pick.

    Owens
    Lewis
    Johnson
    Nurmi
    Coe

    Clay
    Stevenson

    Phelps
    Spitz

    Fischer
    Redgrave

    Latynina
    Korbet
    Comenec

    Klammer
    Torvill and Dean

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  • 210. At 11:01pm on 13 Aug 2008, StudentNYU wrote:

    Phelps is one of the greatest athletes if not the greatest. There is no question about it.

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  • 211. At 11:02pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    can we still blog ?

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  • 212. At 11:03pm on 13 Aug 2008, ElWapo wrote:

    Whoever it might be, it cannot be Steve Redgrave - staggering achievement though his is. Not only did Brigit Fischer match his achievement of golds at 5 consecutive olympics, she won golds at 6 olympics in total (and missed the 7th - 1984 - because East Germany boycotted the games). And won 12 medals (8 golds) in total, many in solo events. If the greatest olympian is measured by endeavour over an extended period then hers is a better record than Redgrave's. Redgrave, finest British Olympian maybe (though I too have a soft spot for Daley Thompson), but finest Olympian, no.

    Of course, maybe it is not duration of endeavour that captures title of finest Olympian. Number of medals? well Phelps sweeps all before him, but finest Olympian is surely about more than just higher, faster, stronger - but rather all of those things wrapped up in finer, better and more beautiful. Which leaves me still with Comaneci, just as I was 30 odd years ago.

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  • 213. At 11:05pm on 13 Aug 2008, a_bit_of_crumpet wrote:

    #171. Mido_9 wrote:
    "Redgrave was nothing special in the scheme of things, if we are talking of world standards, not just british. What Phelps is doing is unreal, he is not just breaking, he is smashing every record in signt, best that might ever be."

    Yes. There are some very anglocentric opinions here - sorry but most people in the world have never heard of Steve Redgrave -that's because rowing is an esoteric sport - mostly for the wealthy in wealthy countries. Don't want to denegrate his great achievement but c'mon people, admit that if Phelps was British and Redgrave American this whole conversation would be VERY different.


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  • 214. At 11:05pm on 13 Aug 2008, alphaPhilA wrote:

    Post 194 and post 201:

    I am not looking for a runner to dominate 8 events (let alone more if they had the chance), just 3, or 4 (even within very similar distances say 100m, 110m hurdles and 200m).

    I am by no means an expert on Olympic history, and I can agree to an extent that swimming has a larger component of technique than running, but let's not forget that we are not talking about a man winning two events of similar technique at similar distances, but over different disciplines and different distances. I am not, unlike many, trying to argue that Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever, nor that he is better that the best in other events. What I am trying to point out is that we should not underestimate the enormity of his achievement. If you have ever trained with the hope of being a professional athelete, in any sport, you will understand the degree of specificity that is required to win in a single event, let alone across numerous events. In any discipline there will be people dedicating themselves solely to the the cause of winning a single event (getting up and swimming 6000 metres a day just for that single race, tailoring their body to the sole purpose of winning that event). What Phelps has / is achievening is staggering and it is a shame that we cannot accept that we are seeing one of the greatest athletes of all time and then turn our focus to the other great successes that are happening. Like I said, the question of 'greatest athlete of all time' is unfortunately unanswerable, but we are seeing one of the greatest.

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  • 215. At 11:06pm on 13 Aug 2008, a_bit_of_crumpet wrote:

    Torvill and Dean!

    LOL

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  • 216. At 11:08pm on 13 Aug 2008, Twinks wrote:

    I do not really care who the greatest olympic athlete ever is!!! However I do care who the greatest british olympic athlete is!!!

    I believe it is Sir Stephen Redgrave:-

    5 Gold medals in 5 olympics!!! all this whilst being a diebetic, and whilst being a great role model to people of all ages(which is what the olympics should be all about).

    p.s Matthew Pinsent and Daley Thompson are also true legends.

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  • 217. At 11:09pm on 13 Aug 2008, whyaname wrote:

    Medals won nowadays are worth more that in the old days purely because the competitions are so much more fiercely contested. In the old days you had one genius and the rest of his competitors were amatours. Nowadays all competitors are pro athlets training full time for many hours a day and not some sausage makers or blacksmith who do sport as a hobby. The time differences between winning and loosing are hundreds of a second, that's how competitive it is now. In view of this you also have to look at how convincingly Phelps has beaten his opposition, it's no longer hundreds of a second but full seconds! I rate the medals won by Phelps much higher than those won especially in the early 1900's.

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  • 218. At 11:14pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    I know Torvill was no looker but be fair - those two are legends - if we're talking about winter olympians too?

    214. if you're looking for an athlete to dominate just 3 or 4 events, then look no further than Carl Lewis - hence he has my vote all along - in my opinion he is the greatest olympian ever - and his sport is the most level playing field you can get - just plain and simple running and jumping.

    as for all these people harping on about lewis failed drug test in 88 -do you honestly believe any of his main rivals at the time were clean?? if you ask me they should athletes take drugs if they want to, it's just a form of diet, but that's another debate.

    for all the redgrave fans, behave yourselves, how many rowing clubs are there in asia, south america or africa??

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  • 219. At 11:17pm on 13 Aug 2008, LogicalJester wrote:

    I am not an avid swimming fan, but I do recall a few years ago they introduced a rule which stopped the swimmers from staying under water for too long after the dive and turn (15m?). I think this may have only applied to backstroke and breaststroke, but am not sure.

    I noticed in the freestyle today, that Phelps was taking around 7 or 8 butterfly kicks under the water before surfacing where as everyone else was taking two or three. He certainly surfaced after all the other competitors, even though he started the turn well before them.

    It seems that this is his big advantage, as this is where he makes the biggest gains on his competitors, especially after the dive at the start.

    I'm not taking anything away from the guy, he certainly is the most highly decorated Olympian we have ever seen. I do wonder though whether he can be classed as the greatest yet? Sir Steve Redgrave was the best at his event for 20 years and I think that will never be surpassed in such a physically demanding sport (possibly equaled but not surpassed).

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  • 220. At 11:17pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    tell you what best ever olympic performance, ben johnson gold in 88.
    he may have failed the drug test, but in my book no amount of drugs can make you run like that. he was phenomenal - still my favourite ever sporting memory.

    can someone tell me what is the difference between taking steroids and other banned drugs, and taking loads of herbal remedies, eating the right foods etc?

    is drug-taking in sport really such a bad thing??

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  • 221. At 11:23pm on 13 Aug 2008, Welsh_Hurdler_1992 wrote:

    alphaPhilA - i am a hurdler ranked 15th in the UK in my age group yet i cannot compete with those who are the same age, even younger than me who concentrate thier efforts on the 100m and 200m sprints. being a swimmer i think it is a lot easier to adapt yuur technique to that required aslong as yuu have the stamina and fitness levels required to compete in the range of distances (with phelps 100m - 400m) with a sprinter it is a lot harder to do that which is why i think phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time ot olympian

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  • 222. At 11:25pm on 13 Aug 2008, Sbaggo wrote:

    Great article, and some great responses. I agree that bringing in quantity rather than 'quality' of medals is a major factor. Who's to say that 8n medals for Phelps is more important than a single javelin throw or decathlon? Indeed, who's to say that winning over 20 years is more impressive than an amateur winning a gold ina single olympics is more important - or even more memorable?

    I do have a personal favourite, but I assume we all do - what I do know is that watching this performance by Phelps is a highlight of this Olympic games. And I suspect it will be the most memorable - breaking world records, winning in such a fantastic fashion is a great signal to all athletes and viewers alike. It is a testiment to the games itself, and should be remembered for it.

    If we cfontinute to see such a high standard and great sportsmanship, then the games are in pretty good shape for 2012, and I look forward to the next 'great' performance.

    P.S. I've simply got to go with Jesse Owens, the hair on the back of my neck is up just thinking about it. Good lukc to all of you, the Olympics are worth the wait aren't they...

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  • 223. At 11:25pm on 13 Aug 2008, D-Fens wrote:

    I think Phelps is amazing however I would put Carl Lewis above both him and Steven Redgrave.

    He won 10 Olympic medals including 9 golds, and 10 World Championships medals, of which 8 were golds, in a long career that spanned from 1979 to 1996.

    Lewis was dominant as both a sprinter and long jumper and topped the world rankings in the 100 m, 200 m and long jump events frequently from 1981 to the early 1990s, was named Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News in 1982, 1983 and 1984, and set world records in the 100 m, 4 x 100 m and 4 x 200 m relays. His world record in the indoor long jump has stood since 1984. His 65 consecutive victories in the long jump achieved over a span of 10 years is one of the sport’s longest undefeated streaks.

    He also helped transform track and field from its nominal amateur status to its current professional status, thus enabling athletes to have more lucrative and longer-lasting careers.

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  • 224. At 11:26pm on 13 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 214 -

    just 3 or 4 events - Ok Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis

    Also when Coe was at his peak it was reckoned that in training he had beaten the world's best times for all recognised distances up to and including 10,000m - but it is physically impossible for any athlete to do this in a games as the nature of running means that you need a much longer recovery time.

    The thing is Phelps is not alone in his achievements (Spitz) in the same way that Lewis and Owens are not. The fact that in both sports there are few who achieve this feat suggests that they are all great.

    I just get a little tired of the fact that no-one seems to recognise how much easier it is to be a multiple medalist at swimming. Just look at all the swimmers who have crossed over between fly and free at either 100m/200m or 200m/400m and add in the relays, either free or IM. Often they get a shout at 6 medals per games whereas athletics are lucky if they get 3.

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  • 225. At 11:26pm on 13 Aug 2008, smellslikesalmon wrote:

    #220 - obviously you didn't see the bearded female East German weightlifters, or male lifters who develop breasts. Hard to accomplish that sort of thing by eating the right foods!

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  • 226. At 11:27pm on 13 Aug 2008, DispatchAndy wrote:

    I reckon the best one of all was the guy who started the whole shebang - Baron Pierre DeCoubertain.
    Without his efforts, dedication and foresight we wouldn't be having this discussion at all!

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  • 227. At 11:33pm on 13 Aug 2008, albobo wrote:

    Surely, the key point here is that Phelps is only 25 and will have a chance to increase his legend in 2012. All the others mentions are being looked at after their careers are over. I think that by the end of his career Phelps will be unquestionably the greatest olympian.

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  • 228. At 11:35pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    223 - spot on. case closed and good night.

    may the olympic spirit be with all of us !

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  • 229. At 11:36pm on 13 Aug 2008, alphaPhilA wrote:

    Post 218:

    So we have Carl Lewis doing:

    100 m
    200 m
    Long jump
    4x100 m relay
    4x200 m relay

    Demonstrating that it is possible for a track athlete to dominate in multiple distances and disciplines. Now if only someone could also do 400m, 4 x 400m and some hurdling (just for a change of stroke).

    God, I love a bit of banter on the bbc.

    Best wishes to team GB. I love the fact that in a single swimming race we already beat our medal total from swimming in Athens.

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  • 230. At 11:42pm on 13 Aug 2008, Welsh_Hurdler_1992 wrote:

    i would agree with #218 except there is no 4 x 200m relay =]

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  • 231. At 11:45pm on 13 Aug 2008, RayDiant wrote:

    This is very subjective and debatable. Look at Edwin Moses - while he only won a handfull of medals in the 400m hurdles, he IS the Olympic Spirit. He is a physicist who applied those principles to running the hurdles. He is one of strongest advocates of drug free sport - being invovled in the establishment of rigorous random testing processes.

    He totally dominated his sport winning 122 races in row.

    Now he works with other high profile athletes assisting disadvantages youths to get involved in sport.

    And he won a bronze in the 2 man bobsled at the Bobsled World Cup in 1990 with Brian Shimer - how cool is that.

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  • 232. At 11:47pm on 13 Aug 2008, greenbraveCowHead wrote:

    ARTHUR MAPP


    JUDO

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  • 233. At 11:50pm on 13 Aug 2008, sandcastlejim wrote:

    ed moses - good shout. one of my childhood favourites too.

    though i've often wondered about the validity of the event.

    is the 400m hurdles, not just set up for 400m runners who aren't quite quick enough. seems one of the lesser events to me.

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  • 234. At 00:05am on 14 Aug 2008, piechucker31 wrote:

    Are you serious? Sprint 400m, devastating enough on its own, AND jump a bunch of sodding great barriers and that's lesser value? It's the event they call the man-killer.

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  • 235. At 00:09am on 14 Aug 2008, mtim117 wrote:

    Let's keep it to most decorated. Anything else is meaningless

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  • 236. At 00:28am on 14 Aug 2008, chris1arch wrote:

    Wow...! Lot's of 'haters' on here. With respect to the Brit swimmer (Adlington, I believe was her name) who nipped Katie Hoff at the end, actually there were a number of folks here in the U.S. who were happy to see a Brit finally win swimming gold, myself included, even if it was at the expense of a U.S. Olympian (... and I am from Katie's home town of Baltimore). 48 years!? That's one heck of a drought! Sure you want to see your local product do well, but most Americans appreciate true athletic greatness and recognized the superlative effort of the Brit to track her down at the end. A little pathetic to see such pervasive scepticism and jealousy of Phelps and the US throughout these BBC Olympic boards. Hmmm, perhaps that could be the 'new' sport that pushes the Brits over the top in 2012. Cheers and... Go Michael!

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  • 237. At 00:34am on 14 Aug 2008, R3m4N0N wrote:

    So, Michael Phelps, then. Eleven gold medals and all that. Well done. And now we're told that this "gives him the most gold medals of any Olympic athlete" and makes him "the most successful Olympian ever."

    Now for some perspective. The modern Olympic Games have been going since 1896. That means there have been 28 (25 in fact, as Wars happened). The actual Olympics did, of course, start around 786 BC. The Ancient Olympics came to an end somewhere between 393 and 435 AD. 'Our' Olympics are just a small fraction of that total.

    Which is where I bring us on to Leonidas of Rhodes. Born 188 BC, he was 24 when he competed in his first Olympics and won at the stadion (200 yard sprint), the diaulos (400 yard spring), and the hoplitodromos (a race in armour). Our hero Leonidas won again at these three events in 160 BC, 156 BC and 152 BC. Bringing us to a grand total of 12 Olympic crowns/golds/wins.

    Chew on that, Mr. Phelps.

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  • 238. At 00:45am on 14 Aug 2008, greenbraveCowHead wrote:

    AUTHUR MAPP


    JUDO

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  • 239. At 00:57am on 14 Aug 2008, davidbexy wrote:

    This is one that will always cause debate, which is great. The biggest issue is that swimming offers a single competitor so many chances to win gold. This is not to take away any of Phelps' achievement as to win more than one gold, let alone 5 (and counting), is an incredible proof of technical skill in multi-disciplines, fitness and will to win. The endurance needed to compete in semis (for a number of his golds) and finals, winning them all in world record pace is unbelievable. Those competing against him in a single event must be in awe, as they train to win that one race and get beaten by a guy who has swum far more times over the week and therefore must have some element of muscle fatigue.

    However, there is another argument that there are too many races testing similar attributes. Is this any different from 100, 200, 400, 800, etc at Athletics? Would hurdles and steeplechase count as a different "stroke"?

