National Aquatics Centre, Beijing

Last night I watched Usain Bolt do the most remarkable thing I have ever witnessed.

I, like many around me, could only laugh when I saw Bolt's new 100m world record flash up on the scoreboard. I was laughing at the words-fail-me joy of it all.

This morning, I have just seen Michael Phelps claim his eighth gold medal of these Games and 14th of his career.

So which performance was better?

Stupid question, right? Yes, of course it is. But it's not going to stop me from posing it, just as it won't stop sports fans all over the world from debating it.

Comparisons may well be odious but they're also addictive and inevitable. We simply can't help it and, like Pringles, once you've popped 'em you just can't stop.

While the "Baltimore Bullet" lacks "Lightning Bolt's" sense of theatre, Phelps' record-breaking display was undeniably magnificent. And it's not his fault he couldn't coast to the wall, while smiling for the cameras and beating his chest - he was swimming the third leg.

Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps

But for me, Bolt's performance was the pick of the two. It had everything. I won't go over ground my colleague Tom has already covered, but I have never seen anything like that before.

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Of course, it's not just one performance with Phelps, is it? You are really looking at the body of his work, in every sense.

Gold number eight - a lucky number here, in case you missed that - came in the 4x100m medley relay. The US has won this race at every Olympics it has contested, so for many pundits this gold was a "gimme".

But that was always being a tad dismissive of the Australians and Japanese, and Phelps himself never talks about a gold until it is around his neck.

As it happened, the race was a classic, and the 23-year-old phenomenon's part in it was decisive.

Swimming the butterfly leg, Phelps took off from the blocks in third place after superb breaststroke shifts from Japan's Kosuke Kitajima and Australian Brenton Rickard.

No matter. Phelps simply steamrollered the field as he did in all five of his individual wins apart, ironically, from the 100m butterfly.

His split was three-quarters of a second faster than the next best swimmer and a US victory was now in the capable hands of Jason Lezak, the man who kept the Phelps' record bid on track with a stunning final leg in the 4x100m freestyle.

And that was that. Cue richly deserved celebrations, massive grins and the Stars and Stripes for the 12th time in the Water Cube this week.

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Did this, though, elevate Phelps to a new level? In beating Mark Spitz's 36-year-old record of seven golds from a single Games, was he now more than just the greatest swimmer of his generation?

For Spitz he is. The American legend had already crowned his successor before number eight was in the bag.

"He is the single greatest Olympic athlete of all time now," said Spitz, speaking to US television on Saturday.

"He will probably be the single greatest athlete compared to anybody in any century - the 20th, the 21st, whatever."

That's a big claim, as "whatever" is a very long time.

Phelps is certainly the greatest swimmer of all time. And he would be justified in being miffed if he doesn't get the world athlete of the year accolade when those gongs are handed out.

But is he really what Maurice Greene has tattooed on his shoulder - the Greatest Of All Time? How can you possibly define that? How can you compare the apples and pears of so many different sports and eras?

You can't. But it's not going to stop people trying.

I'm not going to attempt to come up with definitive criteria for judging this or suggest a list of candidates - I'll only forget something or somebody. I'll leave that to you.

What I will do, however, is suggest where the biggest problems will come in really nailing this down.

The first major head-scratcher is the barriers to entry for each sport. To put things crudely, far more people can aspire to running fast than swimming fast.

Rightly or wrongly, swimming is still, by and large, a middle-class sport done well by a few wealthy countries. Yes, there are exceptions to this and 21 different countries that did win medals in the pool in Beijing.

But the fact remains over half of the 96 medals on offer were won by Australia and the US. Throw in China, the rest of the G7 and Russia, and you're up to more than three-quarters.

There will be a far greater spread of medals in athletics.

Another way of looking at this is the availability of opportunities. Even in a wealthy country like the UK, there is a postcode lottery element to swimming success due to our shortage of 50m pools and the concentration of top-notch coaching around those pools.

And perhaps another way of looking at this is to compare Phelps' achievements to other dominant sportsmen and women in fields that require a high degree of coaching expertise and technical input.

Putting aside the inevitable "are they really sportsmen, though?" claims, Tiger Woods is as dominant in his sport as Phelps is in his (and will break all of golf's records before he's done), and Michael Schumacher was one helluva driver.

But can "athletes" like that ever really claim to the "greatest"? What they are doing is such a specific thing and is only open to a minority of the global population.

It's a tricky one, however, because you cannot completely dismiss the achievements of somebody from one of these more esoteric disciplines just because not everybody has had a turn. Phelps, Schumacher, Woods and many more besides could all still be the greatest.

But it's a difficult argument to make stick for most people, which is why the majority inevitably come back to more accessible sports.

And why whenever I'm asked for my greatest sportsman of all time, I usually say Diego Maradona. Who, strangely enough, is rumoured to be in town and desperate to meet Bolt.

Fair play to Phelps, though. Perhaps we should postpone this debate until he's done. He's not finished winning Olympic medals yet, and neither is Bolt.

Matt Slater is a BBC Sport journalist focusing on sports news. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 09:43am on 17 Aug 2008, Moutarde wrote:

    I think the old argument that a medal in the pool in anything other than the freestyle is worth less than one on the track is a very good one. Further than that, by winning 8 medals on his own, Phelps has massively devalued the "sport" of swimming. Could we realistically expect Bolt to now win the 100m relay, 200m, 400m, and the relays in both, as well as the 800m and 1500m and take his track tally to 8? Roughly speaking, I'd say 3 golds in the pool are worth about one on the track or indeed in any of the other disciplines which generally require dedicated focus on one, single event.

    Good point about Maradona being the best ever sportsman, by the way; to not just become the best player of a sport which is played by billions, but to also lead a fairly mediocre team to victory in a world cup is something only he has done and it will never be repeated. Can we say the same about Phelps? No.

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  • 2. At 10:17am on 17 Aug 2008, SamMcElroy wrote:

    Greatness simply IS. It is a realm shared by the few who have, above all, succeeded in capturing the hearts and romantic imagination of the world by the very unfathomable scale of dominance and achievement which they have imposed on their individual sport. Those who share Greatness transmit to us all a sense of the beauty of the human spirit when at its most committed. We sensed it with the epic achievements of Sir Steven Redgrave, in a strength/endurance sport in which he endured for five Olympiads, while battling colitis and diabetes, no less. We witnessed it in the emphatic elegance of Carl Lewis, in the emblematic courage of Jesse Owens, and in the Lazarian resurrection of Lance Armstrong in winning seven Tours de France, arguably the most gruelling sporting gauntlet on earth. Phelps numerical statistics alone do not qualify him as great, rather his enthralling demonstration to the whole world that humanity has a beating heart. He is in select company, but not alone. Thank you for this momentous week, Michael Phelps.

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  • 3. At 10:18am on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Its interesting isn't it that both Chris Boardman (Cycling) and Michael Johnson (Athletics) have both raised the question about the sheer number of medals available in swimming.

    I don't think its sour grapes either, particularly from Chris who is such a modest man.

    Phelp's eight golds is an enourmous achievement but lets look at the stats.

    Other swimmers, Spitz, Otto, Biondi have won 6 or more medals at a games.

    There are more multi medallists in swimming in modern games save for any other sport than perhaps gymnastics.

    If you swim 100/200 free you automatically should you be the best in your country also get 3 relay opportunities in the 4x100 free, the 4x200 free and the 4x100 medley.

    Chris Hoy who looks odds on to win 3 golds only has three events he can compete in as cycling doesn't have the variation swimming has. Indeed there are only 7 men's track events and only 3 womens.

    Look at the way also that cycling had to give up the kilo in order for them to have BMX.

    Did swimming lose an event when the 50m free or the 10,000m open water was introduced? No.

    Lets look also at how few countries win the medals in swimming.

    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.

    What about the number of multiple medallists at a single games?

    Number of people winning more than one Gold at a games between 1992 and 2000
    Athletics on average 4 from 42 or so events
    Rowing on average 3 from 14 events Swimming on average 13 from 32 events

    And if your sport is say something like Judo you will only get a changce of winning one medal per games.

    Do swimmers train any harder? (Although I would say being an ex-triathlete it is certainly the most boring!) Are they any fitter than a comparable athlete, rower or cyclist?

    I for one cannot see any justification for the sheer number of additional chances swimmers get to win medals in comparison to other sports. The different strokes are a throwback and we wouldn't have this non-sense if swimming was restricted to freestyle and nothing else.

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  • 4. At 10:24am on 17 Aug 2008, Rob wrote:

    Maybe they should introduce running backwards? I think that would only be fair if you're to compare the two. Phelps may have more opportunities to win gold, but in order to do so, he does have to master more skills than a sprinter does, too. And his determination as a champion is shown in the fact that even when he wasn't the out-and-out dominant swimmer in a race, he still had the determination to take gold.

    If I had to choose a place where you'd find the top athlete of all time, though, I'd not look much beyond the Decathlon. Right there, you'll find a group of athletes whose combination of all around endurance, strength, speed and skill that is unmatched in just about any other field I can think of. So I'm picking Daley Thompson, and I'm sticking with it.

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  • 5. At 10:26am on 17 Aug 2008, aliswimmingspurs wrote:

    I am really sorry but I have to respond to what Moutarde has to say.

    I can understand that swimming is not exactly a spectator sport, and every Saturday around the country when 1000's of youngsters/older swimmers compete in Galas, it does tend to be people that are connected to swimming that come and watch. This my dad argues is that you can not see expressions on the face, but I am sure others can argue different points.

    However I can not accept that a medal in the pool is not worth one on the track? If this is how you feel, please go and take Rebecca Addlingtons achievements (and may I add she is from Mansfield and her nearest 50m pool is Sheffield which I am pretty sure NOVA don’t use) she has come from a normal working class background and has worked so hard (over 10 sessions a week, getting up at 4am for 2 hour training) to achieve the same dream that Kelly Holmes had, only a decade earlier. Addlington was never the best junior, and neither was roger black, they both symbolise what I personally think is great, "sheer determination to achieve your dreams"

    What Phelps achieved I feel eclipses Marradonna, who personally had a talent but abused it, along with Gascoigne and George Best. (To keep the football connection) these were great footballers, who we only consider great judging what could have been and what was lost.

    You cold argue that a lot of the Olympic sports are only for the Wealthier nations (i.e. rowing..Sir Steve Redgrave is he not great?) Just because a sport can be deemed a minority is it not great? Surely as it is supposedly dominated by the wealthier nations, surely this must mean that it has a higher competitive rate? And please, Bolt surely doesn't train in Jamaica?

    All I am trying to say is that please don’t taint Phelps with the "well you couldn't do it in athletics" brush, as yes running 100metres in a fast time is great but surely winning 8 gold’s in 8 different disciplines isn’t worth the same accolade?

    And I can assure you that Nottingham forest footballers will earn more than Addlington ever will. (that’s just a personal point that 1000's of swimmers who will reach district/national level couldn't even dream of living off the sport alone...OH I seem to have opened the whole professional/ amateur debate....which as you are all aware has a very strong connection to the Olympic games!)

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  • 6. At 10:44am on 17 Aug 2008, rejs71 wrote:

    All the arguments surround who is the greatest ignore the fact that despite the weight of numbers in swimming medals, Phelps has had to swim 18 times in 8 days to win his events, plus the 60km+ training he puts in each week.

    Only someone like Lance Armstrong had to endure for that period of time in consectutive days, and cycling had just as intence a training ragime as swimming. Where Armstrong pips Phelps, in my opinion, is his longevity and his sheer bloody minded determination to win despite all his adversity.