    One then has to look at other Olympians who were as "great" but only had chances to win lower numbers of medals. That is always going to be the debate....but, Phelps has gone out and proven himself as great by winning so many races, all in world records and with relatively short recovery time. Amazing! But, "the best ever"...continue the debate.

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  • 240. At 01:00am on 14 Aug 2008, alphaPhilA wrote:

    Post 221:

    you should ask the British olympic swimmers what they think about your comment (btw they made it to the Olympics).

    On the whole I agree that it is easier for a swimmer to span multiple events than it is for a sprinter, but we are talking about a swimmer winning 8 golds. Even just within the swimming world (forget the comparison with running) that is absolutely amazing (before we even talk about the margins by which the world records are being smashed). I am sure if you ask any Olympic athlete they will not be trying to draw comparisons between different events and how easy it would be for them to move up to a different distance / swap to a different discipline. Let's give the man his dues. He is a phenomenal athelete. Far beyond any swimmer today and ever. If all he does is dominate this single sport, it is still a sport practised and competed in by millions and he is absolutely dominating it like no other in any sport at this moment (and that requires utter dedication - no matter what the sport).

    I say kudos to any athlete that can dominate his space - a feat which Phelps is achieveing with few (if any) equals.

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  • 241. At 01:06am on 14 Aug 2008, elkadio wrote:

    Hello Sir

    I feel you missed a one of the great Olympians of all times.

    Khadr Sayed El Touni: March 15, 1915 – September 25, 1956 was arguably Egypt's most famous athlete. Eltouny was the greatest weightlifter in Egypt; perhaps history. Until recently he was ranked #1 on the list of history's 50 greatest weightlifters issued by the International Weightlifting Federation.

    At the time, Eltouny had already set the world record for his weight class. The International Weightlifting Federation however, did not recognize this as a world record; they claimed it was an impossible feat. They were forced to acknowledge this record when he successfully performed at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Crushing two German world champions at the time on their home soil, Eltouny broke the then Olympic and world records.

    After winning the middleweight class, Eltouny continued to compete for another 45 minutes, finally exceeding the total of the German silver medalist by 35 kg. The 20-year-old Eltouny lifted a total of 387.5 kg, while the German lifted 352.5 kg. Furthermore, Eltouny had lifted 15 kg more than the heavyweight gold medalist, a feat only Eltouny has accomplished. Eltouny's new world records stood for thirteen years.

    The legendary Khadr El Touni not only won gold in the middleweight division, but so stunning was his world record performance that his name was etched on an official plaque which hung outside Berlin's Olympic stadium.

    Also if you read about this man begining and how he trained (in the streets of Cairo lifting stones), you will admire him too.

    Regards

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  • 242. At 01:10am on 14 Aug 2008, niceteeth1968 wrote:

    Without a doubt Phelps is greatest of all time. Not only winning but dominating. Toppling world record after world record. Granted the British are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to swimming...your teeth surely slow you down.

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  • 243. At 01:33am on 14 Aug 2008, alphaPhilA wrote:

    Well on a similar note, it is amazing that Phelps managed to pass not only the American tendency to obesity and lazyness (and idiocy that would have seen his critical coordination go straight out of the window), but he actually has a passport; enabling him to make it to Beijing...

    ...and there goes the tone of the debate.

    Oh well it was pointless anyway, as there is no sure metric to measure 'the greatest'. Perhaps we should be debating what the metric should be, then we can look for someone that fits the criteria; without entering the debate with our obvious bias towards the sports we love (and probably failed at / or gave up at as kids).



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  • 244. At 01:48am on 14 Aug 2008, greenbraveCowHead wrote:

    teeth my teeth are fantastic

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  • 245. At 02:21am on 14 Aug 2008, smellslikesalmon wrote:

    Mine too. Some even point in the right direction.

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  • 246. At 02:28am on 14 Aug 2008, Gravyarnoux wrote:

    Best Olympian ever?

    Let's get real... How many of us can even remember past the last (what? 30-40 years?). Who cares? Phelps is undoubtably unbelievable. But the technology advancements - even in the past few months - has made true comparisons difficult. There must be numerous candidates - but winning 5 golds over 5 Olympics has got to be astounding (Redgrave of course). We should not reduce it to science - but if you consider how many medals won over what period of time; with respect to how many events you were eligible for - then Redgrave must be pretty high up the list. He didn't enter 8 events every Olympics - but the ones he entered he won!
    Let's not get bogged down in numbers - let's respect the spirit of the Olympics and admit there is more than one 'Champion'. Let's remember for example Jesse Owens!!

    Sorry it's long - but maybe meaningful!

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  • 247. At 02:30am on 14 Aug 2008, loksupgow wrote:

    Greatest Olympian? Only time will tell until he has completed his athletic career completely clean.

    Unlike this guy... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans-Gunnar_Liljenwall

    For the remaining 3 races it would be fairer to the fellow swimmers that Phelps actually removes his swimming cap before the race... increasing the drag factor somewhat!

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  • 248. At 02:50am on 14 Aug 2008, belmaduthy wrote:

    Athletic events are what the Olympics are all about. The others are all side shows.

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  • 249. At 03:15am on 14 Aug 2008, niceteeth1968 wrote:

    Obese, lazy US = 29 medals and counting.
    Self obsessed, dentally challenged Great Britain = 7 medals.
    Just imagine if we were in shape.

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  • 250. At 03:28am on 14 Aug 2008, Vaughan_the_Prawn wrote:

    US population 300m. UK population 65m.

    Just imagine if we had 300m people to choose from.

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  • 251. At 03:33am on 14 Aug 2008, dolphin_kick wrote:

    I could walk down the high street tomorrow and at least 75% of people I meet would be able to row 2000m, run 1500m, or cycle 4000m. They may do it extremely slowly, sure, but they’d be able to complete the distance. I bet less that 5% of those people would be able to complete 25m of butterfly, let alone 200m… but swimming’s a cake walk, isn’t it?

    In terms of powerful sprinters, I’d bet a hefty amount that, overall, the 8 finalists in swimming’s 50m freestyle could out bench-press the 8 finalists in the men’s 100m on the track. As for 1500m swimmer Grant Hackett’s 13 litre lungs (Google it, if you don’t believe me), that’s the largest pair of bellows I’ve heard of…

    I’m not trying to denigrate other sports; I’m a huge, huge fan of athletics, rowing, and cycling. I’m merely pointing out that to suggest that swimming is physically less demanding – as many have done above – is utterly absurd. In terms of lactate levels and heart rates, per peak efforts of the same duration, they’re all highly similar but, hey, don’t take my word for it, check out the peer-reviewed sports science research which supports this. In layman’s terms, they are all phenomenally tough sports and there’s little between them in terms of physical demands.

    Now to the multi-strokes argument… I guarantee you that even if they did have the backwards 100m and the 100m hop, neither Bolt or Powell would make the final, let alone medal. As for the egg-and-spoon race, I doubt they’d even make their national team… If Phelps does achieve five individual golds, it’d be the equivalent of an athlete winning 4-5 individual golds in, say, the 100m, 200m, long jump, triple jump and/or 110m hurdles (the foundation of all these events being sprinting speed); granted there’s a *little* inflation due to the different strokes, but no way near the amount people are suggesting. I’ve deliberately discounted relays in this comparison because if you’re on the US team, in either of these sports, you’re halfway there.

    Individual golds are the ultimate measure of Olympic greatness. For this reason, it’s very difficult to accurately judge the achievements of team sports such as rowing. Redgrave and Pinsent won 5 and 4 consecutive golds in rowing, respectively, and are both phenomenal sportsmen and deservedly Olympic legends, but as this wasn’t achieved in the individual single sculls event, it’s simply not as impressive as equivalent individual gold medal hauls. (For one thing, a team gold only counts once in the medal table – irrespective of the number of people in the team – which provides some perspective.) After all, they won three of their golds together in the same boat, so logically if they’d raced head-to-head, in each of these three Games, only one of them would have won. Someone pointed out earlier that multiple medals in single Olympic Games are more likely to come from sports like swimming and gymnastics. By the same token, the record books suggest that longevity, in terms of golds at many consecutive games (in physically demanding sports), is far more likely to occur in team sports like rowing where there’s crew members to support you. It’s also worth pointing out that swimmers from 164 different counties are competing at these Olympics. I don’t have the stats for the other sports to hand, but I’d imagine that’s near the figure for athletics and substantially ahead of more elitist sports such as rowing and cycling.

    Tough call about the greatest Olympian ever, though, inevitably. Personally, I’d say Carl Lewis is still there at the moment, due to both his longevity and phenomenal LA Games (contentious doping issue aside – it’s hard to get a consistent story about that). However, if Phelps does win all eight events in WRs, he moves to 14 golds overall, nine of which would have been achieved in individual events, and has to take top spot, for me. If he wins more individual golds in London, it’ll be hard to make a case for anyone else. Rant over, thanks for humouring me!

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  • 252. At 03:49am on 14 Aug 2008, AlphaNu wrote:

    Phelps may be the best Olympic swimmer at this time but only time will tell whether he is the best of all time. And no, he is not the greatest athlete and its really tiring hearing about how great he is on TV all the time.
    Gold medals are not an indication on greatness. If they broke down the gymnastics into individual events and awarded gold for all of them, then would the gymnasts be the best athletes?

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  • 253. At 04:00am on 14 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    Nice article Tom, hope some of your more "enthusiastic" colleagues read it. I think Owens probably clinches it just for the "other stuff", although only doing it at one Olympics counts against him. Fanny BK has to be a good shout.

    Lipa versus Redgrave is an interesting one. If you think Redgrave was "shielded", then Lipa was arguably more so by getting three of her golds in an eight, where individuals are much less important than even in a four. And the arguments about coming from the "right" country to have suitable teammates also apply - even Britain has struggled to get an eight into the finals at many Olympics. Lipa "failed" in Seoul by only getting a silver in her main event - which Redgrave never did. On the flip side, her golds span one more Olympiad than Redgrave, she did get one gold in an individual event, she got golds in both sculls and sweep, and she did get those two extra medals.

    On balance there's not much between them - within rowing, I'd suggest that Lipa's relative failure at the Worlds (lots of silvers) puts her just behind Redgrave (total dominance), but in Olympic terms their athletic achievements are pretty much equal - you'd have to consider their impact outside the sport to choose between them.

    I guess you could consider Fischer in the same light, although doubling up is a bit more common in canoeing than rowing - the girl still won gold at 6 Olympics, and two of them were in individual events. Look at the numbers and it's hard to argue that she's not "greater" than either Redgrave or Lipa.

    The Hungarian fencers have remarkable records, not least because they would have almost certainly added two golds in 1940 and 1944. But you have to wonder a bit about the quality of the opposition, and both Aladar Gerevich (6 team, 1 individual) and Pal Kovacs (5 team, 1 individual) are mebbe a bit reliant on team medals in a competition where team results are the sum of individual competitions (unlike say rowing or basketball). But I think there can be little doubt that the Hungarian sabre team 1932-60 is the Olympic "Dream Team" of all time.

    Reiner Klimke also deserves a mention with 6 dressage golds from 1964 to 1988, again he has the problem that 5 were team golds in a "sum of individuals" team competition.

    In complete contrast, the three boxers who have won gold at three different Olympics deserve special mention : Laszlo Papp, Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon. Aside from the obvious physical demands, boxers have the greatest temptations to exclude themselves from future Olympics by turning professional, so they tend not to get multiple medals. Stevenson was perhaps the most spectacular example of that - he could have fought Ali for $5m straight after the 1972 Olympics, but preferred "the love of eight million Cubans" and stayed amateur. Surely that is true Olympic spirit? He might well have had a 4th gold in 1984 if it wasn't for the boycott - he beat Tyrell Biggs earlier that year. Surely one of the most remarkable of all Olympians.

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  • 254. At 04:24am on 14 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    On the Winter Olympics, Bjorn Daehlie must be in with a shout - eight golds across three Olympics, plus four silvers. OK, cross-country is not quite the swimming of the winter games, maybe the athletics in terms of ease of competing in multiple events, but the guy must be right up there among all-time Olympians. Likewise Ljubov Egorova (6g3s in 1992 and 1994), Raisa Smetanina (4g5s1b 1976-92) and Larisa Lazutina (5g1s1b 1992-8, plus drug controversies).

    Ricco Gross has 4 golds, three silvers and a bronze across 4.5 Olympiads, his golds were all in team events but biathlon surely deserves extra kudos for combining such utterly different disciplines.

    In skiing, I take the point about Killy - winning all three golds at one Olympics in "glamour" events makes a lasting impact on public perception. Janica Kostelic is a bit similar. But what about Kjetil Andre Aamodt - four gold medals across 14 years? How do you compare longevity versus dominating a single Games? Lidia Skoblikova is the speed skating equivalent - 4 golds in Innsbruck to add to two in 1960.

    Georg Hackl was the first to win medals in 5 successive Winter Olympics (albeit including 1992 and 1994) - three gold and two silver. And that was in single luge, so no team to protect him. He's been joined by Claudia Pechstein, although her tally includes a team gold and a bronze.

    Winter dream team? Probably the Jamaican bobsled team in 1992, not only for overcoming so many obstacles, but actually beating major Alpine nations such as France and Italy. They transcended their sport in a way that few have managed at the Winter Olympics - Killy is probably another. It's hard for Brits to be objective about Torvill and Dean, noone can take away the perfection of 9 x 6.0 - but it's perhaps more significant for skating than for the Olympics as a whole?

    Oh, and in my previous post I missed out Olga Korbut - not only a highly successful Olympian, but one who reached out beyond her sport and beyond political divides.

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  • 255. At 04:35am on 14 Aug 2008, thefrogstar wrote:

    Thank you for posting that, newton41986 (comment #104).

    It helps put things in perspective.

    Perhaps if there was a "Swimming-after-drink-driving" medal Phelps could win that one too.

    Maybe the British might also be in with a shout, as we can start drinking at an earlier age!

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  • 256. At 05:07am on 14 Aug 2008, Myron wrote:

    I have to agree with a number of comments about Steve Redgrave. What he achieved is truly incredible. Like previous people have said, he was the best in the world for 20 years compared to many others who where top of their game for maybe 8 years max. That dominance and that continued committement is to my mind what defines greatness. Phelps is currently a wonder kid with amazing talent similar to lewis hamilton. Whether he can convert that talent into greatness will be determined long after 2008 and maybe even after 2012. In the way that even if Hamilton wins the world title this year, he will not even come close to compairing to Shumacher until he has dominated for a decade, and in the same way if Phelps is to be compared to Redgrave he will have to be around a long time indeed.

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  • 257. At 05:30am on 14 Aug 2008, cryptocritic wrote:

    well speaking about olympics and its rich heritage of legends who have graced their respective sport it might be difficult to judge to answer this. on paper you would consider him the greatest, quite simple because of the number of gold medals he has won. but to my judgement swimming does throw up a lot more competition than any other game in the olympics. if you consider the sheer endurance factor than he got to be right up there. any swimmer would know the difficulty to swim acroos a 50 m once but to do that almost 5 times everyday over a week under the banner of the olympics is quite remarkable. people say technology has had a role to play and yes i agree that might be the difference in milliseconds but at the end of the day it down to the athlete himself. if phelps dominates the pool in the london olympics like he has done here then i guess it would cement his place as being the greatest ever sportsman.