    In terms of team work cycling, swimming, athletics, formula 1, football etc all rely on teamwork to acheive the stratospheric results, while golf and tennis are singular pursuits which require personal mental toughness to win.

    The best sports people are the ones who stand out, shine bright, and grasp victory by the scruff of the neck. Maridona grasp victory through virtue of a hand, and his actions after the World Cup meant his star fizzled quickly. Tiger Woods is dominant in an age where there are many good golfers. Fangio won 5 world championships in an age when death was an everpresent spectre in F1. Carl Lewis will forever be tained by drugs, and no matter how bright his star shone it was eclipsed by that.

    Usain Bolt is a great athelete, but his time of stratospheric glory will only come if he can repeat his victories in four years time. Michael Phelps has had two stella olympics, and if he wins more medals in London he will cement his position as the greatest of all Olympian athletes. Maybe he should try his hand a diving, just for some diversity.

    Over all any accusations that athletics is more egalitarian need to be countered with the fact that even in the 'rich' nations to be an elite swimmer in the Phelps or Thorpe mould requires the right genes, right coaching, and a determination to win. China is not 'rich' but they have a determination to win at all costs.

    So who is my greatest athlete of all time? Michael Phelps would be, but having evaluated all the athletes put forward I would have to say Lance Armstrong, because he overcame cancer, drug cheats, and is a great guy to boot.

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  • 7. At 10:49am on 17 Aug 2008, dingaling10 wrote:

    At aliswimmingspurs:

    Bolt does in fact still train in Jamaica, as does Asafa Powell...

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  • 8. At 10:54am on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Lance Armstrong? A great guy? Greg LeMond might have something to say about that!

    And how can you compare Armstrong to Eddy Merckx who dominated cycling. Merckx himself would have likely won 7 Tours de France had he not been advised not to start one due to the hostility of the French and became a victim of violence froma French spectator in another which rendered him unable to eat solid food.

    Merckx won over half the races he started and won absolutely everything there was to win on the road. With no specific training he set an hour record at the end of a season.

    Most career victories by a professional cyclist: 525.
    Most victories in one season: 54.
    Most stage victories in the Tour de France: 34.
    Most stage victories in one Tour de France: 8, in 1970 and 1974 (shared with Charles Pélissier in 1930 and Freddy Maertens in 1976).
    Most days with the yellow jersey in the Tour de France: 96.
    The only cyclist to have won the yellow, green and red polka-dotted jersey in the same Tour de France (1969).
    Most victories in the Classic cycle races: 28.
    Most victories in one single Classic cycle race: 7 (in Milan-Sanremo).

    There is simply no comparison.

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  • 9. At 10:57am on 17 Aug 2008, Donald Donaldson wrote:

    to be honest you cant compare its like comparing a darts player to a gynast, they both have certain good qualities etc. lets just say theyre both great

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  • 10. At 11:11am on 17 Aug 2008, DrD wrote:

    Bearing in mind the recent history of the 100 meters and the nature of his win, I'll know what to think in a few days time when the lab results are back...

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  • 11. At 11:14am on 17 Aug 2008, dudepod45 wrote:

    This is really scraping the bottom of the barrel:a pathetic piece of journalism. Wouldn't the licence fee be better spent encouraging journalists to do more in-depth analytical pieces rather than this ephemeral tabloid stuff?

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  • 12. At 11:14am on 17 Aug 2008, kwajimu wrote:

    The greatest of all time, regardless of sport? Easy...Sir Donald Bradman - and I'm an Englishman!

    No, it's not an Olympic sport, but that was not a criteria. It is the second most popular team sport in the world (behind football), and it is played around the world, in almost every country, either at a professional or amateur level.

    How does one judge greatness?

    It is not purely a matter of statistics, as the conditions in which a sport is played change over time, as do the rules, and the natures of the individual various arenas in which the game is played. There is something intangible to greatness, something immeasurable by objective observation, and so inevitably this issue is reduced to subjective assessment and comparative analysis.

    So, why Sir Donald Bradman, then?

    He played not only one of the most popular sports in the world, he excelled in a manner, and established a career record of achievement, far above and beyond that accomplished by anyone else who played the sport.

    Take but one example, and examine his lifetime batting average in first class cricket, and also his career batting average in test match (ie international) cricket, and the disparity between the Don's performance and even the nearest competitor is so wide as to be embarrassing. For both of the averages cited above, Bradman's score is one and half times greater than the second-best in the entire history of a game, which has been played for nearly a thousand recorded years.

    With all due respect to Phelps, Bolt, Owens, Maradona, Pele, Laver, Federer, Hogan, Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Stanley Mathews, Michael Jordan and the rest, their career achievements are and were simply pedestrian in comparison.

    And then there's the small matter of subjective assessment as I mentioned above. Esteemed by the fans worldwide (including those of competing nations), as well as by those he played against, not only for his exemplary character (as displayed by his unstinting sportsmanship), but for his sporting prowess, and there is no valid argument against the fact that Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest of all time.

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  • 13. At 11:22am on 17 Aug 2008, kudzz_ox wrote:

    i agree with the above he made it look slightly too easy!!
    or maybe we're just lettin the media interfer with our judgement!!
    its pretty hard to compare a swimmer to an athlete because what they do are completely different things and fact is swimming or not swimming phelps is the best and he's proved that to us in the past 8 days!!
    swimming is just as good as 100m!!

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  • 14. At 11:25am on 17 Aug 2008, Dave wrote:

    1Welshbloke, that's just Merckx. Hinault, Anquetil, Coppi, Bartali, Indurain - even the likes of Kelly, Fignon etc are all much more impressive than Lance "One Race a Year" Armstrong!

    As far as Olympians go, this year I would put Bolt way above Phelps, but watch out for Bradley Wiggins. He's already won one, but if he gets the other two, that's the equivalent of about 15 in the pool, same with Chris Hoy if he wins the sprint.

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  • 15. At 11:28am on 17 Aug 2008, LeftHookLarry wrote:

    As with any debate personal opinions are divided and often polarised by the following factors:

    1) Bias towards a particular sport (often something ingrained from a very young age)

    2) Historical knowledge of point 1 (dependant on how learned the individual is)

    3) Weighting of achievements

    4) the Amateur / Professional divide (Most people being more interested in professional sport from a spectator point of view, and therefore unaware of the preparation required for some disciplines)

    5) Any personal experience of a particular sport (reinforced by schooling from a young age)

    6) National leaning towards some sports over others (again, possibly reinforced by schooling from a participation point of view, and influenced by media coverage from the armchair)

    7) Dependant on the reader's age, the era they consider most memorable (nostalgia and sentimentality can be a strong factors)

    It is simply unfair to compare different disciplines on the basis of the different preparation and types of strain that they put on the human body.

    It is less unfair, but equally difficult to compare greats from one era to another in a particular sport in largely due to the leaps forward in coaching and technology.

    Still, there's nothing like a good old fashioned debate and it's always interesting to hear who people consider 'The Greatest'.

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  • 16. At 11:30am on 17 Aug 2008, Grendel5 wrote:

    Perhaps I may have misunderstood but wasn't Lance Armstrong once tested positive for EPO -

    Michael Phelps performance has been superb - to win or be party to 8 gold medals, nothing should take away what is a magnificent performance. BUT, Usain Bolt's 90 metre win was something else - the time he ran and the way he won it, celebrating from a full 10 yards to still run a world record over 100 metres -

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  • 17. At 11:36am on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    "Phelps has had to swim 18 times in 8 days to win his events"

    And if Chris Hoy wins 3 gold medals he will have had to race between 16 and 19 times in 5 days depending on whether he has to race 2 or 3 times in the sprints quarters, semis and finals.

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  • 18. At 11:45am on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    For me, Haile Gebreselassie is the greatest sportsman that ever lived. I there was a medal for 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, 9000, 10000 an 11000 meters each. Gebre would have won 9 gold medals in one race, let alone on 9 different occasions! The little man comes from Ethiopia and may not be remembered in a few years. May I add that where you come from also has something to do with your perceived 'greatness'..

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  • 19. At 11:46am on 17 Aug 2008, Socrates the Gooner wrote:

    Hi Matt,
    I don't think your comment that swimming is a middle class sport done in a few wealthy countries is fair.
    As for being middle class, I seem to remember that competitive swimming has very high participation rates compared with other sports in UK, but I can't get hold of the numbers. Could you find them for us? Surely the participation is higher than rowing, velodrome cycling or sailing.

    As for being restricted to wealthy countries, this could be said of virtually all the olympic sports, with the exception of running. There are far more exclusive sports in the games, such as dressage and fencing.
    21 countries have won swimming medals at this games. The fact that USA and Australia win the most is not because other countries don't have pools. It is down to the organisation of the sport in those countries. Compare swimming to gymnastics, where only 5 countries have won medals so far, even though the sport does not involve complex equipment. Any country could excel if it made gymnastics a priority.

    As for who is the greatest, I don't think we can answer this. How can we compare Phelps with Tiger Woods? I think they are both awesome athletes. I prefer the more modest title of "most decorated olympian".

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  • 20. At 11:46am on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 16.

    Lance was retrospectively tested for EPO when L'Equipe allegedly used a frozen sample from a previous Tour de France.

    There is as of today no conclusive proof that Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs during his cycling career although he did receive EPO as part of his cancer treatment.

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  • 21. At 11:50am on 17 Aug 2008, Hayvek wrote:

    Cricket? What a ridiculous comment. Internationally its a minority sport. There's bascially only 8 nations that complete at a decent level. Beyond the commonwealth, most people don't know what it is. Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis are much more popular. Considering the popularity of Table Tennis in China that probably has more participants than Cricket.

    There are too many medals up for grabs in a lot of sports. far too many in the pool, on the cycling track (Keirin and Points are just silly) and rowing (lightweight rowing? what? why not have lightweight sprinting then?) are three examples that pop into my head.

    As for who's the greatest, I think if people bare in mind that the previous highest gold medal count in the pool was 6 (i think) medals, it puts Phelps 8 in perspective. However, the people they're currently comparing Phelps to have only won 3/4 gold medals in one Olympics. Even in the pool with it's over representation at the Olympics, Phelps has to be a greater Olympiad than someone who won half as many medals as him.

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  • 22. At 11:51am on 17 Aug 2008, Matt Slater wrote:

    Hello all, nice to see a polite debate has emerged, lovely stuff. I'm at the rowing and need to crack on with something else (dudepod45, I can't promise it will be in-depth analytical but I'll try to make it more broadsheet for you) so I'll race through some of your comments.

    Moutarde, you've correctly summed up exactly why Maradona is the man for me...with Michael Jordan a very close second. But then I'm more of a team-sport kind of guy. Greatest individual athlete might still be Ali, for me.

    SamMcElroy, very nice.

    1welshbloke, you make very good points...points many here have been making. Too many of the swimming races aren't specific good at one, you're very likely to be good at a few. And there are a few too many relays too. Phelps could choose a very different schedule in London and do just as well. Could Bolt?

    I read somewhere that there were only 13 swimming golds on offer in 1956, there are now 32. I'd hate to think that American TV money has had anything to do with that sport being allowed to grow whereas others have had to trim old events if they wanted to add new ones.

    Aliswimmingspurs, yep, I hear what you're saying and agree, particularly re: Adlington. But as somebody pointed out above, Bolt and the vast majority of the Jamaican team train in relatively spartan conditions in Kingston.

    Rejs71, I love the idea of Phelps having a "stella" Olympics. He likes his grub for sure but I think he's off the booze these days. I'm also not sure about your China "not being rich" point. You might be right in strictly economic terms but elite Chinese sport is very well resourced...the government has ploughed money in and that policy is bearing fruit here. I'm not saying it's the right way to go, though.