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  • 258. At 05:31am on 14 Aug 2008, niceteeth1968 wrote:

    Prawn
    Australia population 20 million = 16 medals
    South Korea population 48 million = 13 medals
    Italy population 58 million = 11 medals
    France population 61 million = 13 medals
    North Korea population 23 million = 7 medals
    coup de grace
    China population 1.3 BILLION = 30 medals
    Don't fret. I hear that "high tea" will be added to the London games.
    You should at least pull a bronze in that one.

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  • 259. At 05:42am on 14 Aug 2008, smellslikesalmon wrote:

    #258 - not quite sure what that proves, as the 'coup de grace' ratio is worse than any, incl UK and US (and I thought you two were only comparing the US and UK)

    Anyway, guess you're just fishing for a reaction on here. Have fun.

    Congrats on the nice teeth and knowledge of old stereotypes.

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  • 260. At 08:07am on 14 Aug 2008, holy-moley wrote:

    In cycling Pendleton is the best sprinter but there are 2 world cycling championship events missing to make way for things like bmx racing. Lovely! She could have been a 3 gold legend, instead the sprint is always a lottery and she could end up missing out.

    I think they should take the butterfly out of the olympics as it is a random and very ungainly way of swimming. The sole purpose of butterfly seems to be to contrive more medal events.

    Is it just me or do British divers get 7 out of 10 for average dives and the Chinese get 8.5. I hate subjective sports.

    Worst olympic team - the British judo players. They just stand there for a few minutes and lose without doing anything.

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  • 261. At 08:11am on 14 Aug 2008, saga mix wrote:

    Let's go for Michael Johnson as the greatest. Running is the essence of the games and he is certainly the best ever runner.

    He's also very effective with Sue Barker in the BBC studio. Would Michael Phelps or Paavo Nurmi be as good a TV pundit? ... I don't think so!

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  • 262. At 08:41am on 14 Aug 2008, bimboshi2 wrote:

    Its my believe that swimmers get multiple medals for doing the same thing in different ways- swim across the 50m of the pool. They get medals for doing it sideways, backwards and what have you. Atheletics does not have the same differentiation. So gold medals quantity is not it. Where do you leave the likes of Marlene Ottey, 5? olympics? Or that Cuban boxer that won gold at 3 olympics? Those for me are in the company of Redgraves and Owens who are the truly great olympians.

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  • 263. At 08:54am on 14 Aug 2008, neilaction wrote:

    I find it odd that people say that because of the different strokes, it's easier to win lots of medals when compared to say athletics.

    In athletics you get to run over different distances.

    Then you get to run with your mates over different distances.

    Then you get to run and jump over things. Then you get to run and jump over different things, sometimes into water.

    Then you can get to jump high, long, with a pole and then in a weird hopping stepping kinda thing.

    Then you get to throw things, balls, spears, discs and hammers.

    Then there is something for the jack of all, master of non.

    And if that's not enough, you can walk!!

    Hello!!

    It is very hard to compare one sport with another but for my money Phelps is the best swimmer in my time and right up there with the very best "athletes" in my time.

    And as an Aussie, it kills me to say it.

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  • 264. At 08:55am on 14 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:

    AlphaNu, are you really that stupid? I quote

    'If they broke gymnastics down into individual events and awarded gold for all of them"

    A medal is available for the team comeptition, the individual competition and for each bit of aparatus. By my counting that makes it 6 avaialble for women gymnasts and 8 for men. I suggest you watch a bit more of the gymnastics competition before making such uneducated comments.

    It's getting tiring reading all the comparisons between swimming and running becuase they are so way off the mark. A more valid comparison is to compare the four strokes with the four throwing events, because the training required for the four strokes and for different distances for that matter really is that different.

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  • 265. At 09:01am on 14 Aug 2008, holy-moley wrote:

    Michael Johnson can not be viewed as the greatest Olympian. Surely the greatest Olympian has to have been unbeaten.

    Redgrave lost in 1988 when he only got bronze but then had another event where he got gold. Those were the days, when you had coxed pairs and coxless pairs. Talk about contriving to make different events.

    Michael Johnson didn't even make the final of the 200 m in Barcelona. He is the greatest athlete I have seen but with that result he can't be the greatest Olympian. Food poisoning was to blame but for me the minimum standard required to be considered for this title is to be unbeaten in the Olympics. From there it is clearly subjective.

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  • 266. At 09:01am on 14 Aug 2008, Jke123 wrote:

    No doubt that he is the greatest swimmer of all time (at 23). And the article does put things in perspective Sir Steve Redgrave; although a great Olympian does not even come near the other athletes mentioned, he competed for many years, that is all. If medals were given for longetivity, then a different matter. However greatness is defined not only by dominance, but by how quickly and efficiently that dominance is achieved.
    Since Olympic "League" positions are determined by how many gold medals one has, then there is really no debate. Phelps has more and if he goes on to achieve 8 (even 7) Gold in this Olympics then his position is undisputed (AT 23).
    Until I heard about Ian Thorpe (and now Phelps), I was totally uninterested in swimming as a sport; just goes to show what this young man has done for athletes all over the world. The fact that we are having this discussion is testament to that. We should appreciate his greatness and once again for the record; No one is a bigger fan of Redgrave than I am (having tried rowing), but keep national bias out of this, he is not in their league!!

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  • 267. At 09:08am on 14 Aug 2008, tewodrosm wrote:

    I think Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia should be the greatest ever. He won the 1960 Rome Olympics Marathon BARE FOOTED; he won it again four years later in Japan 12 days after he had been operated for Appendicitis.

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  • 268. At 09:08am on 14 Aug 2008, dixie12345 wrote:

    tug???
    how dumb
    armchair athlete is someon who sits in the chair watching tele at home passing comments...is that you...
    have you ever competed or even won anything.......

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  • 269. At 09:10am on 14 Aug 2008, tewodrosm wrote:

    In Japan he wanot Bare Footed, though.

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  • 270. At 09:14am on 14 Aug 2008, ou-r-u-eric wrote:

    In assessing the greatest Olympian of all time, do we not have to take into consideration the changing attitudes of spectators? Sport is now a win-at-all-costs business and is far removed from the Olympic ideal of, say, 30 years ago. The greatest for me? David Hemmery, whose reaction to losing his Olympic title in 1968(?) should be standard watching in all state schools.

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  • 271. At 09:36am on 14 Aug 2008, ClarenceSquare wrote:

    How can you possibly COMPARE a swimmer with an athlete, a rower, a boxer,a rifle shooter, a beach volley-baller..........?

    A ludicrous exercise.

    Stick to comparing Phelps with other swimmers competing in the same conditions in the same era. In that regard he is the "most successful".

    THAT is ALL you can say,factually.

    All the rest is opinion. Entertaining, perhaps.....but ultimately of no significance and contrary to the Olympic ideals of respect to the integrity and value of EACH individual event!

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  • 272. At 09:40am on 14 Aug 2008, vigswa wrote:

    To my mind the greatest athletes are those who fulfil the Olympic ideal of sportsmanship (or perhaps sportspersonship in PC terms).

    Homo universalis, the notion of 'universal person' is one who is adept at many things, who excels in diverse areas and has a wide breadth of accomplishment. Often coined as Renaissance Man, this is the embodiment of excellence in an individual, and should also be considered as such in the sporting arena.

    Therefore, I would submit that the single silver medal winner, Reginald 'Snowy' Baker, is the greatest all time Olympic athlete. He represented Australia and in all competed in 26 sports... yes you read that correctly. 26!

    A more universally talented individual I have yet to hear of, and as such, the greatest of all athletes.

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  • 273. At 09:41am on 14 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    266
    If medals were given for longetivity, then a different matter.

    -----------------

    well said, redgrave won ONE medal every 4 years, I can name quite a few who done that, and he was carried practically in his last one, its an insult to lewis and phelps to be compared with him.

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  • 274. At 09:50am on 14 Aug 2008, DHesketh wrote:

    Greatest Olympian (Quantity of Gold Medals in Swimming Category) - Michael Phelps
    Greatest Olympian (No of Gold Medals Over Consecutive Olympic Games Category) - Sir Steve Redgrave
    Greatest Olympian (Gold Medals Won in Nazi Germany category) - Jesse Owens
    Greatest Olympian - (Abstract Painter and Art Curator Category) - Al Oerter

    And so on...

    This whole debate is interesting and entertaining but, like the judging in Boxing, Diving, Figure Skating etc its also totally subjective and therefore rather pointless. You simply cannot compare the achievments of one superstar from one sport against another from another. You can't even do it from one era to another in a lot of sports (Federer vs McEnroe or Laver anyone?)

    Please, lets just applaud the impressive performances, acknowledge Phelp's current domination of his sport and consign his number of Gold medals to an interesting but ultimately inconclusive note in the margin.

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  • 275. At 10:09am on 14 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    sprinters can do 100m, 200m, 400m, the relays, why not the hurdles since phelps is a master of different strokes, you can compare more olympians than you think, butterfly compared to another is almost a different sport, Phelps if not greatest now, will be after London 2012

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  • 276. At 10:24am on 14 Aug 2008, FixedGuru wrote:

    You can perhaps really only quantify Phelps achievements in the terms of "Most medals won by a competing athlete in an Olympic event during a two week period". Swimming only has four types of event in the Olympics (the four strokes) over a variety of distances.
    There are a number of sports or sub-disciplines of sports which do not appear in the Olympics at all, or have not appeared for many years. For example equestrian sports do not include horse racing, hang gliding is not included, nor parachuting.
    There are a few sports which have a professional class, or in which athletes have been declared professional where only 'amateurs' are eligible for Olympic competition.
    There are sports where there is a degree of uncertainty introduced through random events. The weather can influence some sports, equipment/apparatus can fail, accidents/falls can occur, the athlete can be injured, the judging can be subjective/biased or athletes must be selected at a late stage..
    There are some sports where the nature of the sport itselfs limits the opportunities for some athletes in training and competition, especially winter sports.
    In some sports athletes must proceed through a rigid selection process by their governing bodies, perhaps months before the Olympic competition. Gold medal "certainties" may not perform at this stage or selectors may make apparently arbritary "wrong" decisions.
    There are sports where skill is required more than absolute strength or speed, with the result that athletes can perform at Olympic standards from the age of perhaps 16 to their old age, a career of perhaps 50 years. Shooting, Bowling and Golf probably the most obvious.
    Finally there are sports where the winning margin is very small and a given governing body has several athletes of similar ability but only a limited number of spots in the Olympic event itself. There is a good chance that a current Olympic champion may not be allowed to defent their title.
    In some sports a world record performance does not neccessarily result in a gold medal!
    Finally injury rates in some sports are wildly different, a top 100m sprint coach probably has 1/4 of their athletes injured to some extent at any one time. Swimming on the other hand is probably one of the "safer" sports.
    To sum up, Phelps is probably the greatest and most successful swimmer, but is probably overshadowed by athletes (Carl Lewis) who have won medals in disciplines requiring different skills (100m/high jump, etc) and completely overshadowed by athletes winning in completely different sports.
    Perhaps Phelps should take up Beach Volleyball and Figure Skating after Swimming to really settle the matter!

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  • 277. At 10:30am on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Oh mido_9 you cleary have no idea have you.

    Look at the stats over the years - how many athletes have managed to even win a medal at say 100m and the hurdles let alone win double gold. Same for 400m and the hurdles.

    Now lets compare to swimming, and these are just gold medalists at different STROKES not even different distances - Phelps, Gross, Spitz, Otto, Ender, de Bruijn, Smith.

    And this is only since 1972! Now how many of the above gained at additional gold at another distance - ALL OF THEM!!!!How many gained an additional GOLD in the relay? ALL bar Smith.

    In the free over just the 100, 200 and 400 mens there are 8 double gold medallists since 1968. In athetics in just the mens across those 3 distances there are 3. In all the men's track disciplines from 100 to 10,000 over the same time frame there are seven double gold medallists.

    Again of those double gold swimmers in the free how many gained an additional Gold in the relay? ALL OF THEM!

    Of the double gold track medallists how many gained an additional relay gold? Three of them.

    The stats show that if you are a top ranked competitior it is easier to be a multiple gold medallist in swimming than in track.

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  • 278. At 10:36am on 14 Aug 2008, Carole wrote:

    For me, Olga Korbut and Carl Lewis. Mark Spitz was phenomenal for his time. Phelps is fantastic, but hasn't fully competed in all (as has been said) or seems much of a PERSONALITY - to us Brits yet anyway!!!!
    That 'bird's nest' looks totally AMAZING though, bring on the athletics again!!!

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  • 279. At 10:47am on 14 Aug 2008, FixedGuru wrote:

    Incidentally, the cyclist Eddy Mercx won more than 50% of every races he ever entered, he won every major event (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, One day Classics, Paris-Robaix, World Championships) multiple times and in setting the world hour record at almost 50km broke the intermediate 5km, 10km and 20km records on the way .
    The only event he did not win was the 1964 Olympic road race, where he finished 12th. On turning professional he was unable to compete in subsequent games.
    The hour record was the equivalent of a marathon runner breaking the 800m, 1500m and 5,000m records in the same race!

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  • 280. At 10:54am on 14 Aug 2008, namuncura wrote:

    With the highest level of respect to Michael Phelps, there is no way he is the greatest of all time. He is clearly a phenomenal athlete and deserves every medal he has won, but swimming is a particular discipline whereby you can amass several medals in one Olympic year. I believe Sir Steve Redgrave is the person who carries the title of greatest Olympian of All Time. Five medals over five Olympics in the most punishing sport you can find (anyone who has rowed will confirm this) makes him stand head and shoulder above the rest.

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  • 281. At 11:02am on 14 Aug 2008, only1way wrote:

    Phelps is going to be the greatest, if people are saying he is nearly the best at these games he will undoubtly deliver at the next games

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  • 282. At 11:30am on 14 Aug 2008, Jke123 wrote:

    280
    The accolade was given to him by the BBC and the like. He was the first to achieve that great feat (effectively his own world record), but that hardly qualifies as The Greatest Olympian of all time.
    What criteria was used to assess this? His successes? World dominance? Unbeaten record in the Olympics? Please enlighten us all!!

    He competed in a Team event and as such you can in NO way have any sound basis for the "most punishing sport you can find", I think some decathletes will take offence at that (and for the record, I have rowed).
    If he competed in an individual event, maybe his "greatness" will be of greater consequence. And the rigours of his achievements woould be better appreciated.

    This apathy towards any truly great achievement is laughable and seems to be part of a British culture I am becoming more ashamed of.

    CARL LEWIS tested positive for drugs several times and was only given a slap on the wrist on one ocassion (THAT SHOULD SURELY RULE HIM OUT).

    EVEN the great Mark Spitz acknowledges Phelps greatness. In the sport of swimming, Phelps is the greatest.

    "If you decide that swimming is not a worthy sport, then table your reasons and their merits.". Especially how swimmers in your opinions must train less and possibly compete in an "easy" sport.

    Apparently, swimming gives the fullest total body workout of any sport, but thats just what the experts say (what do they know eh?)


    277 and then 280
    The stats show that if you are a top ranked competitior it is easier to be a multiple gold medallist in swimming than in track.
    ______________________________

    You must have thought about that statement for the best part of a mcro second. ALL of the great athletes were dominant in the multiple events their bodies could cope with.

    One of the reasons behind Phelps dominance is the amazing ability to recover and supreme physical form; WHICH OTHER SWIMMERS DO NOT HAVE and as such they cannot win multiple medals (in your apparently "easier" sport). If it is easier to do this, why don't the others???

    These are the Olympic games and as always we (Brits) are coming up short and instead of acknowledging our own failings (AND MAJOR SUCCESSES) we (as always) try to berrate achievements.

    ONLY IN THIS COUNTRY DO ATHLETES COME 8TH OUT OF 8 COMPETITORS. It is shameful!!

    Comparing Phelps, Spitz, Johnson, Owens or the like to Steve Redgrave is ridiculous. And I am one of Sir Steve's (deservedly so) greatest fan.

    Every "achievement" has criteria and until the rules on how athletics is judged change, then Phelps has qualified as the greatest Olympian with his gold medal haul. Correct me if I am a bit naive.

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  • 283. At 11:40am on 14 Aug 2008, Pickles91 wrote:

    I doubt you can argue with him being the best swimmer, however, you cannot compare swimmers to runners, because how can a 100m runner run in 8 gold medal finals in the same year? To call him the greates olympian is a step too far, because you can't compare many different sports there.

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  • 284. At 11:42am on 14 Aug 2008, sionos wrote:

    I really enjoy seeing the different and valid points of view from people from various parts of the world, after all we are ALL entitled to one.

    The thing that rankles me is that it can degenerate into a textual sparring match between people/nations (often having little to do with the initial question posed) and that can ignite a pointless fury between posters.

    Things to remember: No-one should really be criticising ANY athlete who has the talent, dedication and pride of representing his or her country in any event. The fact that they are actually competing in the Olympics is a feat in itself when considering all the various backgrounds, countries of origin, funding for their particular sports and pool of other athletes to choose from in their country etc.

    It seems to me that there is a lot of pointless flag waving which seems only serve a point of actually demeaning an athletes achievements.

    The initial point of this entire series of comments from people was to invite opinion of whether Phelps is the greatest. Sadly a few of the posts are missing this question by quite a xenophobic mile.

    I think you can only compare an athlete with another athlete if they both attempt the same events in the same games. Otherwise all we can really do is speculate. Attacking peoples viewpoints just because they are different is not really the best way of doing things.

    Is Phelps the greatest? Who knows, it's far too subjective a question that cannot be definitively answered due to the sometimes massive differences between events and generations etc.

    But my opinion of him is that currently, at this games, in his chosen series of events, he is phenomenal and I don't think we should take anything away from his achievements just because he is extremely successful.

    We should build our competing and winning athletes of all nations up, not try and drag them down.

    Sorry for being overly long

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  • 285. At 12:03pm on 14 Aug 2008, dancingprincesslolly wrote:

    Yes he is good - but he can do numerous lengths in one sport. How can you compare him to a javelin thrower who only gets to compete the once?

    Personally my all-time best Olympian has to be Sir Steve Redgrave - he competed over 20 years in 5 Olympics. I reckon he could probably have gone on for a least another one.

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  • 286. At 12:08pm on 14 Aug 2008, i_amEK wrote:

    I think it is impossible to judge who is the greatest olympian of all time as who defines what 'the greatest' is.

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  • 287. At 12:27pm on 14 Aug 2008, greysideshowandy wrote:

    i was amused to listen to the great michael johnson whinging about the swimmers ability to clock up medals, if only athletes could have events such as running backwards etc. what pathetic rubbish!

    in the extremely remote chance that michael might see this question - what i wonder stopped him competing in the 400m hurdles for example? after all there were extra golds he could have won in that event. ah, but only if he had the technical ability to do so....

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  • 288. At 1:07pm on 14 Aug 2008, HeavenInHendon wrote:

    Phelps didn't take part in the heats of the swimming relay.


    Sir Steve Redgrave never took part as a solo performer.

    Therefore the greatest has to be Daley Thompson.

    Who else has beaten the germans every time they have gone up against them?
    And still no knighthood.

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  • 289. At 1:14pm on 14 Aug 2008, AussieInDubs wrote:

    I guarantee that if Phelps was British, we wouoldn't be having this argument...

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  • 290. At 1:43pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Jke123

    No I did not think of that statement in a microsecond - I went through the Olympic records since 1968 and backed it up by statistics which show there are far more multiple medallists in a games in swimming than in track and field despite there being fewer events in swimming than in track and field.

    I'm not saying Phelps achievement in this games so far isn't fantastic - it is in my opinion equivalent to that of Jesse Owens for example.

    The facts are there for you to see - just look at how often swimmers have won three or more golds. And look at how often they win them not only at other distances but with other strokes. The only recent comparisions in athletics are probably Gail Devers in the 100 flat and 100 hurdles and Carl Lewis with the Long Jump.

    So yes I think you are being naiive because you are saying Phelps is the greatest and also the 11 swimmers with 5 gold or more are greater than say Redgrave or Coe or Viren or Johnson purely on gold medal count of which they have a statistically better chance of getting more than one due to the similarities of the events they take part in and the number of relay chances they have in a games (typically 3 if you're any good at 100m free).

    And I'm not a runner by the way, I'm a cyclist.

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  • 291. At 1:44pm on 14 Aug 2008, HeavenInHendon wrote:

    if Phelps were British, he's be married of to a member of the royal family and be made a Lord.
    He'd be given the keys to the country, let alone the city, his birthday would be a national holiday.

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  • 292. At 2:02pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    While I remember - on the subject of a sport's relative strength in the world

    At the last Olympics in 46 events in athletics there were 64 different countries winning medals, in 32 events in swimming 19 countries won medals and in 14 events in rowing 21 countires won medals.

    So roughly speaking - per event in athletics there are three medals shared between 64 countries - so on average 2 medals per country. Same for rowing. But swimming.....5 medals per country.

    So just where is this competition people rave about? There is more strength is depth in rowing than in swimming!

    Now to all those who say rowing is elitist make what you will of the above.

    And to all who say how competitive swimming is, do the same.

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  • 293. At 2:16pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    And this distribution of medals i.e. number of nations winning medals in a sport is about 1.5 times the number of sports is the same in:

    Boxing
    Cycling
    Sailing
    Weightlifting
    Wrestling
    Judo
    Shooting
    and Fencing.

    Of the sports with multiple medals available it is only swimming that is different 32 event shared among 19 countries. If swimming followed the same ratio as other events it would share those medals among 48 countires. It does not.

    Like I said before statistically whichever way you look at it if you want to win multilple medals at a games choose Swimming!

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  • 294. At 2:20pm on 14 Aug 2008, SmellsLikeTeaSplint wrote:

    Reading through this thread and ignoring some of the more idiotic and pointless comments (#242 comes to mind), it seems irrefutable that historically and statistically it is more likely for an athelete to rack up more medals in swimming than any other discipline.

    This does not take away from the achievement, but it should put it into perspective. Using the number of medals to determine the greatest ever olympian is a horribly flawed argument.

    I do worry a little that the Olympics is becoming like the Grammys with far too many questionable events being added to the mix, but that's politics for you.

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  • 295. At 2:30pm on 14 Aug 2008, fatbloke27 wrote:

    What about Alexander Karelin? 3 golds and one silver in the 130 kg wrestling. Undefeated for 13 years and in six years he did not give up a single point to an opponent.

    Eric Heidn? 5 individual golds in one games. His ability at sprint and long distance events was remarkable.

    Teofilo Stevenson or Felix Savon of Cuba desreve a mention.

    Carl Lewis was too arrogant and was banned for failing drugs tests in 1988 only to be reinstated at the last minute. His response of" everyone else was doing it" ilustrates why he is nowhere near the greatest olympian of all time.

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  • 296. At 2:31pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Yes as an individual you have more chances statistically of winning 4 golds than you do winning 2 in any other sport save for gymnastics! In fact same across all medals - I think roughly for every person winning 2 medals in track or rowing, there's the same chance you win 3 in gymnastics and 4.5 in swimming!

    Of course this could be because swimmers are better athletes. Or that there's less competition.

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  • 297. At 2:32pm on 14 Aug 2008, Barnes B 25 wrote:

    I haven't read all of the comments so maybe this point has been made elsewhere, but surely all competitors at the Olympics can be considered as Olympians.
    One is then reduced to having the best Olympian in each sport. It seems pretty pointless to compare athletic prominence with swimming, 3 day eventors with water polo etc. This preoccupation with numbers, ranking etc is a very US way of looking at matters.
    Can we not just agree that Phelps is the best swimmer of his generation at the distances he chooses to swim?As will be other athletes at their specialities.
    This is a pub/coffee machine discussion for which no-one will agree because in fact, there is no such thing as the greatest Olympian, unless of course, you mean Zeus.

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  • 298. At 2:43pm on 14 Aug 2008, Jke123 wrote:

    1WelshBloke
    I love your use of statistics...

    The reason why politicians love statistics is that they can be made to say whatever you want them to. Hence them being very misleading and their use in pulling the wool over peoples eyes. In my day job, (sadly I was never good enough at athletics to be in the Plympics) I use statistics all the time to "massage" figures - just as you have done. The figures you have are accurate, but have then be massaged to show a trend that does not exist. As far as I recollect, there are more than 19 countries in the Olympics and as such those stats cannot be true.

    You can use statistics covering only a specified time period that supports your point of view, hence sport (or in fact ANY other endeavour) is not decided by statistics.

    Statistics can only show the trend for the time period you use for your analysis. Why not look at the whole of the modern games which will throw that logic out of scope.

    ALL nations that compete in the Olympics (or ANY sporting event for that matter) can compete in ALL events, so I do not quite understand what the statistics are meant to show?? The fact that more countries do not compete in an event does not mean that the medal distribution is unequal, just that they are NOT good at that event (most of the time, they do not have the facility to teach these events to a competitive level).

    Some countries place a high emphasis on sport and as such produce great athletes. It is fact.
    We seem to be off at a tangent here!!

    So once again I would like to be enlightened on how you came up with the "fact" that swimming has 32 events among 19 countries???? A less misleading statement would be that there are only X countries competing. Might I remind you of Eric the Eel from EQUITORIAL GUINEA, which is not featuring this year?

    Testament to this is Togo winning a Kayaking medal.

    I think the use of statistics here is fatally flawed, don't you?

    As long as there is a defined criteria on how athletics are judged, then there is no doubt about the result.
    Sadly, sports are not judged by sentiment and as such, whoever we think deserves a Medal does not get one.

    Your words
    "Like I said before statistically whichever way you look at it if you want to win multilple medals at a games choose Swimming!"

    My interpretation
    If you want to win ANY medals at ANY sport, get in training and be the best at it..


    I am very surprised (but pleased) that this debate is so thought provoking, but sadly as has been said several times, "If Mr Phelps were British, this discussion would never take place".

    It is very sad but true, we have become a nation of "Player haters".
    Remember the saying "Don't hate the player, hate the game"..

    Too true...

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  • 299. At 2:45pm on 14 Aug 2008, believethehype1 wrote:

    Two points to make. Firstly, can't believe the amount of people who are still going for Carl Lewis in light of his multiple failed tests and breathtaking hypocricy. Second, it's strange that lots of posters seem to think that drugs are a modern phenomenon, harking back to some halcyon 'clean' golden age that never existed. Oh, and it's apointless debate but if pressed I'd have to plump for Hercules. Legend has it he threw the javelin some 300 metres.

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  • 300. At 2:51pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    The swimming medals Jke123 are shared among fewer nations than ANY discipline with more than 10 separtes events.

    The stats I showed were how many countries win medals ina particular sport not how many countries compete in a sport - it is an indicator of the competition in that sport.

    At the last Olympics the swimming medals were shared among 19 countries like I said. 32 separate competitions and only 19 countries getting any medals.

    If you look at the average number of medals per medal winner in swimming it is far higher than in athletics, rowing etc etc.

    I only choose recent games because as you well know many of todays events were simply not in existance previously.

    So for me Phelps, good but and an outstanding swimmer but to call him the greatest?? I think it well open for debate.

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  • 301. At 3:01pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Oh and Jke12 pray tell how I have massaged my accurate figures to show a trend that does not exist.

    I am a mathemtatican and statistician by the way.

    And yes....the medal distribution in swimming is UNEQUAL. PERIOD.

    Here's the last games

    SWIMMING
    96 medals available shared by 19 countries.

    ATHLETICS
    138 medals available shared among 64 countries

    ROWING
    42 medals availble shared by 21 countries.

    And it looks like the swimming stats will be repeated this games - 16 countries winning medals so far!

    I've looked also at other sports and they all follow the same ratio and swimming and rowing save for gymnastics. But even then the distribution is nothing like swimming.



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  • 302. At 3:04pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Correction:

    I've looked also at other sports and they all follow the same ratio as athletics and rowing save for gymnastics. But even then the distribution is nothing like swimming.

    Swimming shares it medals out among fewer countries and fewer individuals than ANY other major sport. And this has happened at all games since 1972.

    Now if I'm wrong disprove me.

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  • 303. At 3:09pm on 14 Aug 2008, mightymike99 wrote:

    No... but maybe "not yet"

    Too many events in one sport. if there was 100m, 120m 140m 150m and 200m sprint then Carl lewis would be the greatest!

    If like Redgrave, Phelps comes back to win in the next 4 olympics several goals per olympic then we can consider him as a possible "greatest olympian".

    The Olympics is too baised towards swimming for the number of golds accumulated to be a simple measure of how great one is in it's history.

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  • 304. At 3:09pm on 14 Aug 2008, SmellsLikeTeaSplint wrote:

    JKE123: "I am very surprised (but pleased) that this debate is so thought provoking, but sadly as has been said several times, "If Mr Phelps were British, this discussion would never take place"."

    I find this argument a little disingenuous. It implies any discussion on this topic is not allowed to take place because of your belief that it is somehow motivated solely by nationalism. I understand your apparent passion for swimming, but with regard to your conclusion in quotes above, I think you're wrong.

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  • 305. At 3:09pm on 14 Aug 2008, wanderinginsummer wrote:

    yes, Phelps is amazing! but a weight lifting gold medal is equally great as a swimming gold medal. can one get 8 weigt lifting medal at 1 olympcis game?
    is swimming more important than other sports?
    There is never the greatest! for me, any winner of the gold medals is equally great!

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  • 306. At 3:14pm on 14 Aug 2008, Moby wrote:

    Good article, Tom.

    It makes the excellent point that the term, "Greatest", means different things to different people. And you made a good stab at presenting sportsmen and women who would fit the bill for different reasons.