    1welshbloke and dubious1977 both make good points about Lance Armstrong's claims for being the greatest cyclist of all time...but I'll leave that one for you to hammer out.

    And on!

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  • 23. At 11:52am on 17 Aug 2008, CNASKI wrote:

    Bearing in mind the recent history of the 100 meters and the nature of his win, I'll know what to think in a few days time when the lab results are back...

    I sort of agree with you here cause is has been a long time since we have witnessed a 100 metres winner without any controversy and the manner in which Bolt won was unthink of and hardly anyone will have predicted that sort of dominance.
    I really hope he is clean though and surely my greatest athlete of all time is Phelps!

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  • 24. At 11:54am on 17 Aug 2008, Matt Slater wrote:

    Fair points, Socratesthegooner, can I come back to you on that? I'm on a deadline for something else. You're definitely right about swimming participation being very high but it all depends how you define "participation"!! Check out Sport England's website for those stats, fairly sure they're all there.

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  • 25. At 11:56am on 17 Aug 2008, Mokumdevils wrote:

    I would have to say that Phelps record is easily the standout moment of this games

    Yesterday what we say with Bolt was awe inspiring but he is in a drug laden and tarnished sport. I would like to think that come London and if Bolt is still working his magic and passed every drug test available then I will hold my hand up

    Phelps to beat spitz record is the stand out moment followed closey by Bolt yesterday

    If Phelps was BRITISH you would not even attempt to write this article........

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  • 26. At 11:56am on 17 Aug 2008, onithor wrote:

    A gold is a gold is a gold. Unfortunately not all tournaments share the laudatory if deeply flawed egalitarian of Olympic silverware. Is Phelps the greatest athlete ever? This is a a subjective question that shouldn't be dignified with an answer which couches itself in objective rhetoric. I will concede that he is the greatest Olympic swimmer as of yet. Usain Bolt, well he certainly lives up to his name with his insane bolt in the 100m. Yet, the tarnished sports of athletics has tempered any feeling of awestruck, wide-eye, amazement at his accomplishment. Athletics is a disgraced event rebuilding its tattered image. If Usain Bolt is clean then he is worthy of all the praise that comes to him.

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  • 27. At 11:56am on 17 Aug 2008, bush_n_blair wrote:

    In reply to Duffersan who commented that > Bearing in mind the recent history of the 100 meters and the nature of his win, I'll know what to think in a few days time when the lab results are back...

    You obviously haven't been following Bolt's career, he was breaking records since the age of 12. At 16 he was considered a great prospective world class athlete, now at 21 he's just smashed the 100 m world record in the olympic final with a bit more to come.

    And yes he still trains in Jamaica, not the plush over indulgent collegiate campuses of some American university.

    He's young, he's fit, he's athletic and he's enjoying himself. You do not get 6ft 5 inch 100m world class sprinters coming along every few minutes like a bus does. This is the real deal, he's one of a kind, he's a kid and his unusual pre race routine is a joy to watch. He'd psyched out his rivals in the race before the starters pistol went.

    Drug cheats like Ben Johnson and Justin Gatlin et al were all at the wrong end of their careers and in their late 20's when they got found out, you cannot tarnish Bolt with the same brush as those unscrupulous cheats.

    Bolt has yet to reach his peak, London 2012 will be frightening, not for him but for the rest who will be contemplating taking part in the 100 and 200m.

    As the great Michael Johnson said , Athletics needs the Usain Bolts of this world to keep the integrity and interest alive. I for one am looking forward to Bolt beating Johnson's 200 M time of 19.32 which I was privileged to have seen at the time and I thought it was the greatest ever, now that in itself is in threat.

    Well done Usain Bolt for a great 100m and when was the last time you saw an olympic champion who'd just shattered the world record do a dance routine like that? lol...

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  • 28. At 11:58am on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 19

    Matt - the stats show that in previous games the medals in gymnastics are shared out amongst more countries than in swimming.

    In the last Olympics 16 countries won medals in 18 events. The previous Olympics it was 15.

    So 54 medals shared among 15 or 16 countries.

    And as posted previously here's some other sports
    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.

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  • 29. At 12:06pm on 17 Aug 2008, last-gasp wrote:

    Emile Zatopek won three golds in 1952, one of them in the Marathon, an event he had never competed in or even run before. That should give him some claim to being the G.O.A.T. It's hardly likely we will ever see anyone win Gold again when making an athletics event debut !

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  • 30. At 12:07pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time. Tiger Woods is the greatest Golfer of all time. Haile Gebreselassie is the greatest sports man of all time. Why? 95% of the worlds population will not wake up very morning and access a pool or golf course. Everyone has a pair of legs and can wake up every morning and practice running.

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  • 31. At 12:08pm on 17 Aug 2008, mysteriousRascal wrote:

    Whilst I was interested to see the mens 100m final and to be informed of Phelps' progress I am now sick and tired of hearing about them. At the end of every tag there are comments about these events that in no way were affected by British involvment. The coverage is excessive, we even had to sit through a press conference given by Phelps! Why? I am not even slightly interested in what he had or has to say. As I type this the BBC are talking yet again about the 100m mens final. Unbelievable on a weekend that has so far been an absolute triumph for team GB.

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  • 32. At 12:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Yes matt - 13 golds on offer in 1956 (7 men 6 women), 11 (6 and 5) in 1952. By 1968 it had expanded to 29 (15 and 14) and now stands at a whopping 34!!!

    Butterfly wasn't even a separate event till 1956.

    In the same time frame athletics has expanded from 33 events to 48 - but mainly through expansion of the women's programme to have the same number of events as men. The men's programme has been relatively static in terms of number of events.

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  • 33. At 12:18pm on 17 Aug 2008, I Am Not The Best Paul Scholes Is _Save Our 606_ wrote:

    poor article, would expect better from the BBC. it takes more than one sentence to make a paragraph. Anyway, Phelps is far better, he has been performig at his unbelievably high level for over a decade, while Bolt has just appeared, albeit in spectacular fashion, however he has only one one olypic medal, compared to phelps' 14

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  • 34. At 12:21pm on 17 Aug 2008, archeron wrote:

    Just wondering - why is all this debate sparked by Phelps and Bolt - surely neither of them have any particular claim to the ridiculous title of 'greatest olympian'.

    Surely the mark of greatness is how you perform relative to others in your sport. So Redgrave with his five consecutive golds must be up there, although Elisabeta Lipa of Romania also has five golds and more medals overall, with two silvers and one bronze to Redgrave's one bronze.

    Bolt won in style and smashed the record - this has been done before by other athletes. Phelps won eight golds, something which hasn't been done before, but as others have pointed out, isn't so far away from Spitz and indeed some others who have won six golds.

    Looking at greatness like this cuts across all the rubbish about comparing then value of different medals (one on the track is worth three in the pool...)

    It also stops all this Matthew Syed-esque trash that 'elitist sports' are easier to get medals in. This works on the logic that the higher a population the more high performance athletes will emerge from it. But of course this line of argument runs counter to the other line that only rich countries can win medals in most sports, because only they can fund the training and make the best of their talent pool. The performance of Australia is indicitive of this, they have punched well above their weight for many years.

    Sportsman in these elite sports such as rowing etc do have a smaller talent pool to compete with, but this talent pool is rigorously utilised; all the competitors have large scale resources behind them and highly organised national programmes. So this talent pool argument rather falls down.

    So who stands out most from all the other competitors in there event? I don't have a clue - any suggestions?

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  • 35. At 12:23pm on 17 Aug 2008, 40-Love wrote:

    "How can you compare the apples and pears of so many different sports and eras?

    You can't."

    Dead right. Why not admire the whole fruit basket in its beautiful variety instead?

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  • 36. At 12:25pm on 17 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    The greatest sports person of all time is Hulk Hogan. The man dominated his sport for more than a decade and still wrestles now. Unfortunately as he is awful at greco-roman wrestling, he has never had the chance to show his skills on an Olympic stage

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  • 37. At 12:33pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    I think the issue has arisen out of the press (and the BBC in particular) making the ludicrous statement that Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever due to the number of gold medals he has won.

    We've had people saying how touch his schedule is (18 races in 8 days)- but no less tough surely than that of Chris Hoy who has to race on average 3 times a day for 5 days! Sorry to bring this one up again but Phelps gets 8 golds for his schedule and if Hoy wins again he ends up with 3.

    Does it make Phelps greater than Hoy at this Olympics?

    Does it matter?

    Probably not - but what it does demonstrate is how certain sports dominate the Olympic games and how unfair that seems on other sports and the trained athletes that compete in those also.

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  • 38. At 12:33pm on 17 Aug 2008, Gareth wrote:

    Untill they have 'special' races to allow you to run backwards, legs together and legs wide apart as well as the traditional fastest style - and all the relay combinations, a swimmer is always going to receive more medals than a track athlete. 96 gold medals available for one sport is just a joke. The same goes really for weightlifters etc who can compete at different weight levels. The olympics should simply be about who is the fastest, strongest, goes furthest or has best technique in a sport. Full stop. Otherwise give me my gold medal for being the fastest 73kg, 5'10", 28yr old between here and my coffee in a hopping race starting in the next 5 minutes!

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  • 39. At 12:33pm on 17 Aug 2008, 00whitey00 wrote:

    I think the reason everyone gets so argumentative over this whole topic is because people tend to confuse terms

    phelps has been claimed as the greatest olympian of all time, which on medals alone seems perfectly reasonable

    The greatest athlete of all time is a tougher one to call and im not even going to attempt to make a call on that

    then this blog brings in greatest sportsman, another tough one to call but that one is more likely to lie in the more mainstream sports, maradona, pele, etc.

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  • 40. At 12:34pm on 17 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    On the athletics v swimming number of medal events.

    Swimming does not have any equivalent of the field events so a lof medals are clawed back through the javelin, discus,shot putt,hammer, long-jump, triple-jump, high jump, There are also hurdle events (110m,400m and steeple chase) and the hepthalon and decathlon events.

    The most medals in athletics that can be won, would be four I would suggest. A sprinter could do 100m,200m, 4x100m relay and perhaps long-jump (i.e. Carl Lewis).

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  • 41. At 12:36pm on 17 Aug 2008, Richard Morris wrote:

    Given that sportsman has (at least) two meaning, there is no way I can accept even a suggestion that Maradonna - who fails spectacularly on the second definition - could be the greatest sportsman of all time. Personally, he isn't evem the greatest footballer.

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  • 42. At 12:36pm on 17 Aug 2008, NoRtHeRnMiDz™ wrote:

    Adlington is better than Phelps and Bolt.

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  • 43. At 12:37pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    I earlier suggested Gebreselassie but I may be wrong. Alexander Karelin is a Russian wrestler who won Olympic golds in '88, '92 and '96. He lost in the final in Sydney, getting the silver - the only loss in his wrestling career. Karelin went 6 years without dropping a single point in all competitions. Karelin, who managed to complete a doctorate in physical education when active in his sport is famous for saying "I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs.".
    Surely, this man must be the G.O.A.T!

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  • 44. At 12:40pm on 17 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    I'd like to think that Hulk Hogan could get three medals. He's be good at judo, so he could get a medal there, maybe kick some arse in the weight lifting and then win the shot-putt.

    It would still put him five short of Phelps, but its not bad for a man who wears a yellow leotard.

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  • 45. At 12:42pm on 17 Aug 2008, NoRtHeRnMiDz™ wrote:

    As for swimming having more medals to win etc.