    In fact, it occurs to me that the term, "Greatest", like the term, "Love", has many different definitions. Should we choose instead some terms that are slightly more tightly defined:

    - Most inspiring - Tommie Smith
    - Longest lived - Sir Steve Redgrave
    - Most beautiful - Ludmila Teresheva
    - Best technician - Carl Lewis
    - Outstanding performance - Bob Beaman
    - Most regal - Princess Anne
    - Most transcendant - Torvil and Dean
    - Most ruthless - Tonya Harding
    - Most charismatic - Mohammed Ali

    This list could go on and on; but it is my list and if anyone agrees with this list then it's nice; and if anyone has other names, then that's nice, too.

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  • 307. At 3:18pm on 14 Aug 2008, John Gibson wrote:

    I could have been the greatest ever, running constant world records, jumping the longest, highest, swimming the fastest. I would have blown Phelpsy out of the water so to speak....Then i discovered Beer and Vindaloos at an early age....

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  • 308. At 3:18pm on 14 Aug 2008, philss77 wrote:

    HeaveninHendon - oh the irony

    We would still be having the argument as Redgrave's achievment is far superior and Carl Lewis was the best actual athlete. If there had been 150m running with your hands on your head then I'm sure Lewis would have won that as well.

    Phelps' haul, while impressive, does not put him into either of Lewis' or Redgrave's league. He still needed Lasek to get him out of trouble in a way that Carl Lewis never did in any relay.

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  • 309. At 3:20pm on 14 Aug 2008, pop_29 wrote:

    If you're looking for non-gold medal great Olympians, and in the true Olympic spirit perhaps you should (although not putting down Phelp's and others incredible achievements) I'd nominate Natalie du Toit, her just competing is an incredible achievement.

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  • 310. At 3:21pm on 14 Aug 2008, Jke123 wrote:

    SmellsLikeTeaSplint

    Harsh but fair.

    I am not actually a swimming enthusiast, just a sporting one who has chosen to acknowledge outstanding achievements.
    Oh and I forgot; BRITISH as well.
    We (Brits) do this in all works of life! Hence underachieve!

    I have tried many sports, but prefer the martial arts, (which I have competed in).
    The art of competition is not trained properly to our athletes and before anyone says that it is the taking part that counts;
    That was coined by yet another loser!!

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  • 311. At 3:26pm on 14 Aug 2008, Moby wrote:

    I'm jolly good at that sport where you put your forehead on the top of a cricket stump, spin round it ten times and then run and sit in a chair twenty two yards away.

    I've played in this sport up and down the country and have never come across anyone as good as me - but nobody has ever listed my amongst the greatest sportsmen ever. Life is just so unfair!

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  • 312. At 3:34pm on 14 Aug 2008, MikeFay wrote:

    The argument for the decathlon is over-rated, I have to say - they tend not to be good at a range of sports rather than great at any of them (although I'd note in the women's version, Carolina Klüft now is a very good long jumper, while Jackie Joyner-Kersee was a great one).

    Not sure how you can advocate a decathlete as being great for beating other people who weren't extremely good at their event while complaining about the lack of quality opposition for Nurmi (although along with no East Africans, he didn't have to face any Germans in 1920 or 1924 either, such as 1500m world record holder Otto Peltzer, who also missed the 1928 games due to injury)

    As for accusing people of decrying Phelps because he's American - I think it's more because you *can* win so many medals at swimming, while even the greatest rowers could only attempt two events at most.

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  • 313. At 3:38pm on 14 Aug 2008, davefagan wrote:

    Anyone who can climb a flagpole in the Emperors palace (Tokyo 1964) and pinch the Olympic Flag, allegedly, deserves to called the greatest Olympian.
    Dawn Fraser backed up this achievement with 3 golds at the 100m freestyle at 3 successive Olympics. A truly professional performance from a natural amateur. Has Phelps ever had a proper job?
    Ps. I'm not an Aussie

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  • 314. At 3:48pm on 14 Aug 2008, winningracecardriver wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 315. At 4:01pm on 14 Aug 2008, sparkzter wrote:

    Phelps has the potential to truely become a legend but I think it's too early to say he's already there. After a few more Olympics maybe.

    Longevity surely has to play a part in determining a great and dedicated athlete. Many athletes have a good year only but being consistant year after year is something else. Someone like Sir Steve Redgrave certainly gets my vote here. True guts and determination.

    Daley Thompson was a great overall but wasn't top in all disciplines so I don't see how he could contend other than being an exceptional decalthlete. If he'd done it a few Olympics in a row maybe.

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  • 316. At 5:15pm on 14 Aug 2008, SmellsLikeTeaSplint wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 317. At 5:20pm on 14 Aug 2008, kwinquark1 wrote:

    That bloke Coca Cola has got to be up there - I swear Iv'e seen his name in lights at every Olympiad since 1972.

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  • 318. At 5:43pm on 14 Aug 2008, Hutchie111 wrote:

    To find an answer to this question I devised a points scheme.

    10 for gold, 5 for silver and 1 for bronze.
    5 for each olympics that you win a gold at.
    5 if you defend your title. And 1 for each year between their first and last gold ( eg, if they won 1st gold at '88, and last @ '96, then they would get 9 points).
    This means that people with very long Olympic careers are given credit, as well as the athletes that won a lot in a short space of time.
    Phelps: 142 points
    Lewis: 148 Nurmi: 139 Fischer: 165
    And the winner...
    Latynina: 168
    The Soviet gymnast won 18 (nine gold medals, five silver and four bronze) between 1956 and 1964. Redgrave, the greatest British Olympian, scores 103. I hope that my calculations are correct. I realise that this wont solve the argument, but it gives a different perspective.

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  • 319. At 5:46pm on 14 Aug 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    di...12345(i guess you can't count beyond 5).I wouldn't be suprised if you are one of those people who make up stories just to gain respect from other pople. ....."Have you ever won anything"....how shallow can you be to ask such a silly question. You didn't even think before you sent the message,did you?Whatever answer i give did you at least ask yourself the relevance of the question to the Olympic games and how you would validate my reply.The fact that you had the audacity to call me dumb basing your arguments on such a senseless claim, makes me think that you are still an immature high school kid. A "man" is as sick as his/her secrets, so resolve your problems before you embarrass yourself in the society. Argue with facts not ridicules. since you seem to have achieved much in life worth mentioning, stop hiding behind your nickname and tell us who you are and what you have achieved.This should be interesting.

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  • 320. At 7:13pm on 14 Aug 2008, annehansen wrote:

    The BBC have over hyped Phelps' achievement, if that is possible, certainly according to the vitriol against him on this site, which is quite unbelievable. Us Brits (mostly) showing what we are truly good at - I'm ashamed.

    Anyway, its time to turn off, Olympics is about to get boring - the athletics is starting

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  • 321. At 7:34pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    annehansen - you previously wrote

    "There are more opportunities for track and field athletes to win medals than there are for swimmers.

    The reason that they don't do this is that they don't train as hard."

    What complete and utter nonsense. Swimmers are able to spend hours in the pool because the physical demands on the body are not comparable to those in track and field.

    It is simply not possible for a runner to do 4 hours on the track everyday.

    Similarly it is easier for a swimmer to become technically competent at more than one event because of this very reason.

    Look at the stats - on average if you win a medal in swimming your overall individual medal count is on average higher than in ANY other olympic sport.

    To put it simply - if you are good at swimming you will on average win more medals than in ANY other Olympic sport.

    Its about time I think we thought about removing say the 200 free, the 200IM and one of the relays. Far too easy to win medals in other disciplines!

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  • 322. At 8:35pm on 14 Aug 2008, greenbraveCowHead wrote:

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  • 323. At 8:54pm on 14 Aug 2008, jonnymcd20 wrote:

    I dont think that deciding that the greatest olympian is about devaluing the claims or achievements of any other potential candidates but extolling the virtues and achievements of the person you think is.

    I believe that Michael Phelps is the greatest olympian ever, purely because he has won the most gold medals and will go on to win many, many more, but he also seems to win in a very gracious manner, and that is what the Olympics is all about.

    Phelps, dose compete in a sport where it is relatively easier to win more medals, but it just goes to show more about him that he is the only person in the history of the Olympics who has done it in that sport.

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  • 324. At 9:40pm on 14 Aug 2008, FootballMadAmerican wrote:

    The question posed is: "Who is the greatest Olympian of all-time?" I then read the article which gave varying possible answers based on the number of gold medals won; longevitiy of Olympic career; and number of gold medals won combined with longevity of career.

    What constitutes the greatest Olympian of all-time? I would agree with Tom Fordyce's assessments that there are a lot of factors to take into account, not least of which include his list of, as he deems them, nebulous aspects including: "sportsmanship, demeanour, post-career reputation".

    Michael Phelps is near the top of the list based on his eleven golds, so far, and two bronze. He also, despite some people trying to diminish the magnitude of the feats, is dominating in a wide variety of swimming events. Take a closer look at swimming in general - a lot of the swimmers are "specialists" who focus on a specific stroke or a couple of strokes, at best, and a specific length or lengths (100m, 200m, etc.). MP is dominating in just about every event over the last two Olympics. In fact, just qualifying for eight events is stunning. It's all a bit more amazing than some might initially believe.

    All told, MP's legacy is set but the tales of longevity are incomplete. These elements combined with his sportsmanship (top marks so far), demeanor (cool and calm and, again, top marks, so far) and post-career reputation (he has to finish his career before we assess this, of course) lead one to believe he'll remain toward the top of the list.

    In this quandary of apples and oranges proportions, let's make a list of the top five or ten greatest Olympians. Michael Phelps must be placed amongst the top few greatest Olypmians as we watch and marvel at his still growing reputation.

    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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  • 325. At 9:49pm on 14 Aug 2008, woodyc14 wrote:

    If what Phelps is doing is so easy (as some seem to suggest on here), then why hasn't anyone else done anything similar in the last 36 years? Get over it, Phelps is the greatest we have ever seen.

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  • 326. At 9:53pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Spitz did ! End of.

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  • 327. At 9:57pm on 14 Aug 2008, woodyc14 wrote:

    no kidding, I meant since Spitz, (i.e. 36 years)

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  • 328. At 9:58pm on 14 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Like I have posted previously - all the stats seem to show it is easier to get multiple medals in swimming.

    NO-ONE has even bothered to try to disprove it.

    Phelps = great

    Phelps does not = greatest

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  • 329. At 11:05pm on 14 Aug 2008, jonnymcd20 wrote:

    There is nothin to stop an athlete competing in, for example, the 100m, 200m, 400, Long Jump, and the respective hurdling and relay events.

    This would be an almost impossible group of events to be Olympic-medal quality at due to the amount of training and ability needed, but theres nothing to stop it.

    This is the same as Phelps, he is dominant in so many events, but he puts in so much training and has so much natural ability that he can do it.

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  • 330. At 11:28pm on 14 Aug 2008, mightymike99 wrote:

    We should have in track:

    100m forwards (freestyle)
    100m left sideways
    100m right sideways
    100m backwards

    Then the same with 150m, 200m, 300m and 400m

    .... you get my point!!

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  • 331. At 11:52pm on 14 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    1welshbloke - I appreciate the stats, it's nice to have some solid numbers on the elitism factor and the ease of winning multimedals.

    It's certainly counterintuitive to see that swimming is more elitest than rowing, but I suppose it makes sense. Sure, you only need a lake to swim at a basic level (great to see a PNG swimmer qualify today for instance) but winning medals needs Olympic pools, which for cold countries at least means a serious investment in infrastructure.

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  • 332. At 11:57pm on 14 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    I suspect rowing is more elitest than it appears, as it was popular in Yugoslavia and the USSR, which have since balkanised into lots of countries. Don't suppose you've got figures for medal-winning countries in rowing for 1992-2004 versus 1976-1988?

    It sounds like you've got ready access to the data, I don't suppose you could perhaps put some bits up on a webpage somewhere rather than relying on the awkward format here? I'd be really interested to know how many people have won more than 1 medal at a Games in each sport - given the number in swimming it could be that even Phelps is just a natural outlier. Stephen J Gould has a great essay on sports stats in his book "Bully for Brontosaurus", which comes to the conclusion that many sporting extremes are within natural variation, but some, like Joe DiMaggio's 56-game streak, are genuinely exceptional. It would also be interesting to have the mean number of medal-winning countries in each sport over say 1972-1988 and 1992-2004 if that's convenient for you to do. If that's too much, it would appear that the most relevant sports are swimming, athletics, rowing, gymnastics, boxing, canoeing and fencing - I suspect many people have little "feel" for the stats in the last two. And cross-country skiing would be nice whilst you're about it! :-))))

    Another field of research is the "born in the right country" factor - Frankie Fredericks would have won many more medals if he had been born in the US, just because Namibia didn't have any other sprinters of note, let alone a relay team! How many countries win team medals in each sport? I guess I'm thinking more of the relays and the equestrian/gymnastics/fencing "sum" team medals than genuine team sports like football or sweep oar rowing.

    As an aside, it seems a bit unfair to completely dismiss as "great Olympians" sportsmen who compete in sports with no "individual" option, and it also underrates the importance of teamwork as a component of sporting success like endurance, speed or strength. It may reach its purest expression in something like eights rowing or synchronised swimming, but even relay running needs some teamwork if you are to win medals, as the British 4x100m so often demonstrate in the negative!!!! On the other hand I would value less highly the "sum of individuals" team medals like fencing and equestrianism.

    As for the "If Phelps was British..." argument - there is obviously some truth in that, just look at how many people are unquestioningly putting forward Redgrave as the greatest of all Olympians, when in pure medal terms he's only the third greatest Olympian to sit in a "boat".

    In a similar argument about nationalism, with some added recentism - is Daley Thompson even the greatest Olympic decathlete? What about Bob Mathias, who won two decathlons without the assistance of a boycott in either? An American won the decathlon in the Games before Moscow, East Germany took the top two in the Games after LA, so Daley is surely diminished a bit by those boycotts - still an absolute legend though.... And the way Roman Sebrle is going, it looks like Daley could soon be down to third best decathlete ever.

    (sorry to split my post, was trying to work out what innocent phrase about bikes was being caught by the Beeb's filter)

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  • 333. At 00:11am on 15 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    I was trying to say that cycling was another deceptively elitest sport, the machines are cheap but Britain had only done very well since building the Manchester track at a cost of £10m. Don't understand where the problem was, except maybe the word for cycling machines?

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  • 334. At 02:05am on 15 Aug 2008, Treebeme wrote:

    I submit Eric Heiden. 5 events. 5 gold medals. 4 Olympic records. 1 World record. And all this while skating outside in the snow (no fancy indoor rinks back then).

    The reason his 5 gold medals are so special is because he won both the sprints and the distance events. Everything from 500m to 10,000m. That was unheard of back then. And is unheard of today.

    A true amateur athlete he returned home and finished his degree and become an Orthopedic Surgeon.

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  • 335. At 04:45am on 15 Aug 2008, LaserCop wrote:

    Has Phelps said even once that he is the gratest Olympian ever? Has he shown any arrogance? No. It is the media which gives a name to a person and then there is an arguement- counter arguement by the on-the-edge readers.
    I think we still will have Phelps in the next olympics. Maybe the title will become more convincing to the ever-cynical cynics.

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  • 336. At 05:17am on 15 Aug 2008, RayDiant wrote:

    Let's not forget the great Olga Brusnikina and her 3 triumphant golds in Synchronised Swimming.