    A good sprinter could easily win:

    100m, 4x100m, 110m hurdles, 200m, 400m, 4x400m, 400m hurdles.

    That's 7 golds!

    But they don't want to! LAZY!

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  • 46. At 12:42pm on 17 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    No the GOAT is HULK HOGAN!

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  • 47. At 12:47pm on 17 Aug 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    They could be compared only if Usain also ran in

    100m backwards
    100m with one tied behing your back
    100m whilst reciting a Shakespeare soliloquoy
    100m in the style of a cheetah
    100m on a Wednesday

    Bolt is the best because he is more entertaining

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  • 48. At 12:49pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Its not 96 gold medals its 96 medals in swimming.

    As for judging him the greatest Olympian based purely on number of golds that surely is farcial.

    Let's take an event like Judo. How many medals can you win in one games? One.

    So how long would it take you to match Phelps gold medal haul of 14? 72 years.

    In other words it is impossible.

    Even if you 're looking just at his haul of 8 in one games it would take a judoku 28 years!

    In means in reality does it not that in order to become the greatest Olympian you only really have two options to consider....swimming or gymnastics.

    Which is why using number of gold medals as justification is farcial. I've posted elsewhere that it is impossible to compare sports - it just irks me that swimming in particular stands out amongst all the sports as one that makes it easier to win multiple medals. (I'm not saying that winning a single medal is easy, but what I am saying is that if you have won a medal in swimming the chances of you winning another are higher than in any other sport).

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  • 49. At 12:49pm on 17 Aug 2008, grooverblooter wrote:

    I can't help but be skeptical about Bolt's exploits. While the event itself was a thrilling spectacle, the credibility of athletics, in particular sprint events, is tarnished. 100m champions of '88,'92, 2000 and 2004 have failed tests, or have been suspected of drug use.

    Bolt is a relative novice to the 100m, and has shaved an incredible 0.34 seconds off his best time of last season (a respectable yet relatively modest 10.03) in the space of a year.

    Victor Conte of BALCO exposed the testing system and its inadequacies. Several athletes were only exposed when disgraced coach Trevor Graham provided a syringe full of the previously undetectable 'The Clear' to authorities.

    The link below is for the letter written by Conte to Dwain Chambers, which was requested by authorities to aid in improving testing systems.

    It makes for fascinating reading.

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  • 50. At 12:55pm on 17 Aug 2008, Carole wrote:

    Fantastic achievement by BOTH men. Michael's 8 cannot compete with the 'fastest men on earth' racing, then Bolt winning like that??? Wow! I think both of them are standouts from Beijing - amazing!

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  • 51. At 12:58pm on 17 Aug 2008, goatie wrote:

    Two things strike me about the debate.
    One is that of the relative values of different sports, and what they allow their competitors to do.
    Phelps has gained his 8 golds by swimming, where you have a whole range of styles and lengths and both team and individual races available. That could be said to make it a little too easy.
    Compare that to rowing. Yes, a range of events, but you don't see someone doing scull and coxless fours and eights, so that kind of limits what they can acheive. Hence, Sir Steve Redgrave can make a very unique claim with his five consecutive golds for his one discipline.

    And this is the other side of the question. Does number or longevity count for more?

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  • 52. At 12:59pm on 17 Aug 2008, The Rhymenoceros With A Mic In His Hand wrote:

    Bolt and Phelps are no where near being the greatest sportsman of all time

    Redgrave- 5 golds and 1 bronze in 5 different olympics, how can either be compared to that

    Bolt has one what the 100m and what else exactly, it was a thrilling race but that means nothing, athletics gets far too much coverage and the same goes for Phelps.

    Hoy and Wiggins have the opportunity to win 3 golds in a far more physically demanding sport, a feat far greater than either of them.

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  • 53. At 1:00pm on 17 Aug 2008, Greenwich-kid wrote:

    What's all this about swimming too many events, as said above many of these events are womens would you deny them the chance to compete?

    Of course if you are good at 100m you're likley to be good at 200m in the same way Michael Jonhson was 200m and 400m champion Athletics has had multiple double champions and people doubling up Ovett and Coe in the 800 and 1500 anyone? Oh yes 5000m and 10,000m and the Marathon, would you deny Zatopec? Or Pavlo Nurmi or maybe only allow people to compete in one event? Some of this just sounds like sour grapes, and since when was it that if training is boring an issue? You make of it what you can, I've also heard many joggers say they are bored witless as well.

    To take a single event and try and compare and contrast Bolt and Phelps is just madness, it's simple you can't. Phelps one of the greatest Olympions of course he is, Bolt, not yet; was it the greatest ever 100m, of course it was, give Bolt time and he could very well be ONE of the greatest, but one Medal does not
    "The Greatest Olympian make".

    I guess given all the bad press about drugs in athletics and the dirth or British medals there, then anything that can be used to promote it is a good thing.

    Maybe we should just go back to being happy for all the people that have won medals regardless of the sport and stop the bickering about if there are too many swimming or rowing events (By the way I come from a sport that has on a number of times nearly been thrown out of the Olympics and I don't see the swimming events as a problem). These events are there, they don't detract from the Olympic schedule and no-one suffers from this, unless you're sad emough to be uspet that someone is in a sport that has more chances or medals.

    My thoughts are that Bolts looks like the perfect 100 swimmer, and given 10 years of dedication to technique and training and getting up to train at 6am and then being back in the pool at 10pm then who knows maybe he could do the same.

    I would say surely in competition you take your opportunity regardless of how many events you could do.

    People who win multiple events are just exceptional athletes, please do not take this away from them

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  • 54. At 1:01pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    Bolt is a relative novice to the 100m, and has shaved an incredible 0.34 seconds off his best time of last season (a respectable yet relatively modest 10.03) in the space of a year.

    In my eyes, that gives him credibility. If Tyson Gay or some other runner who has been around for a while started doing what Bolt is doing then I would be skeptical.

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  • 55. At 1:02pm on 17 Aug 2008, squeeze-box wrote:

    Everyone seems to making it sound like phelps just showed up and got in the pool. He worked hard and has trained almost his entire life to get ther and achieve what he has achieved. I've been a swimmer and a coach and it is not easy.

    It is not possible to say he is the greatest athlete of all time because you can't compare different sports but he is a great olympic athlete, why is everyone so preoccupied with having one great?

    He hasn't said he is the greatest it is the media who have started this.
    Every sport has it's greats and they inspire people to do that sport!

    Also, you can hardly say Bolt is the greatest even if he goes on to win lots of medals, he is only the fastest in his speed. If we really wanted to have a greatest athlete we would have tyo have athletes compete in every single event,it's never going to happen so stop belittling one man's achievement because it doesn't fit into some nice perfect little world.

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  • 56. At 1:03pm on 17 Aug 2008, hurrahforwally wrote:

    I have to disagree with some of the comments saying that a medal in swimming is not worth a medal in athletics. I swam for a few years in school, and for someone to be good at all the different strokes like Phelps is astounding. In athletics, you train your body to be a better runner. And as long as you're born with long legs... you are the one who determines which events you want to train your body to be good at. In swimming, you're born with the body for a certain stroke. Butterflyers are broader shouldered. Backstrokers often are very long-armed and long-legged. For Phelps to be good at all the strokes and to train for all the strokes is a feat in itself. It's very uncommon. When Spitz won his 7 medals, they were only in freestyle and butterfly. Not breaststroke or backstroke. Phelps has won an array of medals across all four strokes.
    And then there's the fact that swimming is the best exercise for your body. It uses more muscles than any other sport. Michael Phelps eats 12000 calories a DAY. that shows how much work goes into being good at this sport.
    There's no way that athletics should be considered harder or worth more than swimming.

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  • 57. At 1:04pm on 17 Aug 2008, luckylea wrote:

    Phelps is a great sportsman, no doubt about it. But to say that he is the greatest sportsman is undermining the achievements of others whose chosen sport can, at best, win one single gold medal, eg. weightlifting, boxing, judo, etc etc. What is worse are those team sport such as volleyball, basketball, football etc. According to the current medal calculation, each football team winner can at best win 1/12+ gold medal, while Michael Phelps has the opportunity to win 6 + 2 team medal. In other words, rough calculation show that the ratio of Phelps gold opportunity compared to a footballer is 1:78, does it mean that a footballers only need to use 1/78 of effort that Phelps put in to get an medal? In short, Phelps just happened to be in the sport that he has the opportunity to win more gold than others, though everyone put in 100% hard word.

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  • 58. At 1:06pm on 17 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    The best way to sort this out is to have a Royal Rumble.

    If we put Phelps, Bolt, Maradona and Hulk Hogan into the ring who do you think will be the last man standing??

    The HULK of course. THE HULK IS THE GOAT. End of.

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  • 59. At 1:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, meredith_hunter wrote:

    Bolt has ran 9 competitive 100m races, which means he has ran in competition for less than 90 seconds in total. He runs in a straight line on a flat surface for a very short time. Is there any skill in running in a straight line?
    Any decent sport should combine fitness, athleticism and skill. Most track events are devoid of skill and in my eyes make poor sports. And they have been completely devalued by continuous drug abuse.
    The greatest of all time? Don't make me laugh. Phelps is light years ahead of him in achievements, and always will be.
    The fastest man in history. Is he? He is the fastest on a straight flat track. Is he the fastest in water, going up a mountain, going down a mountain, in a car, on a bike, etc etc? No.
    I feel for any sports fan who is blown away by watching a man running quickly.

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  • 60. At 1:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    Admitedly Hulk Hogan did lose to Rocky in a cross code fight a few years back, but that was a one off.

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  • 61. At 1:13pm on 17 Aug 2008, DANinZA wrote:

    Matt Slater:

    Your article really gets my G.O.A.T !!

    It is truly asinine rubbish; in its title, its content and its socio-economic political assertions.

    Why is it necessary to demean a truly outstanding individual and team effort by the US mens swimming team merely because they are not from a poor backward underprivileged country?

    Did Phelps not put in the hours and hours of training necessary, in the same way that
    Boult did - and then some.

    You, as a journalist really need to revisit your ethics - or lack of them!

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  • 62. At 1:14pm on 17 Aug 2008, Moutarde wrote:

    If you're going to add Hulk Hogan to the list of possibles, then you also need to included Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. I reckon they would have set these olympics alight if they were around today and there was a proper wrestling contest. I'd also consider the Belgian "It's a Knockout" squad as one of the best sports teams ever.

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  • 63. At 1:18pm on 17 Aug 2008, mindtheoranges wrote:

    For everyone who's made "wait until the results of the drug test" comments .... what about the advantage gained by Phelps and co. being able to use high-tech swim suits to make them faster? Lets face it - this is sanctioned technological doping and gives them an unfair advantage over anyone not wearing the suits, which is exactly why steroid use is banned.

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  • 64. At 1:20pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    In reply to those who don't think swimmers are more likely to win multiple medals.

    Of the 94 people to win 7 or more medals in either the summer or winter olympics (of any colour), the highest number of those come from which sport? Swimming!

    23 are swimmers. 23 are gymnasts. 5 come from athletics.

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  • 65. At 1:23pm on 17 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    Hulk Hogan is not only the GOAT but he is also the best wrestler ever and would have easily beaten Haystacks and Big Daddy.

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  • 66. At 1:24pm on 17 Aug 2008, Williedaho wrote:

    Cassius Clay has to be the best Olympian.
    He may only have won 1 gold.
    If he stayed amateur, would have won gold until he was at least in his 30's

    But if I remember clearly, Muhammed Ali was voted greatest athlete of all time beating countless sports stars from the Olympics and beyond, including Pele, Schumacher, Carl Lewis, Borg etc.

    Cassius Clay (Muhammed Ali) number 1

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  • 67. At 1:28pm on 17 Aug 2008, squeeze-box wrote:

    'The record-breaking LZR Racer suit made by leading swimwear manufacturer Speedo has been approved by FINA, the sport's world governing body said.' A case was brought saying it was technologiacl doping, the case was brought by a competetor of Speedo.

    Many other sports have equipment made and adapted to help athletes perform to the best of there ability. What stops them wearing simjilar clothing?

    Should runners be stopped wearing runners with spikes for grip thats gaining an advantage?
    Should swimmers be told they can't shave now as well?

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  • 68. At 1:30pm on 17 Aug 2008, BulletMonkey wrote:

    getinthebath: 'Hulk Hogan' and 'wrestler' are antonyms. Kurt Angle is undisputably the greatest wrestler of all time, as he transcended from legitimate amateur freestyle and a gold medal in Atlanta, to become one of the most popular and famous professional wrestlers in WWE and TNA.

    Hogan was the biggest star in wrestling history (though Steve Austin may have something to say about that), but as an actual wrestler he was garbage.

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  • 69. At 1:34pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    The fastest man in history. Is he? He is the fastest on a straight flat track. Is he the fastest in water, going up a mountain, going down a mountain, in a car, on a bike, etc etc? No.

    Every single able bodied human being has a pair of legs and the opportunity to run a 'straight flat line'. That is why Bolt is so great. He won an event which everyone on the planet can practice and is a potential winner. Phelps is the best swimmer around. Nothing more. Less than 5% of the worlds population have access to pools and can practice his sport.

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  • 70. At 1:36pm on 17 Aug 2008, squeeze-box wrote:

    5% ? Source?

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  • 71. At 1:39pm on 17 Aug 2008, faiziaf wrote:

    Swimming is a sport for the priveleged, there are children all over the world who have never even stepped in water.....running is the every man sprint is natural for human beings...therefore for me being the fastest man on the planet holds more weight than being the fastest in water

    Plus Bolt has the swagger and you gotta love that dance

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  • 72. At 1:43pm on 17 Aug 2008, squeeze-box wrote:

    he's only fastest over 100m and may get 200m but would probably get beaten at a longer distance like to see if he is still the fastest if he had to run a marathon.

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  • 73. At 1:46pm on 17 Aug 2008, mindtheoranges wrote:

    "what stops them wearing similar clothing...?"

    - Poorer countries on shoestring budgets not being able to afford the outfits or not having access to them.

    - Competitors tied into contracts with other clothing manufacturers not being allowed to wear them

    The US swim team coach stated that he thought they provided a 2% increase in performance and anyone not wearing them should stay at home as it wasn't worth turning up. Would Phelps have gotten his 8 medals without the suit?

    My point is that I'm struggling to see how this is accepted and OK, but drug use is vilified? How is one cheating and the other isn't?

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  • 74. At 1:48pm on 17 Aug 2008, kinglofthouse wrote:

    As somebody who was born with no pace at all I look on with envy at people like Bolt. Just think if I could have skipped past a defender like that-sheez.

    Anybody who has played or competed at any level will tell you that you just cannot invent yourself as a sprinter by training hard. Sure you can improve a little by good training, diet, technique but the 100m is overblown hype. Bolt was born with that pace.

    I just have more respect (and feel they are better athletes) for the 400 metre plus runners. Don't know why. BTW Bolt showed zero respect for his teammates. He is fast with no class but the 100m bores me to tears and I am always glad when the race is over. The 1500m is not called the "blue ribbon" for nothing.

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  • 75. At 1:49pm on 17 Aug 2008, Rob Smiley wrote:

    And yet nobody has mentioned Rebecca Romero yet...

    2 medals, in consecutive olympics...

    ... in TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT sports!

    Here are some more names for you to consider.

    Heather Fell
    Katy Livingstone
    Sam Weale
    Nick Woodbridge

    ... who the heck are they, you ask? Why, they're Britains four competitors in the Modern Pentathalon, which kicks off on Thursday. Shooting (10m Airpistol), swiming (200m Free), riding (show jumping on a horse provided, not one you've trained yourself for 3 or more years), running (3km cross-country) and fencing (Epee, for those interested)... THAT's diversity.

    Trotting round a football pitch for 90 minutes before punching the ball into the net and then going out on the town to snort 14 lines of coke... genious? I think not!

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  • 76. At 1:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    5% ? Source?

    Not 5%, I wrote less than 5%. You may google that up if you have the energy.

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  • 77. At 1:53pm on 17 Aug 2008, nightmair wrote:

    'Phelps has massively devalued the 'sport of swimming' and 'Three golds in the pool is worth one on the track'??

    I'm going to hazard a guess you've never tried swimming butterfly for any length of time and you've certainly never trained in a pool for an extended period.

    Phelps has trained 7days per week for 5 hours, doing nothing but sleeping, eating and training. His swims at the games have come pretty consecutively, with little, and in some cases no rest inbetween. How is that 'devaluing' his 'sport' (I'm interested why you think that running in a straight line is a sport, but swimming in a straight line is a 'sport' but still....)

    Bolt waltzed his heats and his final, slowing up, beating his chest, dancing etc the last 10, 30 and 40 metres depending on the race. At no point was he active for more than 10 seconds and he had hours of rest inbetween. Phelps swam a final followed by a heat on more than one occasion, won two of his medals by the narrowest of margins and won races over varying distances, using a variety of strokes, including both medleys. Bolt made the 'worlds fastest man' race look like a stroll, Phelps laboured to 2 of the 8 wins and worked like a maniac for four years to be able to do that. Bolt ran his first competetive 100m in the last year.
    The point being, how has Phelps devalued his sport, but Bolt has pushed his on?
    Phelps was pushed all the way in some of his races, Bolt's competitors failed to perform...

    Its churlish to suggest that a swimming gold isn't of the same value as a track gold, and to suggest that Phelps is anything but one of the best athletes of all time is ignoring everything the man has achieved.

    As for swimming being the preserve of the rich nations, there are several physical and fiscal reasons other nations don't go in for it.
    In Africa many people find it hard enough to find water to drink, let alone exercise in. The construction of swimming pools, to train folk for a few races each year is hardly likely to be a priority.
    Also look at the lines ups at the swimming, and then the line ups of the 100m......notice anything? Yes everyone can run, and not everyone can swim.....but I can run, I'm 6ft 4, I weigh 14 st, I train 7 days per week (albeit on a rower) could I run the 100m in 9.7secs? No, but I put money I'd hammer Bolt over 100m in the pool, thats if he didn't sink before the end of course...

    Phelps has done something that may never be equalled, Bolt hasn't (famous last words).
    I still laughed watching Bolt though, I was in the gym and everyone had the miny screens on watching the race and everyone reacted the same, just looking around at eveyone else. It was sublime, staggering and ridiculously entertaining.

    Oh, and if it weren't for the drugs, Carl Lewis would probably be the greatest 'athlete' of all time, winning not only in sprinting, but jumping a long way in to a sand pit too..

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  • 78. At 1:53pm on 17 Aug 2008, Greenwich-kid wrote:

    1welshbloke Surely if 23 were swimmers and 23 were gymnasts then it's a joint honour.

    I still don't get your point about swimming. Swimming is a highly techincal event and if you master things such as body position and stroke then given the physiology of swimmers then you are likley to get multiple event winners. However this also means that you have more people dominating a sport, doesn't this then prove your theory wrong? They afterall still have to beat the other competitors, and these aren't just people who turn up to make the numbers. So maybe swimming has more exceptional athletes?

    As to the argument about the new swimming suits then as far as I remember the chinese were the only people not to use the new suits on mass. Everyone else did, so doesn't this make it pretty much a level playing field?

    Technology will always play a part in sport, take the use of sports drinks, they give anyone who uses them an adavantge over anyone who doesn't.

    Personally I'm happy for everyone who made it to the games even if they didn't get a medal, it's an incredible feat just to get there.

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  • 79. At 1:55pm on 17 Aug 2008, kinglofthouse wrote:

    Has everybody forgotten Jockie Wilson? Remember that he was in the running for Sports Personality of the Year once. Probably shows how daft this argument is really I guess. Bet that Bolt (even with his name) could NEVER get 180. LOL

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  • 80. At 1:56pm on 17 Aug 2008, tunder_igor21 wrote:

    for some the Phelps is no.1 for others is Usain Bolt for me it is Bolt and i think that 3 gold medals in swimming is like 1 gold medal in athletics (100m men) but that it is just me.

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  • 81. At 1:57pm on 17 Aug 2008, squeeze-box wrote:

    RE: 73 First off almost all top athlete get sponsorship offers as soon as they are going to olympics no matter what contry they are from. Second all companies who supply equipment make similar things as they are trying to beat each other. Arena and Speedo (2 biggest swim suit designers) both have high tech suits at the games just that speedo has deals with better swimmers. Drug use is totally different to wearing a certian type of clothing and can't be compared, the swim suits just combines a polyurethane layer with a layer of normal fabric. Not exactly on the same level as drug taking.

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  • 82. At 2:01pm on 17 Aug 2008, last-gasp wrote:

    Now that the Italians have developed a technique to allow people to walk on water maybe we can look forward to a race off between Michael and Ussain at the Water Cube.

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  • 83. At 2:02pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Greenwich Kid
    "still don't get your point about swimming. Swimming is a highly techincal event and if you master things such as body position and stroke then given the physiology of swimmers then you are likley to get multiple event winners. However this also means that you have more people dominating a sport, doesn't this then prove your theory wrong?"


    No I think it proves my theory! As you state "given the technicalities of the event then given the physiology of swimming you are likely to get multiple event winners."

    Which is exactly my point. You get more chances to win if you are a swimmer than in any other sport.

    Which is why I think you cannot just look at medal totals to try and decide who is better.

    Anyway, its time for me to put some miles in on my bike!

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  • 84. At 2:05pm on 17 Aug 2008, Shaftograd wrote:

    Like most people I was astonished at Bolt's running. But must I was a little let down. For many years I've wondered when the World Record will be unbeatable, so how fast can he go!!! Gold medal, World Record and celebrating with 15 metres to go.
    What a performance, but could have been a better time, perfectionist aren't I?

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  • 85. At 2:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, nightmair wrote:

    Dear dear me, I've just read through this....

    'everyone can run'

    Yes yes, so by that rational, Federer or Nadal really aren't that good because tennis costs quite a lot compare to running..

    Tiger Woods is an average golfer and wouldn't even be in the top 100 in the world if everyone had access to golf clubs..

    Ben Ainslie sin't much of a sailor, Chris Hoy is lucky the Africans can't afford bikes and aren't Pinsent and Redgrave fortunate that they competed in a posh sport...

    What a load of ****.

    Yes most people have the physical ability to run, to sprint but that doesn't mean we are all potential world record breakers or that we're prepared to put the effort in to get to the standard these guys perform at.

    Oh and for the arguement about the swimming costumes, how basic do you want to make it? Tell Phelps he has to wear speedos and can't shave his which case give Hoy a penny farthing, Redgrave a hollowed out tree and tell Bolt he can;t alter his diet or use any modern training equipment.....I mean, if the same equipment is to be available to everyone with no advantage.....or would that be a little silly?

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  • 86. At 2:14pm on 17 Aug 2008, squeeze-box wrote:

    RE: 76 Sorry less than 5%, if you have a respectable source i will accept the stat. Name your source if you have one, saying Gogle is not an answer, Google isn't a source it's a search engine.