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  • 337. At 05:28am on 15 Aug 2008, smellslikesalmon wrote:

    Nah, let's forget her.

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  • 338. At 07:08am on 15 Aug 2008, bradsmr wrote:

    Swimming totally devalues the Olympic spirit. It's a nonsense that one man is allowed to win so many medals for essentially doing the same thing. They may as well allow heavyweight boxers to fight against super lightweights etc etc........i'm totally not interested, and to say he's the greatest ever Olympian is purely obsurd!!!!

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  • 339. At 07:16am on 15 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    I was just about to post more stats and managed to delete my post....and I'm not about to do the research all over again.

    Anyway, broadly speaking between 1992 and 2000 athletics shared its 120 or so medals between 40 countries, rowing its 42 medals between 16 countries, and swimming its 96 medals between 20 countries.
    So medals per country
    Athletics 3
    Rowing 2.5
    Swimming 5
    (note this is only the countries that win a medal not all competing countries)

    Number of people winning more than one Gold at a games between 1992 and 2000
    Athletics 4 from 42 or so events on average
    Rowing 3 from 14 events on average
    Swimming 13 from 32 events on average

    Swimming - the home of the multiple gold medallists!

    (1988 Matt Biondi won 5 and Kristen Otto won 6!!!!)

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  • 340. At 07:25am on 15 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    oh and lasercop - yes Phelps has said he is the greatest at a press conference

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  • 341. At 08:38am on 15 Aug 2008, jaykuppur wrote:

    Truly, Phelps is an astonishingly strong athlete. Domination in any discipline is very difficult due to fierce competetiveness that prevails now. Hence,he is destined to be the greatest athlete as he will have some more left in his tank to grab more medals in London Olympics!. His body engine that converts huge amount of calories into energy desrve to be well studied, perhaps to find ways to control obesity,which will be the end result for ordinary mortals!.
    Jayaramaiah,
    Bangalore,
    India.

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  • 342. At 08:56am on 15 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    I think what needs to be done by the IOC is some research into why swimming is dominated by so few countries and why the medals so frequently get won by so few individuals.

    In several sports you only realistically get one or maybe two chances of a medal.

    In swimming how many times have we had people who have 3, 4, 5 or more medals?

    It devalues the winning of a single GOLD in other sports.

    Get rid of the 200's, get rid of the 50, the 400 IM and the 4x200 relay and get rid of the fly.

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  • 343. At 09:14am on 15 Aug 2008, Jke123 wrote:

    This is an snipet from an article in the Belfast Telegraph (maybe some myths about swimming might be blown out of the water - especially the physical demands).

    Has anyone ever wondered why swimmers burn out so fast??

    There are various similar articles (actually they are all much the same).
    --------------------------------------------------------
    But do swimming medals come more easily?


    No. Of the 100 leading multiple gold medal winners, 22 have been swimmers. There have been plenty of multiple winners in athletics and gymnastics, and quite a few in shooting and fencing. Aladar Gerevich, a fencer from Hungary, won six gold medals at six different Games. Birgit Fischer, a German canoeist, won eight golds at six Games. Some sports offer a few chances per Games over many years. Others offer more per Games but generally over fewer years.


    Swimmers have relatively short careers, and few Games in which to win medals. And winning gold is not easy. Eight years ago, the swimming world thought that Australia's Ian Thorpe was the best, most naturally talented swimmer the planet had ever seen. He probably was, up to that point. But he ended up winning five gold medals in total at two Games and is now retired. Phelps is phenomenal to be so far ahead of his rivals in so many disciplines
    --------------------------------------------------------

    The full article can be found at
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/the-big-question-so-is-michael-phelps-really-the-greatest-athlete-in-olympic-history-13939562.html


    There are tons of stats that can be shown, however depending on the time period and what is being debated, I am sure they can prove any point.

    Look at Aladar Gerevich and maybe the Steve Redgrave issue might be shown in more detail. But then again "fencing" is DIY and not a sport :-) (although it is technically up there on leaderboards)..

    Have a look at track events (especially flat running). I find the argument that swimming is the "same" quite funny since by definition FLAT running has NO variations AT ALL (just distances).

    In which case, going by the "logic" of some contributions, it is definately more plausible that a "runner" can run in ANY race and the problem is all down to their fitness levels. So by that "logic" runners are then not training enough.

    I would suggest that everyone run in the 800M and swim the 400M (or any distances this debate sees fit) and maybe "equality" can be achieved.


    I would especially invite comments from those that say swimming is an "easy" sport.

    As someone who has competed in sports, apparently swimming is possibly the most complete workout that can be done in ANY training regime..
    But what do the experts know eh?

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  • 344. At 09:55am on 15 Aug 2008, willtheweaver wrote:

    In many respects answering ‘who is the greatest?’ in one sport is hard enough. I mean, what criteria define greatness? How can you reasonably and fairly compare competitors from different eras? So asking ‘who is the greatest Olympian?’ becomes even more tricky because you’re adding a mixture of vastly different sports into the equation.
    So, if one’s haul of gold medals is the sole criterion for determining greatness, then yes Phelps is the greatest. But the whole thing is more complex that that. For example, as a swimmer, Phelps can compete over several distances using several stokes. In Beijing he is competing over three distances in individual events and is using freestyle and butterfly stokes; add to the mix the relay and medley events and he has a shot at 8 medals. A great track-and-field athlete can only realistically compete at 3 events at a single games (e.g. 100, 200 m and 4x100 m relay); Carl Lewis for example could augment this with the long jump. But the point is that a great swimmer, which Phelps most certainly is, simply has more shots at gold and therefore has a greater chance of achieving a higher haul that competitors in most if not all other events.
    So in many respects this whole ‘who is the greatest’ argument is pointless (interesting, but ultimately pointless). I mean is Phelps achievement greater that Lewis’ or Redgrave’s or even Emile Zatopek’s (golds at 5000m, 10000, and marathon at one games)? There is no right answer, which is why debates like this will never end. Which is fine by me!

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  • 345. At 10:55am on 15 Aug 2008, hydeblake wrote:

    For crying out loud - what about Tanni Grey-Thompson???

    She's already got her 11 Olympic Golds and doesn't appear to make such a slash on your pages...

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  • 346. At 11:04am on 15 Aug 2008, goldstreak wrote:

    Some interesting points, but the point about Phelps not being the most successful of all time (re: Larissa Latynia's greater overall medal haul) is incorrect. Olympic ranking status is determined by Gold medals won... just look at the current medals board where China is ranked 1 as they have won the most golds, and USA is ranked 2 even though they have won more medals 'overall'. So... most golds equals top ranked Olympian of all time.

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  • 347. At 11:17am on 15 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Jke123 - you have still to refute the stats that you claimed I "massaged".

    As a former triathlete I have trained in cycling, swimming and running though I would class myself as a cyclist. And of the three the hardest to recover from is running in my opinion.

    However, back to your assertion that running is just running i.e it has no variation just distances.

    That is the point!!! The fact that swimmers gain so many medals though VARIATION is what makes it unfair.

    Look at the stats. A swimming medallist is more than TWICE as likely to win another medal as a track athlete or indeed any other sport save for gymnastics.

    No-one is saying that swimming is an easy sport, but they are saying and in my opinion quite rightly that if you win a medal in swimming it is easier to win another medal than in other sports.

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  • 348. At 11:39am on 15 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    While I remember - swimmers do NOT have relatively short careers....there are many swimmers who have medalled over three games (Phelps included) - there are swimmers who medalled over four - and Sharron Davies for example made a comeback to win medals at the commonwealth games. And look at Mark Foster - still in the games at 38!

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  • 349. At 11:56am on 15 Aug 2008, lucatoni08 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 350. At 11:57am on 15 Aug 2008, Busgasbakuhatsu wrote:

    Sir Steve Redgrave won his five golds at five olympics over SIXTEEN YEARS, NOT TWENTY.

    Some events are clearly more accessable on a word scale and therefore tend to be more competitive.

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  • 351. At 12:05pm on 15 Aug 2008, frankie wrote:

    A very wide selection of athletes and some very good comments. I say Phelps is a great swimmer, but is swimming the top of the list for Olympian sports. He may be the top swimmer in the Olympics but to call him the top Olympian of all time is wrong. Like many others, he is good at what he does, but surely, the heptathlon and the decathlon athletes should be given gold for each of their events then? If your entered in 8 or 10 events shouldn't you be given a medal for each? If basketball is only one event, but you have to fight in many different games to get there, shouldn't your medals count for each victory? Gymnasts use many different apparatus in their events also. No Phelps is a swimming champion and record holder, but not the greates Olympian of all time...aome on...!

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  • 352. At 12:09pm on 15 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    lucatoni08 - rowing a minorty sport??? Maybe but it shares it medals out to more countries than swimming which tends to suggest that the playing field is indeed more level than in swimming.

    As for the 100, 200, 400 argument - the fact is that no-one has done that in athletics - yet people have done it in swimming - ever wondered why?

    It is due to the differing physcial demands of the two sports.

    As for the hurdles - has anyone done it save for Gail Devers? No. Why? Ask yourself - the simple answer is that it is not possible to devote the time to training due to the physical demands.

    The fact is that swimmers have a far better chance of gaining multiple medals that in ANY other sport.


    Medal Spotting

    Choose Swimming. Choose a stroke. Choose a distance. Choose another. Choose a ******* big swim cap, choose goggles, floats, hi-tech swim wear and a local swimming pool. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and electrolytic drinks. Choose fixed weekly lottery funding. Choose a coach. Choose your sponsors. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose three team mates on the same training regime in a range of ****** swimming trunks. Choose training times and wondering who the **** you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting by that pool watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing galas, stuffing carbo bars into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, wishing that call to commentate for the BBC every four years, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, ****** up brats who have now replaced yourself.

    Choose your best medal chance.

    Choose swimming.

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  • 353. At 12:11pm on 15 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Off topic I know - but Team GB and Chirs Hoy - OH YES!

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  • 354. At 2:30pm on 15 Aug 2008, Olympus2U wrote:

    I highly appreciate and respect your article as it is thought through well and covers the currently hottest topic in offices and daily life. My comment to this is that so far nobody has even mentioned the winter olympics! why not?! The Greatest Olympian surely is also to be find there. Or does the flavour not taste so good to the British public and sport lovers?? Here is food for thought... "Alpine skier Hermann Maier (Austria) survived a fall in the downhill (Winter Olympics in Nagano) and went on to gold in the super-g and giant slalom." Not a decent contender? If you have seen the crash, you will agree with me that he is.

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  • 355. At 3:34pm on 15 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    Umm - Olympus2U, you might want to reread posts such as #254 - Bjorn Daehlie must be in with a shout if you include the winter ones. But it's true, Britain isn't particularly interested in the Winter Olympics in general - in fact our record there is amazingly good given our lack of snow and other facilities. And I suspect that Tom had enough on his plate just considering all the possible Summer Olympians - as it was he missed out the likes of Teofilo Stevenson, who is looking like a better and better claimant for "greatest Olympian" the more I think about it. We can't even come to a conclusion about the greatest Summer Olympian, let alone if you add the Winters or Paralympics...

    I do wish someone would show these comments to one of the swimming commentators on the BBC, who seems to think that one of the competitors is PhelpsthegreatestOlympianever. Greatest Olympic swimmer - probably (although Grant Hackett could make an interesting claim for that if he gets gold this time). Most golds at a Summer Games - yes. But a lot of your audience are shouting at the telly whenever you automatically translate that into greatestOlympianever. You've lost this viewer as a result....

    [next camapign - Brendan Foster out. He's so sycophantic to his mates on the track, I'm watching the distance running on mute, to stop me throwing up]

    1wb - lol :-) Incidentally, I always copy posts to the clipboard before posting. If there's a problem you get an error message in the URL on the address bar, it's not always very obvious though. Ampersands are one thing the system doesn't like.

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  • 356. At 7:35pm on 15 Aug 2008, FootballMadAmerican wrote:

    For those attempting to continue to diminish Michael Phelp's ranking amongst the top Olympians ever - He won his sixth gold medal of the 2008 Olympics today in a sixth world record time in a sport that is, apparently (at least amongst a lot of naysayers in this comment area), underrated for its degree of difficulty. That's a total 12 gold medals and two bronze medals over two Olympic games (and counting).

    And for those who say that swimming medal opportunities are too voluminous, think about this:

    You can be very good, for example, at the 100m freestyle, but you have to qualify for the event amongst some of the best swimmers on the planet. Then you have to go to the Olympics and compete further against some of the best swimmers on the planet through multiple heats to make it to the finals. And then you have to swim against THE best swimmers on the planet at that moment in that stroke and distance and, in MP's case, break the world record every single time! Then you add in the fact that MP has a lack of recovery time between some of the events and one has the makings of true greatness.

    Most swimmers do well winning in one or two strokes and/or distances. Very few swimmers do what Mark Spitz did and what Michael Phelps is doing. Note: Yes, I'm implying that we should reserve two greatest Olympian positions for these two swimmers in the top ten.

    And, going back to the apples and oranges aspect of the original question, I'm not so much stating that MP is the greatest ever Olympian. I'm, more so, trying to state the case that MP's amongst the top five or ten based on the various criteria as set forth by Tom Fordyce. Medals + records + sportsmanship + demeanour + post-career reputation + (I'd add) degree of difficulty of the feat or combined feats = Olympic greatness.

    At another point, Tom Fordyce, you should pose the question: "Who are the Top Ten Olympians of all-time?" That would make for quite a list.

    And, if I may (being a "Football Mad American"), have you ever seen a list of the Top 11 footballers that everyone can agree upon? I haven't and that's what makes this an enjoyable debate. There is no definitive list due to the varying points of view (i.e., the fan's country of origin, their degree of patriotism to that country and its footballers, the number of cups/medals won by that footballer at various league and world football levels, whether that footballer is known and loved outside of their country or league in which they play, etc.) -- so many criteria.

    That's where a proper rating system would come into play. If you or someone can break out "all" the categories that are applicable for Olympic greatness, then we'd be closer to a definitive list. Until then, carry on people!

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  • 357. At 10:05pm on 15 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    How can you have a rating system? What system would you use?

    If swimming medalists win twice the number of medals as athletics then Phelps' 12 so far is behind the totals of Lewis, Nurmi etc.

    But it all guess work isn't it.

    Let's just say Phelps is the greatest Olympic swimmer and leave it at that.

    The debates on here and elsewhere demonstrate it just isn't possible to judge who is the greatest Olympian.

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  • 358. At 10:46pm on 15 Aug 2008, andimc wrote:

    Phelps greatest Olympian ever?! - Don't make me laugh!

    I can't believe all the different events/strokes/distances/relays in swimming - it is a joke!

    You don't have hopping events in athletics or running backwards. Why don't they just have one stroke and swim to the other side as quick as possible. All these medleys - what a complete load of rubbish.

    You shouldn't be able to win 8 gold medals at 1 olympics - you shouldn't physically be able to compete in 8 events. It just shows the poor standard in swimming.

    If you win an olympic title in a running event , you can safely say you're the best in the world. But how many people have had the opportunity to swim competitively???