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  • 87. At 2:23pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    Dear dear me, I've just read through this....
    'everyone can run'

    Absolutely. Everyone can run. Only those who want it win as you will see this evening in the 10,000 meters. Whoever wins that one should be the best athlete of these Olympics. It is the one event where there is ZERO advantage in terms of where one comes from, money spent, etc etc. The one event where every kid on the planet has a realistic opportunity to be the Olympic champion, whether from Burkina Faso or the USA.

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  • 88. At 2:26pm on 17 Aug 2008, alanskillcole wrote:

    It's an apples and oranges debate these different disciplines.

    How wide a pool of competitors is one up against?
    Greatness in athletics where there's an abundance of talent/people you compete against versus another, still great sport, where there's less of a pool of competitors. Where it's more esoteric?

    Congrats to Togo.
    Togo just won its first medal - someone with familial links to Togo but who didn't made the french team. Does Togo have a history / even knowledge of canoeing? So, sports that one group could excel in could be touted as the greatest when the rest of the world blithely goes by not even aware of the existence of such a sport.

    Perhaps, the global appeal of a sport by dint of how many mere mortals participate/have knowledge of it - is one explanantion of the wider excitement/appeal of World Cup compared with the Olympics? I've not yet seen the Olympics (heard of Bolt's performance) but same can't be said of WC. The Olympics - does peak viewing increase as the "blue ribbon" athletics start? Something, the masses are more familiar with? As good as gymnastics, synchronised swimming, dressage, greco-roman wresting, archery, fencing, rifle things undoubtably are?

    On a tangent, would a 20-time gold medal canoeist be the G.O.A.T.? Bearing in mind many of us have never even seen a canoe/been near water? On the other hand, should that rob such a person of the accolade if the not knowing is really our problem?

    In football, Maradona (despite the dislike in England) probably "carried" Argentina to WC success rather more than Pele ever did for Brasil. (Granted they took long time to win after, Nascimiento left the stage.) How does that equate? Then again, Best/Weah/Giggs never had teams around them to even get to the WC.

    What of the athlete who, without 1st world facilities/funding, etc gets to the Olympics. How does it compare to a well-funded athlete who does well?
    If Frankie Fredricks were american? Or Mutola from the West? Would access to facilities, Media hype stand them even higher?
    Is there a correlation between the medals table and the socio-economic strength of a nation? This shouldn't detract from any achievement...just a perspective on things...the story of the carrier of the US flag and his Sudanese origins is an against the odds story...

    Quantity as greatness.
    Does having many medals - or partaking of a sport with option of many bites at the cherry mean that one is greater?

    Isn't the futile argument also partly based on our origins?
    Is an athlete the G.O.A.T. because he/she is from our neck of the woods?
    Most often, depending on which country one is in at the time, do you watch a race/heats of Olympics, wondering who won? It's hard to find out who won the race as the local broadcaster is telling us all about their local athlete (their disrupted preparations, their life story, where they placed, etc)...natural enough perhaps, but sometimes an outlook on who's the greatest is skewed by the limited knowledge we carry of everyone but our own...Abebe Bikila, Jim Thorpe, Haile Gebreselassie, Kip Keino, Pablo Nurmi, Emile Zatopek, Steve Prefontaine, Alan Wells, Babe Didrikson (in athletics and in golf), Daley Thompson,...

    Reminds me of when there was supposed to be a 150m race between Michael Johnson and Donovan Bailey as the US was interested in fastest man but didn't have a 100m guy to compete with Bailey and Johnson was tops in 200/400...

    Anyhow it's a funny question...but don't get too wrapped up in the narrow (nation) perspective...

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  • 89. At 2:27pm on 17 Aug 2008, SuisseBear wrote:

    The Individual Medley is like the pentathlon or decathlon of swimming.

    Michael Johnson has shown us that running the 400 and 200 m are possible by the same athlete. Others, such as Carl Lewis and Bolt himself, have shown us that 100 and 200 m are possible. Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens, and others, have also shown that the long jump is very possible for sprinters.

    Anyone who has tried any of the swimming strokes would know that the butterfly and breaststroke are as similar to the backstroke and freestyle as the 100 m sprint is to the 110 m hurdles.

    Therefore, if you are looking at what can be accomplished, in athletics, someone can chose to run the 100, 200, 400, 110 hurdles, and the long jump. They can also be a part of a team for at least 2 to 3 relays. The number of medals is certainly a possiblity.

    Now, why will this never happen? It is because athletics is a "business" where the sprinters make very good money. Therefore, more and more, they have to specialize to ensure they remain on top in any one event. On the other hand, swimming does not have the "star" status, and may never have.

    To get 5 medals, let alone golds, in individual events and then complement that with 3 relays is incredible, whether it is swimming or in athletics. To do similar action in two consecutive olympics, is almost "godly".

    But, finally, it is still too much of a leap to then call a person that has accomplished this (Phelps in this case) as G.O.A.T. He would certainly be in the top 10 to 20.

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  • 90. At 2:28pm on 17 Aug 2008, Darren James wrote:

    I don't think it's possible or even desirable to compare Phelps and Bolt, or anyone else.

    Achievements stand on their own and in context of what is happening around them at the time - changes in equipment, other competitors, etc.

    And just to add into / confuse the GOAT debate, what about the Winter Olympians?

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  • 91. At 2:29pm on 17 Aug 2008, Igglet wrote:

    So "Sir Steve Redgrave can make a very unique claim with his five consecutive golds for his one discipline."

    What about Aladár Gerevich, Hungarian fencer- the only athlete to win the same event 6 times; the only athlete to win gold at 6 different Olympics (with the exception of Birgit Fischer); the only athlete to win Olympic golds 28 years apart.

    Of course trying to choose 1 'greatest' sportsperson is utter rubbish, but it won't stop people putting trying to compare completely different disciplines. Why compare swimming with running?

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  • 92. At 2:30pm on 17 Aug 2008, obie94 wrote:

    If this accomplishment makes Phelps the G.O.A.T of all time, how comes then that Mark Spitz was never referred to as the G.O.A.T? Indeed Spitz wasn't in his own words even invited to these olympics, what does that say about his greatness?

    In his days there was no 50m freestyle,
    had it been there he probably would have won 8 medals and even then he probably, going by the rather concrete history we have seen since his olympic winnings would not be considered the G.O.A.T.

    So why all the sudden proclamations when many around the world had an idea of who Spitz was until Phelps started the quest to break his record?

    Where was Spitz all these years?? If he was considered the G.O.A.T world wide shouldn't he had been the regular mention of any sports commentator if Phelps was to inherit the G.O.A.T title?

    For the Bolt critiques, shouldn't we wait on the same doping results for Phelps? Bolt did not start running yesterday he has a clean record starting out from when he was much younger. Swimming has had its fair share of doping, including a win in this olympics from someone previously banned for doping. So lets be fair in our analysis.

    @25 Mokum_devils:

    Its not an issue of Phelps being British, the L.A. Times, a US newspaper had a commentary disputing that Phelps was the Greatest Athlete of all time and they didn't just pick American athletes but a vast variety of athletes who could be considered the greatest. Pretty bold coming
    from an American paper to declare that he is not the G.O.A.T and with good
    reasons too:,0,6214465.story

    @41 ramorris:
    Indeed you're quite correct, on the same grain would you say that Phelps fails on the 2nd definition of a sportsman for his prior arrest for drinking and driving? Simply put neither is perfect on the 2nd definition, God forbid but if Phelps were to fall into the same trap as Maradona a few years from now would that diminish his accomplishments?

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  • 93. At 2:30pm on 17 Aug 2008, 9jaman wrote:

    There are just too many types of styles in swiming, its disgraceful. Forget that it is no even an EOS (equal oppourtunity sport). Backstroke, frontstorke, butterfly, frog style, medley, unmedle blah, blah blah. If they allowed all various forms of basketball (2 vs 2, slam dunk, walking in air for the most period, the greatest crack on the glass when dunking) Micheal Jordan would probably have 200 gold medals by now. So are we saying Phelps is "the greatest of all times" when we have had such sparkling athletes like Jordan, Gail Devers, Haile Gebresellasie etc grace the olympics...If FIFA can find a way to bring in more formats of football Brazil would be the better for it. Phelps is a great athlete but pleeeeeeeeeease he can never lay clain to G.O.A.T. The swimming federation should borrow a cue for IAAF and scrap all those styles of swimming taht just don't make the stand and jump or the standing triple jump of way-back-then.

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  • 94. At 2:36pm on 17 Aug 2008, bannedgunner wrote:

    Too many medals are handed out to swimmers. Freestyle, butterfly stroke, breast stroke, this stroke, that stroke! May be track and field athletes should ask for adding events like sideways running, backward running, or running on one leg. In fact much like the Winter Olympics they should just make all the water sport as part of separate Olympic, call it Aqua Olympics. Rowing, swimming, diving, whatever else could be part of that Olympic. Then they can add even more useless events. You know sooner or later water surfing will be an event. Perhaps it already is. This way water sport enthusiast can discuss subtleties in different between 3 meter and 5 meter diving etc.

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  • 95. At 2:37pm on 17 Aug 2008, last-gasp wrote:

    Gold medallists are 'WINNERS', the choice of sport to access the podium is usually an accidental choice. Chris Boardman admitted he didn't even like cycling, he just liked 'WINNING' ! Consistently 'WINNING' against other athletes in the same discipline makes any multiple winner 'Great' And doing it repeatedly in one two week window in a four year cycle makes it even greater.

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  • 96. At 2:38pm on 17 Aug 2008, Jmccann666 wrote:

    Phelps is the greatest Olympian that is a fact, as for the greatest sportsman or woman that is an entirely different question as no two sports can be compared it is a meaningless question. if it is about popularity then one should be asking who is the most popular sports person, or if you make judgment on earnings you will again come up against the popularity of the sport as a media event. As for the question who is the greatest sports person ,well that is a very personal opinion but my guess is, if it were put to a global vote Mohammad Ali would be up there with a chance.

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  • 97. At 2:39pm on 17 Aug 2008, nightmair wrote:


    Why is the winner of the 10000m the best athlete at the games, and not the winner of the marathon? I'm going to hazard a guess that the demographics of each race are roughly the same, even spread of continents and race....

    When you say ZERO advantage, thats not strictly true, and not every kid has 'a realistic opportunity to be the Olympic champion'. Taking effort and dedication out of the equation, genetics play a huge part.

    I row 7 days per week, and have done for years. I can't win the olympics because many many many people who do the same are better than me.

    My cousin trains constantly, he races weekly over various distances and he's still setting PB's, yet in his running club alone there are 3 guys who compete internationally who train less than he does. They are just better.

    Some people always have an advantage, its not an open contest because some people just can not do it to that standard, most people infact. Thats why Phelps is so good, yes he trains hard (extremely hard) and yes he works on technique (which in swimming is paramount, and he has now mastered two completely different techniques....) but most importantly he is genetically conditioned to be good at that sport. Like Bolt is in his disciplines and just like all those guys who line up for the 10000m...

    Which then begs the question, is the womens olympic 10000m champ less of an athlete than the mens because she ran it slower? Of course not, because what stops her being better.....genetics.

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  • 98. At 2:41pm on 17 Aug 2008, HWDonkey wrote:

    To be definded as "The Greatest", you have to be recognised by your peers, and there has been only one man to be universally known as that is his sport, Wayne "The Great One" Gretzky.

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  • 99. At 2:42pm on 17 Aug 2008, nightmair wrote:

    Sorry, faster not better...

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  • 100. At 2:44pm on 17 Aug 2008, SuisseBear wrote:

    But, we can all agree that Bolt has not done nearly enough yet to put him in the Top 10 to 20.

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  • 101. At 2:45pm on 17 Aug 2008, CaribbeanSky wrote:

    To duffersfan and all the Bolt critics: How many times has Phelps been tested? And how many times in Beijing? We are expected to believe or automatically accept that Phelps is clean because he's American (and of course, the media has played its part by conditioning us to expect Phelps' 8 gold medals) - but given the recent revelations about American athletes (Balco etc.) - I hesitate to applaud Phelps until the lab results are all in.

    Usain Bolt is a phenomenon whose rise I am happy to say, I have kept track of since he first emerged as a Junior, alongside Daryll Brown and Marc Burns (both from Trinidad and Tobago where I am). Richard Thompson used to be a mean footballer before he switched to Track. Six of the finalists yesterday were from the Caribbean. We may not have the resources (or drug factories) available to bigger nations, but we do have the talent.

    As for the G.O.A.T. argument - that is likely to go on till the end of the world.

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  • 102. At 2:47pm on 17 Aug 2008, martinpill wrote:

    This is the sort of debate that runs for hours up the pub. Is it number of medals in one games a la Phelps or the number of medals over a period like Redgrave? However I think the achievement of Rebecca Romero to win medals in two completely unrelated sports is quite astonishing. To get up to Olympic standard in any sport, particularly the physically demanding ones, usually requires a lifetime of training and dedication. To do it twice, well I think you can see where I'm coming from. And yes I do agree that it's easier to get a sackful of medals in the pool than anywhere other than possibly the gymnastics. I'm into judo and it's one at a time there.

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  • 103. At 2:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, madeiraman57 wrote:

    Your question I think is ' which performance was better ' ?

    Obviously it is the 8 Gold's by Phelps as his efforts will probably never be equalled at this level again and in my opinion the Track and field sprinters will forever be tainted by drugs - schools out on Bolt at the moment.... though his performance was absolutely stunning.

    If you are asking about the best Olympic performance ever , look no further than Jessie Owens.

    Those mentioning as 'sporting performers' Maradona are having a laugh, he is and always will be a cheat as are many of those highly paid footballers.
    Many contributors to this board probably weren't even born when all Olympians were amateurs, though the privileged class always were basically pros.

    I take my hat off to the likes of Rebecca Adlington , one of those who still subscribe to the Olympian code.
    Good luck to team GB in week 2 ( hope for better judging also in some arenas !!! ).

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  • 104. At 2:52pm on 17 Aug 2008, Jmccann666 wrote:

    The comments that swimming styles some how make winning a gold medal easier. duh ok lets just have one type of running, 100m,200, 400 marathon, relays blah blah blah as for football (soccer) baseball, netball oops basketball, these are not sport they are games. So come on lets have a grown up discussion and stop the name calling blah blah.

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  • 105. At 2:52pm on 17 Aug 2008, bobbylockes wrote:

    I agree with Melnibonean. Decathletes are brilliant.

    Phelps is the swimming equivalent of a decathlete.

    Maybe a good way to decide who is the greatest sportsman of all-time is to imagine a genie granting YOU that title. The genie asks only: which sport?

    (I'd choose sailing - I'd be gold medalist over 30+ years on all the boats. )

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  • 106. At 2:57pm on 17 Aug 2008, SuisseBear wrote:

    In fact, there are 24 mens track and field events to only 17 swimming. There are significant opportunities for someone to "multiple medal" in athletics!

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  • 107. At 2:59pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    When you say ZERO advantage, thats not strictly true, and not every kid has 'a realistic opportunity to be the Olympic champion'. Taking effort and dedication out of the equation, genetics play a huge part.

    I don't believe all that genetics stuff. You've got to want it baby. In the 1976 Olympics, Anders Garderud, a Swedish athlete won the steeple chase in a world record time of 8:08:02. A Swede! That time deserves maximum respect even today, 32 years later. Anders is a Swede. Contrast that with the line up for the finals of the 3,000 steeple chase today. The times they run have not changed much. However, you would be seriously shocked to see a European in the line up. Excuse? Genetics..

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  • 108. At 3:00pm on 17 Aug 2008, DCHeretic wrote:

    Regarding CaribbeanSky's post (#101) about possible doping, Phelps has not only been tested in Beijing, he has opted to participate in an anti-doping program in the US where athletes are given tests that are above and beyond what is required by international doping programs. I have no doubt that Phelps is clean. His unusual, genetically-determined physique is what gives him the edge over his rivals.

    As for the BALCO scandal, at this moment Marion Jones is sitting in a jail cell. That is indicative of the seriousness with which the US authorities regard doping.

    I think that we need to accept each sporting accomplishment on its own merits and not debate who is the best athlete of all time. The victory of Bolt and the victories of Phelps are special in their own right and deserve to be appreciated. Congratulations to both of them!

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  • 109. At 3:03pm on 17 Aug 2008, Westdrop wrote:

    The points has been made already, but I'll just emphasise it here: there are three reasons why Phelps is not as great an Olympic athlete as, for example, Carl Lewis (assuming of course he was "clean" - doubts do persist after a failed drugs test in the '88 U.S. trials).

    1. This is slightly subjective, but true in my eyes: track and field is a far more high profile, lucrative sport. Athletics IS the Olympics - without it the Olympics would lose maybe 75% of its allure and significance. The same cannot be said about any other sport. Therefore, subjectively speaking, the greatest Olympians are track and field athletes, as they are the torch bearers for the games.

    2. Everyone able-bodied can run and has the opportunity to test themselves. You don't need a track or spikes, or blocks, you just need space. The same is not true of swimming, and as a result, Phelps is not competing against a fair representation of the world's population. The point the blogger makes about the majority of medals being won by the U.S., or Australia is a fair point. Does this stat mean that only people from these two countries can swim? No - it just means that the majority of other nations place little to no emphasis on the sport, or cannot afford the facilities. This devalues the competitors and the competition. The same can be said of Rowing - anyone that says Steve Redgrave is the greatest Olympian of all time is joking. How can you be in a minority sport? And if the popularity / uptake of a sport should not come into the equation then it becomes unquestionable that Phil Taylor is the greatest living sportsman (which clearly he isn't).

    3. There are four strokes in swimming. Therefore, there are four opportunities to win a gold over the same distance. It's like Bolt competing in the 100 m sprint, backward sprint, skipping and hopscotch, as well as relays in all four.

    No one wants to detract from what Phelps has achieved - his performances have been nothing short of remarkable and he is being rightly saluted. But best Olympian of all time? Please!

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  • 110. At 3:09pm on 17 Aug 2008, bannedgunner wrote:

    "In fact, there are 24 mens track and field events to only 17 swimming. There are significant opportuny"

    Do you watch Track and field?
    Those 24 events are vastly different from each other (for most part).

    There is a big difference in shot put, Pole vaulting, 100 meter sprint,and marathon. Track and field is conglomeration of different sports. Its like saying that there are 100's of events outside of swimming so there are significant opportunities for none-swimmer, all they have to do is be good in multiple sports.

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  • 111. At 3:14pm on 17 Aug 2008, Westdrop wrote:

    Bobbylockes 105:

    "I agree with Melnibonean. Decathletes are brilliant.

    Phelps is the swimming equivalent of a decathlete."

    Yeah, but the decathletes only get one gold medal, not 10! Imagine if Sebrele won every individual decathlon event and then got 10 golds. Would you say he was the GOAT?


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  • 112. At 3:18pm on 17 Aug 2008, diyanija wrote:

    I shook my head in dismay when Matt Slatter and so many others mentioned Maradona sa their greatest athletes. Have we forgotten what sport is and is meant to be? Fair. That's the essence of a sportsman. Maradona with his "hand of God" and history of drug use should not be called fair. In my country, Nigeria, you are called a Maradona if you are caught cheating!
    He is not even the best in football. I recalled a wee little boy of seventeen who scored one of the best goals in 1958 World cup (and four others to boot), won two other world cups, and scored an astounding total of 1218 goals in a carrier spanning almost two dwcades. He scored five goals in a game six times, four goals 30 times and three goals 90 times. That man did it with his sense of dignity in place. His name was Pele. A phenomenon! To me he will always be, along with Mohammed Ali, my sport Icons because they embodied what sports should always be all about. Dignity, fairness and joy.
    As for Phelps and Bolt. For me Phelps is greater, by far. There is no way 14 (or 8) gold medals is going to be worth less than 1! No matter how fragmented swimming is.

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  • 113. At 3:23pm on 17 Aug 2008, ginnylavender wrote:

    I get bored with all the swimming events too. But I can count. Phelps has eight golds; Usain Bolt has one.

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  • 114. At 3:32pm on 17 Aug 2008, REzLad wrote:

    Interesting debate....

    Although I'm not sure it is up to us to decide who is the greatest between Phelps/Bolt, only time amd collective memory will decide that one.

    As for the greatest athlete or sportsman of all time. Lance Armstrong is surely a strong contender having been so dominant in one of the ultimate endurance arenas. Having retired from cycling and just for a laugh he decided to take up marathon running and went sub 3:00 on his first attempt.... Not Bad.

    Certainly not Maradona.... a great player he was, arguably the best footballer ever but greatest athlete/sportsman of all time.... not a chance.

    For me, you would need to leave the beaten track to find the greatest ever athlete and sportsman. I'm guessing many of you know little about surfing as Kelly Slater is superhuman in terms of his achievements in the sport. What? I hear you cry.... Surfing??!!?? Isn't that just a bunch of kids getting stoned and playing on the beach?

    Not only does surfing require a level of fitness, endurance and strength to rival any olympian or indeed sportsman in any sport but much more than that and what really sets it apart is the constantly changing nature of the ocean.... to be so dominant in such a challenging environment is far more impressive than a 10 second thrash along a track that will never change give or take a slight breeze! I'm not suggesting that being the quickest man on the planet is a trivial achievement but in no way does it make you a greater athlete than someone who has completely dominated an incredibly demanding sport for almost 20 years.

    Slater is currently leading the world tour and looks almost certain to clinch his 9th world title. The guy is a machine.

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  • 115. At 3:33pm on 17 Aug 2008, SuisseBear wrote:

    To U11148453,

    Spoken by someone who has never actually swam the different strokes. The breastroke is further from freestyle as the 100 m from the hurdles, or further. Marathon and 10,000 m swim are similarly as distant from the other events.

    The reason that athletics don't include multiple medal winners, as I stated before, is they became specialists to follow the money (starting in the '80s and '90s). Swimmers have also become specialists in the same way, but don't have the money to reinforce it.

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  • 116. At 3:47pm on 17 Aug 2008, Sam wrote:

    I'm afraid Eddy Merckx pips every other athlete in my eyes if you are simply trying to argue how much they dominated their sport as a Top Trumps style argument.

    Merckx's palomares leave Lance Armstrong, Micheal Phelps, Tiger Woods, Maradonna, Carl Lewis combined still trailing behind.

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  • 117. At 3:48pm on 17 Aug 2008, SportsUnited2009 wrote:

    Phelps has done 8 events, won all 8, set Olympic records in all of them, world records in 7 of them. He's won 8 gold medals in 8 days.

    Yes, Bolt peformed brilliantly, but to win 8 races in a variety of distances and types of swimming is amazing. To set World records in all but one of them is even better.

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  • 118. At 3:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, Left_hand_batsman wrote:

    Why Mark Spitz record of highest gold medal in single olympic wasnt broken by Boxer, Weight Lifter or rower? Why again swimmer broke his record?