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  • 359. At 10:59pm on 15 Aug 2008, FootballMadAmerican wrote:

    As an addendum to my prior comments, I put forth the following:

    "Katie Hoff was supposed to be the female version of Michael Phelps. She entered six events but came away with three medals — the silver in the 400 freestyle and bronzes in the 400 individual medley and 800 freestyle relay. She also was fourth in the 200 individual medley and 200 freestyle, and failed to qualify in the 800 freestyle.

    She acknowledged Friday morning she took on too much.

    "You had to get up for every swim,'' Hoff said of her 12 rounds in the Water Cube. "The world of swimming level has risen a lot higher.''"

    This, I feel, helps to put things in perspective with regard to MP. He has two more events, the 100 butterfly (which could prove the be one of his toughest tests) and the 400 medley relay. Good luck, MP!

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  • 360. At 11:38pm on 15 Aug 2008, stellarjohnny wrote:

    Katie Hoff took on too much? Well I think the only reason Katie never won a Gold is because she probably didn't have the energy to compete at her highest level. I am sure if she eat like a horse, that is had the nutrition package of M.P she may have done better.

    And as far as M.P is concerned, Although stats prove itself I think he is one of the greatest.Every accomplished sportsman is great in their own way.I can say that what M.P has achieved is the greatest of all time!Well done to Bob Bowman. I feel Mr Bowman showed Phelps the way and made him believe that the sky is the limit. M.P is mentally tough, has discipline, ambition and has probably worked extremely hard. The astonishing part is Phelps has set targets known to the public and trying to achieve it makes it ever so exciting for the well being of the sport.He is almost there,whether he gets the 8 or not I still feel its astonishing accomplishment getting till 6.

    I mean look at the guy apart from his swimming skills he is so cool and humble and I know its not been an easy road for him to get to this stage. Did you see Husain Bolt running his heats, for Christ sake it looked like the guy was jogging it. For those who have not swam I can tell you its not a walk in the park especially competing against those that are specialist for only one event.
    Carl lewis won the long Jump, you need speed for that and thats what Lewis had, so no big deal.Tell a sprinter that competes in 100 dash to run a 400 meter race, Could he do that? Phelps is though the most amazing athelete I have ever seen!!!! An Inspiration to all those younger kids that want to take up swimming.

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  • 361. At 00:00am on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Of course a 100m sprinter couldn't do that - and thats why it hasn't happened!!!

    But can swimmers do that? Yes - time and time again!

    You guys who refuse to acknowledge how relatively easy it is for a gold medallist swimmer to win another gold medal make me laugh.

    Phelps' multiple medals are of course a fantastic achievement but only on a par with the great athletic medal winners.

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  • 362. At 02:39am on 16 Aug 2008, stevie17 wrote:

    Phelps has never claimed to be the greatest... it is precisely this kind of humility that I feel makes him certainly one ofthe greatests... the greatest in his discipline no question...

    as for the greatest olympain, I feel the debate is futile... you can't compare a swimmer to a distance runner or to a sprinter... the 'greatest olympian' test is purely subjective and as such a consensus will never be reached... Michael Phelps' sheer domination of an event is intimidating, however if we look at the number of events he is able to enter, the discussion becomes too nuanced especially if we further consider the fact the career span of say a gymnast may only cover 6 years in elite competition... comparisons between sports is pretty redundant... almost all the athletes listed above once ca argue in favour of...

    The final point is that competitors cannot even be comapred to past winners in the same discipline... take the advances in technology, nuitrition, training techniques and the professionalism of the games (in most cases) it is hard to even compare an athlete from th 70's to one now... hence why few records from past eras stand.

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  • 363. At 03:50am on 16 Aug 2008, niceteeth1968 wrote:

    ...and there is number seven. What a ride. This just keeps getting better. A big "Thank You" to Michael Phelps. The greatest Olympian.

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  • 364. At 07:52am on 16 Aug 2008, JonnyJoe wrote:

    It annoys me that people suggest that 'swimming is different' and is somehow easier to win a lot more medals ... if that was the case, how come Spitz's record has stood for so long? Carl Lewis is immediately discounted for the positive test; Jesse Owens is an important candidate as we shouldn't discount the importance of the Olympics being a political event as much as an athletic one; I have mixed feelings about Steve Redgrave ... yes, a huge achievement, but I question how much of that last gold had more to do with the work of his team mates than himself, and is it perhaps easier to hype yourself up for one final, than the seven of Phelps and Spitz? It's unfair to try to separate any of these greats, and perhaps we should accept that they all rightfully share the title of being the greatest.

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  • 365. At 08:22am on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Of course its easier to win multiple medals in swimming than in other sports. How else do you explain the greater number of multimedallists in swimming than in other sports.

    Lets take a 100m/200m freestyle swimmer.

    Let's assume he/she does no other stroke even than freestyle.

    He/She has FIVE gold medal opportunities available the 100m free, the 200m free, the 4x100 free, the 4x200 free and the 4x100 Medly.

    Name me one other sport that will allow you 5 medals in such a manner for doing the same thing with no real variation in distance. (Before anyone says that runners can do long distances then so can the swimmer....the swimmer could do the 400m, 1500m and now 10km but its unrealistic to expect that isnt it).

    The equivalent in athletics a 100m/200m sprinter has THREE medal opportunities because they don't get the 4x200 relay to take part in.

    Lets add in another discipline....for the swimmer let's choose the fly and for the athlete lets choose the hurdles.

    The swimmer gets another TWO medal opportunities, the 100 and 200 fly, the athlete another ONE medal opportunity the 110m hurdles cos there is no 200m hurdles.

    So we have a swimmer with 7 medal opportunites and the athlete with 4.

    Phelp's achievement is phenomenal in of course converting all his races into Gold, and to do so at two consecutive games. I for one am certainly not saying his achievements are not fantastic. But we have to recognise that statistically there are more multi medallists in swimming than in any other sport.

    By the way did you know that if you are a 100m/200m freestyle swimmer you could get three gold medals without winning a single final? How? By swimming in the relays in the qualifying rounds and not swimming in the final. What other sport will make you a triple gold medalist like that?

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  • 366. At 09:23am on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    Guys don't take anything for granted. You go do a 200m fly and you will know how much it requires to win one gold when you are competing against THE BEST in the world.

    Nor we should make an excuse about the rules of the game. If swimming gives you more opportunities than accept it. It has more variety.

    There is luck in every sport, the guy is talented and he is there at the right time.

    I will certainly call him The Greatest Olympian no doubt. But there is also no doubt in my mind that he is certainly not The Greatest sportsmen ever.

    Because due to shear genius this title goes to only one man that is Diego Maradona!!! and the second one off course Jahangir Khan (of Pakistan).

    Most of you might not know the second name but YES, he is. 555 Matches winning streak, world # 1 for 10 years ...

    I am glad to see Michael performing in my life time. Great Job.

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  • 367. At 09:38am on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    "Nor we should make an excuse about the rules of the game. If swimming gives you more opportunities than accept it. It has more variety."

    But that is the point isn't it - there are people who's chosen sport may only give them one medal opportunity in a games. They have simply no chance of winning the number of medals Phelps has. Therefore to use medal count as the basis for saying Phelps is the greatest Olympian is not a fair way of doing so.

    There are some Olympians who have won 3 or 4 or 5 golds in a row and have never been beaten at the Olympics. Does that make them less great than Phelps purely because they only compete in one event? Surely not.

    That Phelps has the greatest number of Golds cannot be disputed. Neither can we dispute who the most decorated medallist is either with 18 medals. There is I think someone who medalled in 6 consecutive games. And indeed the record medal holders in each of the sports etc.

    These are all great Olympians in terms of medal winning and as I have stated before we should I think agree that you cannot determine who the greatest is because of the different demands of each sport and differing opportunities for medals.

    And as for the greatest ever sportsman? Eddy Merckx for me winning over half of the races he took part in (over 500 wins, the next most successful has half that!) and winning on road, track, overall stage races, points jerseys, mountains jerseys etc. Ed Moses has to come close as well (undefeated for something like 12 years wasn't it with over 100 consecutive victories). Agree with Jahangar Khan too. But Maradonna? No - a cheat and a drug cheat too.


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  • 368. At 09:47am on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    I knew thats the only excuse Pele has as well, he also keeps screaming about drugs etc. People voted him already as the Player of the Century. The vote was right here on BBC.

    You create a vote right now worldwide and you will see who people call the greatest player ever to step on this planet. Right here under the shade of Micheals 13 Golds :)

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  • 369. At 10:11am on 16 Aug 2008, RealFrigid wrote:

    What impressed me most about Phelps was when in Athens, he gave up his spot in the 400 medley relay to teammate and rival Ian Crocker. Because it meant so much to Crocker to be in that race. Phelps graciously, and willingly gave him that gold medal.

    It's as moving as Bobby Jones calling an unseen penalty on himself during the 1925 U.S. Open, and losing the match by one stroke.

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  • 370. At 10:16am on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    Yes that certainly shows him as a person !!!
    He is at the right time at the right place and at the right age. Hope to see him in action in 2012 as well ... way to go ... really gave the world so much to talk about ...

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  • 371. At 10:18am on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    He was damm lucky in this last 100m fly BTW :)

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  • 372. At 10:21am on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    "people voted him already as Player of the Century. The vote was right here on BBC".

    Well you are right he got 3 times as many votes as Pele - but you conveniently fail to point out that nearly all his votes came from Argentina in what was suspected as the same people voting multiple times! FIFA had failed to implement any basic controls so that it was easy for a person to vote as many times as they liked.

    FIFA then made two awards due the question of vote rigging, an Internet Player of the Century which was awarded to Maradonna and a FIFA Jury Player of the Century where Pele got 7 times as many votes as Maradonna. The FIFA magazine poll also showed Pele to be the winner.

    So yes, create a worldwide poll right now, and I think you will find that Pele will win.

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  • 373. At 10:24am on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Interesting that there are no underwater TV pictures of the touch.....unlike say when Adlington won the 400m earlier this week. They showed that touch time and time again from the underwater cameras.

    Wonder if the Chinese have any interest in makring Beijing's games as having the record number of golds?

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  • 374. At 10:29am on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    I think they did reconfirmed this via slow TV replays ... after the Serbians raised some questions...

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  • 375. At 10:30am on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Correction - I've just seen it on youtube!

    Phelps by a centimetre! Amazing!

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  • 376. At 10:34am on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    lol come on man, i dont know why people even compare Maradona with Pele. These Brazilians did produce lot of great players they cannot see one Argentinian. Not taking anyones sides.

    See the glimpse, why the world call him the greatest player ever ...

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9123327884671814762

    If you really want to see an example of his dominance in the match see the ARG vs BELGIUM 86 SEMI FINAL MATCH and you will say thanks to me ... when he was at his peak he was close to stars ...

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  • 377. At 10:46am on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    I won't say thanks to you at all.....Maradonna was a cheat and a drug cheat.

    The player of the century poll you quoted was rigged. You'll be telling me next that the Eurovision Song Contest vote isn't rigged! In any case Pele also helped win the 2nd World War, escaping from the Germans in that great film Escape to Victory (LOL).

    Anyway - go the rowers (if only because the commentator could hardly speak!) and go Wiggins and Hoy!

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  • 378. At 10:56am on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    Boss I am from Pakistan. I could have said Jahangir as the best ever because honestly I think his achievements are way too much. He is still the pride of our country, but comparing him to Maradona I must say No.

    Plus I dont care about voting even, nobody cares ... rigged or not ... that is just a formality. Pele is a cheap because he is trying to play cheap politics ...

    Everybody knows what Maradona was capable of on the field when in full swing.

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  • 379. At 11:18am on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    mhaseeb77 - Jahangir Khan dominated squash for so long. It is remarkable that a single player can remain unbeaten for so long. Compare to other racquet sports like Federer or Sampras in Tennis who have nothing like the dominance he had.

    Differing sports I know but Jahangir versus Maradonna?

    No contest....Jahangir every time.

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  • 380. At 11:32am on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    Yeah I know tough choice very tough to decide between these 2 greats. He dominated like no other player in history. 555 wins in series 10 british opens 10 years # 1.
    President of federation as well now.

    Maradona did fell from grace, but that was not his choice, the underworld mafia at napoli took him rock bottom after his 86 WC win when he went there to play and made them champions after 60 years.

    But you know people dont cry seeing Jahangir they still do when Maradona comes to the field with the ball :)

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  • 381. At 12:33pm on 16 Aug 2008, Global1 wrote:

    If your talking about great olympians what about Douglas Bader ? And he couldn't have done it without his dog- I forget the dogs name?

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  • 382. At 5:11pm on 16 Aug 2008, sza11k wrote:

    "Wonder if the Chinese have any interest in makring Beijing's games as having the record number of golds?"

    Eh? How does that work? Surely the number of golds is always the same....

    And also:

    50 Meters Swagger
    50 Meters Run
    50 Meters Run Backwards
    50 Meters Run Sideaways
    50 Meters Run on your Hands
    100 Meters Swagger
    100 Meters Run
    100 Meters Run Backwards
    100 Meters Run Sideaways
    100 Meters Run on your Hands
    50 Meters Swagger - Team Relay
    50 Meters Run - Team Relay
    50 Meters Run Backwards - Team Relay
    50 Meters Run Sideaways - Team Relay
    50 Meters Run on your Hands - Team Relay
    100 Meters Swagger - Team Relay
    100 Meters Run - Team Relay
    100 Meters Run Backwards - Team Relay
    100 Meters Run Sideaways - Team Relay
    100 Meters Run on your Hands - Team Relay

    I think it would actually be incredibly hard to win gold in all of these events, assuming you were against (in the final) 9 top-class swaggerers, for instance, as they all use different muscle groups. Running on your hands for 100 metres would need strong hands, yet to run sideways you need a good gyroscopical brain.

    But what we should really do is get Britain's sprinters to forget about all of the running events and concentrate exclusively on these. Can you imagine, 20 golds in events either no other countries entered or even knew about!?

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  • 383. At 7:14pm on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    Again the rules are same for all. Mark Spitz got 7, how many people did get 7 ? none ... for the last 36 years. Cheers to PHELPS ... this is noway to judge someones talent. Wins does count and off course GOLD medal is no joke ...

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  • 384. At 8:13pm on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    It was interesting to see how irked Michael Johnson was about Michael Phelps.

    I can imagine why he may have felt this way - here we have someone who won 5 golds (albeit I believe he has had to give one back) - and no way on earth could anyone win 7 or 8 golds in a single games in athletics.

    As stated previously the equivalent in athletics is 4 golds in one games, which I believe has only ever been done twice .

    I do believe there is something wrong when a disproportionate number of the multiple medallists hail from one swimming.

    If you don't believe there is anything wrong it that then we'll just have to disagree.

    I hail Phelps as probably the greatest swimmer ever. But you just cannot compare his medal haul to those in other sports.

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  • 385. At 9:15pm on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    True ...

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  • 386. At 9:50pm on 16 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    But as an Olympian he is also at the very very top.

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  • 387. At 10:49pm on 16 Aug 2008, stellarjohnny wrote:

    We should all give credit to Phelps. Everyone wants atheletes in their particular sport to be the greatest. The topic of who is the greatest can be debated forever but what Phelps has done for swimming, I have never seen anything like that in any sport.I think in order to achieve anything you must have dedication, competiveness, a positive attitude and put in hard work along with discipline.Phelps has all those qualities and with the belief that nothing is impossible, lets hope all his dreams come true.With a negative attitude I dont think anyone could get as far.
    It's so unfortunate that swimming does not have Grand Slams or a premierships so hey lets just enjoy the show the boy has given us.The olympics!!!
    I respected Michael Johson until today. Even without as many Golds as Phelps, I still thought he was one of the greatest atheletes, but hey look how immature he was on TV. Michael Who? All those atheletes have the built and muscularity of an athelete so why dont they take up swimming lessons and give us a show in the pool.They make it seem so easy.

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  • 388. At 11:18pm on 16 Aug 2008, stellarjohnny wrote:

    Well done to Lezak and co too for not giving up and showing team spirit.The guy that is transforming the sport of swimming for the good is almost there.Keep it up guys

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  • 389. At 11:26pm on 16 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    I think Johnson's reaction says it all amongst a lot of athletes - they are in my opinion rightly upset that we're getting the Phelps hype, like we did the Spitz hype and even the Matt Biondi and Ian Thorpe hype.

    Phelp's achievement is indeed fantastic - but everyone goes on and on about the number of medals and how great that is.

    Well......swimming does NOT have the strength in depth that other sports have.

    Swimming spreads its medals among fewer competitors than ANY other sport.

    Swimmers get more medal opportunities than ANY other sport.

    I have repeatedly challenged anyone to refute these stats and NO-ONE has even tried - the general response is - so what he won more medals.

    Well how about track cycling introduce the one lap sprint, the two lap sprint, the three lap sprint, the two lap keirin, etc etc,,, so that someone as phenomenol as Chris Hoy get 10 medal opportunities?

    Yes I know its ridiculous. As ridiculous as the manner in which swimming has MORE multiple gold medallists than ANY other sport.

    Remove the IM, remove the fly. Remove the 4x100 and replace with 4x50. Then we might have a level playing field.

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  • 390. At 04:22am on 17 Aug 2008, niceteeth1968 wrote:

    there is eight. how awesome is that. remarkable, once in a lifetime achievement that all should appreciate.

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  • 391. At 07:38am on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Chris Boardman just mentioned that it is totally unfair that track cycling has had to drop a discipline in order for BMX to be introduced.

    How true.

    Did swimming have to drop an event to introduce the 50m free in 1992 or the 10000m in this years games?

    No!

    As for Phelps, again....what other sport in the games affords anyone the opportunity of so many medals? We've had Phelps with 8 gold, Spitx with 7, Otto with 6, Biondi with 5 (7 overall) and ALL from ONE games!!!! Indeed if we took non Gold medals into consideration there would be several others to add to this.

    Hell women's track cycling only has 3 events and the men's 7. So if Chris Hoy wins the sprint he wins almost half of the events. Bit like Phelps winning almost half of his isn't it.

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  • 392. At 09:01am on 17 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    He is certainly the greatest swimmer ever, no doubt. He is super in water !!!

    Greatest sportsman, certainly NO.

    Greatest Olympian = may be, no one has been more successful than him :) i wish him same success in 2012.

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  • 393. At 06:05am on 18 Aug 2008, FootballMadAmerican wrote:

    To 1welshbloke:

    I was saying that it would be great to have a rating system so as to be able to compare various Olympic athletes and their accomplishments over the years. I didn't say that it would be easy to create it.

    One of the keys would be to properly weigh factors such as the number of possible medals available to swimmers versus, say, gymnasts or rowers or archers. It would be semi-elaborate, but it could be done.

    It's not an easy task, just as it would not be easy to compare and state unequivocally that Sir Stanley Matthews is better or lesser than Sir Bobby Charlton or David Beckham or Maradona or Pele or George Best or Cristiano Ronaldo...ad naseum. There's lively debate to be had here. You seem to prefer attempts at browbeating.

    As to your predilection to slagging off swimmers and the supposed ease of switching/adapting to the various distances, apparently you've not been in a pool lately. Try swimming as fast as you can for 50m, 100m, 200m or 400m, set some World/Olympic records and then, breathlessly no doubt, tell us how it feels to come in last. Seriously, you need a dose of reality. All the Olympic sports require a variety of factors including skill, endurance, mental fortitude and natural talent. Attempting to beat down swimming shows a lack of open-mindedness on your part. They're not all the same - we know!

    Swimming's been around in the Olympics for many a year (since the fist modern Olympics in 1896 to be exact). It attracts vast television audiences along with certain other sports such as gymnastics, athletics, boxing, weightlifting, diving, volleyball and, nowadays, beach volleyball (amongst others). It's a "major" Olympic sport whether you fully appreciate it or not. And, just like a lot of the other Olympic sports, the participants are objects of focus once every four years - having just seen the US Women's eights win in rowing (with the Dutch women squeaking out a Silver medal over prior champions, Romania). When else do we tend to see a fair amount of these dedicated but generally unheralded athletes shown on TV or in the news - once in their lifetime or once every four years twice or a few times? Keep in it perspective.

    And I tend to agree with you (shocking!) that it's ridiculous that a sport such as BMX is even IN the Olympics. But, apparently, the people behind BMX have jumped through all the proper IOC hoops to get their sport promoted and into The Games. We'll have to watch in disgust or turn away. BTW - turning away is a vote against the sport and, fingers crossed, a lot of people will turn away and it will go away as a sport. Swimming, however, won't go away nor will your phrasings here cause it to go away.

    You state: "There are some Olympians who have won 3 or 4 or 5 golds in a row and have never been beaten at the Olympics. Does that make them less great than Phelps purely because they only compete in one event? Surely not." Who said that Phelps' feat(s) cause us to think less of other athletes' accomplishments? You seem be making disproportionate assumptions about the collective thinking. If nothing else, stop being so bloody annoyed at Michael Phelps' accomplishments and just put them in perspective - whatever that perspective may be for you.

    As for your boasting that you, "...have repeatedly challenged anyone to refute these stats and NO-ONE has even tried - the general response is - so what he won more medals." Apparently you haven't read all the posts. There are people, including me, stating that you may have a case about the number of medals. So why do you keep ranting on and on about your case being made? Shouting the "loudest" doesn't mean you win the argument.

    In the end, one Olympic sport's medal does not equal another, different, Olympic sport's medal. What matters is that Michael Phelps chose to take on eight events and he won, in World (7) or Olympic (1) record times, all eight events in one Olympics. It's, in aggregate, a Herculean feat. Yes, let's compare other athletes and their feats and let's attempt make it a fair comparison.

    P.S. - We get your points - so stop attemping to beat everyone over the head with, again, an apples to oranges comparison. It's draining (pool/swimming pun intended) reading your posts.

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  • 394. At 3:45pm on 18 Aug 2008, terriblebore86 wrote:

    1welshbloke

    The reason no-one is challenging you that swimmers get more medals is ... that they do.

    The difference seems to be that you see this as a problem. Would you be making this case if Phelps had just one two golds and the others had been shared out- I suspect not.

    There is a reason why these medals are available to swimmers; normally being the best at 100 free is very different from being the best at 200 fly or 400 im.

    Phelps is not normal.

    I am not arguing that Phelps getting these golds makes him the greatest olympian ever - I don't think he is. But we cannot eliminate events because someone is good at them all; fly is a stroke - it should be competed, im is a distinct discipline - it should be competed.

    Phelps winning his medals is amazing, in the same way if Bolt wins three it will be pretty much as amazing. or Hoy winning his medals is amazing.

    most people are amazed by the achievement and the fact it is more than ever before, and that by this one statistical measure he is the greatest olympian of all time. It may not be an adequate measure, but that must be a matter of interpretation - many of your posts fail in this respect. people who put Phelps forward as the greatest are pointing to the medal count as evidence for his dominance of a sport which in turn is his reason for greatness, rather than simply claiming that the medal count is the reason for greatness.

    as for me. Has to be owens; a political as well as a sporting figure - as the olympics is a political and sporting event

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  • 395. At 3:50pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    Debate seems to have moved to this more recent article by Matt Slater :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/olympics/2008/08/national_aquatics_centre_beiji.html

    Although that is switching things round from comparing Phelps to the multi-Olympiad people to a comparison between him and a single performance by Bolt.

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  • 396. At 05:56am on 19 Aug 2008, Jenny1961 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 397. At 4:20pm on 19 Aug 2008, HeavenInHendon wrote:

    The biggest problem with tyring to decide who is the greatest is the use of science in sport.

    Therefore what Phelps done this month cannot be compared to what Mark Spitz did.

    Even in atheltics, the tracks of today are faster than the tracks of yester year.

    So what really makes a Great Olympian is what affects they have on people at the time they are performing.



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  • 398. At 7:16pm on 19 Aug 2008, jtford wrote:

    Dixie12345

    Why are you so hung up on drugs, not all need them. Please just appreciate what MP has done for the spirt in asking all to raise the bar. You state that the recovery time cannot be done... do you not see that this is the most impressive thing about this medal haul. The guy is phenomianally fit and dedicated, what is so wrong with that, or is it just that he is from the USA. Can Chris Hoy have muscles and recovery time like that in the cysling... of course he can.. what a great performer. Please post no more.. get on with your team of weight lifters for 2012 as it sounds as though you know how to produce the best CLEAN team ever..

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  • 399. At 7:28pm on 19 Aug 2008, jtford wrote:

    Please please please salute the GB team, however, all of you that have given Phelps a hard time saying that he has more opportunity in swimming beacuse in different ways it is easier that track and field, fined yourself a pool, get yourself in training and let me know when you are ready to challenge him and I will pop down the bookies to put my money on him Vs you in 2012. He isn't just beating all others but his own records.

    A personal note for Dixie12345, learn the English language before trying to slag of others. dopey!

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  • 400. At 09:49am on 20 Aug 2008, Jke123 wrote:

    terriblebore86
    How eloquent and using fact and logic.

    I thought we were doomed to the totally inaccurate and contrived statistics posted here by 1WelshBloke. The figures are correct, but the interpretations he has posted are totally biased and massaged to give a wholly made up impression.

    Just for you 1WelshBloke
    I decided not to post until YOUR OWN statistics would prove you wrong. And in true fashion, I have noticed that there are no longer statements of the most baseless "facts" you can find on the net! Thats because the emerging "facts" are making them look more and more like "politician speak"!

    You wrote
    Swimming spreads its medals among fewer competitors than ANY other sport. - That is totally untrue
    Countries maybe, but not less competitors. You are falsifying the figures...
    It actually has more competitors per event than most other sports.

    I would like you to now analyse the statistics on Gymnastics, Rowing and Cycling and see how many countries "share" medals. The word share is the misleading point in all of your posts. That is massaging the figures.. If you had thought about the post and used the words "Won by"; you might have had a point in analysing "Dominance"

    The amount of events available in any athletic meet is directly proportional to the number of "Athletes" that train for that sport. Thats why sadly, Darts is not yet an Olympic Sport (although archery is).

    AND NO! SWIMMERS DO NOT HAVE MORE MEDAL CHANCES THAN ANY OTHER SPORT. GREAT SWIMMERS DO.. Thats where you seem to be going off at a tangent, thinking that all swimmers have the chance to win many events. I know you've got to be in it to win it, but the difference between sport and the lottery is training and ability.

    THIS IS SIMPLY BECAUSE ONLY THE "CREAM OF THE CROP" CAN COMPETE (AND WIN) IN MULTIPLE EVENTS (IN ANY SPORT).
    THERE ARE A LOT OF SPECIALISTS IN THEIR OWN DISCIPLINE WHO NEVER GET TO WIN MORE THAN ONE MEDAL, BECAUSE THEY ARE ONLY CAPABLE OF GIVING THEIR BEST IN ONE.

    There are just a lot more dominant swimmers (JUST LIKE CYCLING) AND COUNTRIES IN OTHER WATER SPORTS so the medal spread tends to be a lot smaller. Thats what training does, creates fitness and then dominance.

    Now I guess by your logic, Jamaica's dominance in the Burst sprints means that the medal chances will now be a bit biased.

    I am now positive that your participation in sports has been limited to Nintendo Wii's, a remote control (aimed at Teletext) and the internet; as you seem to have lost the concept of training hard to achieve success and seem to feel that the "Forces of propaganda" have a part to play in sporting ability.

    Also do not try to lump athletics as 1 event as they are not.

    What actually stops ANY athlete from sompeting in multiple "DISCIPLINES" is their personal fitness level(s) AND MORE IMPORTANT WHICH EVENTS THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE BEST AT.

    Just for info, Phelps has said he will CONTINUE training at the other disciplines and distances and may be in the right PHYSICAL form to compete in other events.

    Thats why they are called "DISCIPLINES".

    A CORRECT STATEMENT WOULD BE THAT FOR THE AMOUNT OF DIFFERENT NATIONAL REPRESENTATION, THERE ARE MORE SWIMMING EVENTS.
    However, for the volume of competing Athletes, you will see that this figure falls considerably.

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  • 401. At 09:54am on 20 Aug 2008, Jke123 wrote:

    1WelshBloke

    Why don't you suggest that most of the rowing events are removed. As THEY ARE ALL THE SAME DISTANCE. WHY THEN SHOULD 1,2,4 OR 8 PEOPLE "SHARE" THE MEDALS IN EFFECTIVELY 2 SPORTS (ROWING AND SCULLING). :-)

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  • 402. At 11:51am on 27 Aug 2008, preciousinformer wrote:

    I'll have to go with 1welshbloke as his arguments so far has been sound in this discussion.

    I also agree that it is far harder to succeed in athletics than swimming mainly because of the applications used in athletics creating muscle bounded athletes.

    Take a look at swimmers these days, they usually carry a slender but long body frames with big hands or feet. These guys would flop if they tried to run but with the HELP of water they rely less on muscle power and mostly on endurance, good techniques and freakish limbs to paddle faster.

    Athletes on the other hand are all about muscles and stamina. Ask anyone in the gym on how hard it is to build the right physiques and maintain it over 2 or 3 Olympic games. Track events require explosiveness and incredible strength and endurance over the covered distance. Athletes often succumb to injuries because of the huge amount of stress running, jumping (impact sports) has on the body.

    Speaking of injuries, have you ever seen a swimmer pull out in the middle of a race because he/she ruptured a thigh or sprained an ankle? I have not. Swimming looks so leisurely compared to running.

    How about world records set in either pool or track? Putting drugs aside, I think I've seen more records broken in the pool than on the track thanks to improving technology. Swimsuits now make a big difference in the pool and they cost $$$$ to buy. If you don't have one then you are at a disadvantage, simple as that.

    What Phelps did was amazing, but I have to agree it is easier to win more medals in the pool. For the record, Phelps never swam in the 50m and never will, nor will he swim the 1500m. If he does and wins both then he is simply the greatest.

    Michael Johnson did the 200 and 400 in world record times, who else can do that? They are very different races as one is all about burst speed and the other is endurance. Johnson probably could have done the 100 but given the injuries that he has had over the years I'm surprised he could even excel in 2 events.

    That's like asking Phelps to set world records in the 100m and 400m free, which he can't and never will.

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