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  • 119. At 3:54pm on 17 Aug 2008, akugizibwe wrote:

    Can comebody please say something about Frederick Carlton McHinley Lewis and what he did spanning Los Angeles 1984 to Atlanta 1996 (And i hear had the USA not boycotted the Moscow 1980 games, it wouldhave been even a longer span)? That is phenomenal stuff.
    In a similar manner, i really rate Madame Merlene Ottey very highly despite her not having an Olympic Gold to her name.

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  • 120. At 3:58pm on 17 Aug 2008, earthpdw709 wrote:

    Although this piece may go a bit too far, I do tend to agree with the overall tone. When you take a view across all of the different olympic sports, is obvious to anyone that some sports are "harder". Take rowing for example - just watch the amount of physical effort required to win a race, afterwards the winners can hardly stand up through shear exhaustion. There is NO way that these guys could compete again to any high level unless they had a few days rest - the sport just takes too much toll on the compare that to swimming. Do you think its any coincidence that Spitz and Phelps happened to be competing in the same sport?

    Phelps is no doubt an extraordinary olympian, its just that his sport allows him the opportunity to race copmpetatively in multiple events, whereas other sports would not. Unfortunately this devalues his title of "greatest olympian".

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  • 121. At 4:01pm on 17 Aug 2008, RW93003 wrote:

    Who the heck is Diego Maradona? Never heard of him (or her)

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  • 122. At 4:08pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    #116 - Susiebear

    I think you'll find that once they stopped things like the standing long jump that in athletics in has always been this way. They have always been specialists - go and look at the medal winners from previous decades if you want proof.

    Of the strokes in swimming it is breaststroke that has the least medallist in another stroke. Why? I believe (but I will need to check) that the technicalities and indeed the muscle groups in the leg kick for example do not have as much cross over as in the other strokes.

    There have been many double medallists across any two from free/fly/back.

    The other thing to look at I think is how many different medallists there are in each sport for the number of medals there are available.

    Here's the data from the 2004 games

    Eg in judo there are 42 medals available won by 42 people! So on average, if you were to win a medal you would win one!

    In athletics (and I've only chosen the women cos its a lot of work this!) there were 81 differing medallists sharing a potential 84 medals. Again -just over a medal....or lets assume the most anyone got was 2 and 3 people got 2 medals.

    In swimming 48 different medallists shared 75 medals.......hmmm 1.5 medals each....or again assume the most anyone got was 2, and 27 people got 2 medals.Or maybe 13 people got 3 medals. Or maybe 8 people got 4 medals.

    Statistically which ever way you look at it you are more likely to win more than medal if you are a swimmer.

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  • 123. At 4:09pm on 17 Aug 2008, MorningJean wrote:

    @ whoever said cricket was the world's second most popular sport, it's not, basketball is.

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  • 124. At 4:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, muldooja wrote:

    Yeah what Bolt did was impressive, however it seems a little early to compare it to Phelps. They are both freakish in their ability, but Bolt has only won 1 medal so far.

    If you judge by work ethic i think Phelps is far above Bolt and most of the other athletes. Is schedule and required diet are insane.

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  • 125. At 4:16pm on 17 Aug 2008, Greenwich-kid wrote:

    It's funny how this argument goes in circles, lets not forget phelps deosn't have 8 Gold medals he has 14 he won 6 in Athens.

    What concerns me is that some of this argument sounds like some p*ssing contest as to which is the best sport or lets bash swimming, with a thousand reasons of why it's not liked by some and then rational/irrational arguments to justify the argument. Swimming is a middle class (but not swimmers are), that's not a crime, so too is Rugby but that doesn't diminish some of the amazing players. As to the number of people that compete why is this an issue? You only get to compete against those that are there. I'm not sure about numbers but in Britain I'm sure you'd be surprised as to the number of competitors and if the number of participents was the key then Angling would be the greatest sport ever.

    Did anyone watch the 4 x 400 final in 1991 when Kriss Akabusi the world 400m hurdles champion past Antonio Pettigrew the reining 400m flat champion to win, now that was great........

    What I'm really trying to say is that The G.O.A.T argument is and should be a non-argument, just like who is the most beautiful women of the 20th century, Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn, well I don't like blondes, so you can see where this argument is going to go.

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  • 126. At 4:19pm on 17 Aug 2008, niceteeth1968 wrote:

    Without question Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time. The numbers don't lie.
    He will become the the greatest sportsman of all time in 2012 when he surpasses Larissa Latyninahas 18 total Olympic medals.
    In London no less. Precious!
    Stick that in you tea and drink it.

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  • 127. At 4:25pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Greenwich kid - as a former triathlete I have great great respect for swimmers.

    I have no objection at all to swimming as a sport, just to the number of variations and hence medals.

    I do feel sorry for people like Lasse Viren , Michael Johnson, Chris Hoy etc, all multiple gold medallists who don't get a look in on the overall medal board because some sports (most notably swimming and gymnastics) make it easier to become a multiple medallists.

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  • 128. At 4:30pm on 17 Aug 2008, logicmagic wrote:

    The word "sports" and the word "athlete" has lost its meaning. To be able to compete in the Olympics entitles any athlete to be called "great." That said, it is ridiculous to compare Phelps to Bolt, Woods to Federer, or Ali to Owens. Each in their own right is great because of the effort that went into their winnings and the determination to be the best at what they do.

    The Olympics is a collection of great athletes who come together once every four years to compete. Some win, some lose. So what? We should commend the winners as well as the losers for their effort to compete in the true meaning of athletes, true meaning of sports, and in the true meaning of the Olympic creed "we invite all people of all nations to unite and strive to be the best they can." A bunch of medals, or no medal, swimming, cycling, running or riding, each is a sport that demands the best in its contestants.

    Therefore, let's stop bickering about the nonsensical debate about who's the best. All are!

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  • 129. At 4:36pm on 17 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    Bradman. Read the stats.

    Phelps is 2-3% better than Spitz, Thorpe or anyone else. Awesome. And more to come in 2012

    Armstong or Mercx is a toss up. Both awesome, and 2-3% better than any other

    Bolt. Laugh out loud incredible. 2% better than anyone else in his weaker event, while posing to the crowd, and more to come at 200m, 400m and 2012.

    Redgrave is better than Federer, so he is truly great.

    Woods beats Shumi in the non athletic category.

    Joe Montana ties with Michael Jordan, and both beat Gretzky and Hank Aaron.

    But Sir Donald? 50% better than anyone else in history. Read the stats. 50% better than thre next best guy. He lost his best 6 years to WWII, came back and dominated still.

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  • 130. At 4:41pm on 17 Aug 2008, Timmy_Toerag wrote:

    Can't see why Bolt's and Phelp's easy victories are a reason for such celebration. One sided contests are never the most exciting spectacles, except for stattos and clock watchers.
    They've proved what they're made of physically but we won't know what they're made of as men until they face intense competition and adversity. If greatness comes from a triumph hard earned, neither of them fully qualify...yet.

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  • 131. At 4:41pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    You're talking about his test average right?

    ok....Merckx over 500 wins.
    next best about 250.

    Merckx....100% better than anyone else in history!

    or shall I use this one

    Merckx - 50% of his races won
    next best.. abour 20%

    Merckx - 150% better than anyone else in history!


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  • 132. At 4:42pm on 17 Aug 2008, Jamdown1 wrote:

    I am a middle class Jamaican and I think that the middle class thing is an extremely valid point. There have only been one or two occasions that we have entered other sports such as swimming and cycling. I can definitely recollect that our swimmer was very upper middle class and went to my school which is well known for students from a higher income bracket and social status. We have middle class runners who have medalled in Olympics etc, but you don't have poorer people qualifying for swimming or being able to buy bike equipment and so on. I mean they have special helmets, streamlined swimsuits it must be costly! Loads of athletes used to run barefoot at competitions back in the day.

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  • 133. At 4:43pm on 17 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    And respect please to the runners up. Carl Lewis, Muhammed Ali, Nadia Comeneci and Edson Arantes Do Nascimento. And Gary Kasparov.

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  • 134. At 4:43pm on 17 Aug 2008, traxx4fun wrote:

    'Greatness' is within the athlete not a label applied by the media. 'Greatness' is also humbled every day by pain, fatigue and disappointments; anyone who has competed in any sport for many years has the potential to develop future bone/muscle/nerve troubles if they haven't already begun.
    Anyone who is selected to be an Olympian has already achieved a level of The Greatness within them, and the great support from trainers, coaches, team-mates, competitors is never undervalued. The media does not focus on the years of training, or those that help the athlete in any way because it simply does not make headlines or sell advertising space.
    While the term "Greatest" obviously makes for lengthy discussions and heated disputes, so does politics. So let's leave "greatest" to the moment that has defined one swimmer's overwhelming achievements in this Olympics and continue to be overwhelmed by others in their sport achievements.
    There's a reason that most athletes value their "PB's" (personal bests) - because they continually strive to improve and to do their best. Mark Spitz was heavily criticised for the famous photo with all 7 medals around his neck. Why should any of us take umbrage with such marvelous achievements? You're only young once, unless you're Dara, value that and what you can do; leave envy out of it.
    You've got it right - laughing for the sheer joy of watching these athletes do their best.

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  • 135. At 4:46pm on 17 Aug 2008, steinerkleiner wrote:

    Hayvek is spouting rubbish of the highest order.

    I’d agree that basketball could be more popular in terms of participants, but cricket is pretty close. He/she/it seems to forget that the Test playing nations India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan are fanatical about the sport and represent more than 20% of the world’s population – more than China. If you think that hundreds of millions of kids all over the world are playing in street games of tennis and volleyball then you are seriously off your rocker, you filthy cricket-hater! Tennis? What are you on? Don’t mistake the diversity of nations that take an interest in it for people who play it.

    It doesn’t have the global spread of basketball, but your comment about Chinese ping pong players totally devalues the argument about “bascially only 8 nations” playing the sport.

    As for the G.O.A.T.? Hmmm, it's just plain stupid to compare different sports. But what about Teofilo Stevenson? Or what about athletes who competed in the ancient Olympic Games? In more than a thousand years of competition I'd better there were a few nifty (naked) athletes.

    Frankly speaking, I think it's a bit stupid because all we end up doing is putting forward our particular 'favourites'. Maradona is what I'd say a brilliant sportsman, but not a brilliant athlete. There is a difference.

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  • 136. At 4:48pm on 17 Aug 2008, steinerkleiner wrote:

    Those question marks are misplaced.

    I mean that the four named Test playing countries' combined population is greater than China's.

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  • 137. At 4:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:

    Some thoughts.
    Phelps -- fantastic swimmer. Best of all time? -- not sure -- Weissmueller was never beaten in a competitive race.
    Bolt? What impressed me most was the way he only ran full speed for about 10 metres. Greatest 100m runner of all time? Maybe.

    You cannot look at world records and state "this [insert type of athlete] is the greatest of all time" purely on the basis of the record. I have no doubt whatsoever that were he alive today -- and in his prime, of course -- Jesse Owens would be running sub 9.8 in the 100m and jumping around 9m in the long jump. The same goes for Zatopek, Nurmi, Viren*, Weissmueller, Spitz and every other top athlete of their day. Do people really imagine that Roger Bannister WOULDN'T be running sub 3:50 miles were he competing today? Of course he would.

    (* though I always had doubts about the legality of Viren's achievements)

    Swimming should, IMO, have the number of events reduced: I'd go with 100m, 400m, 1500m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 100m breast, 100m back, 400m IM, plus two relays. If someone then gets 9 golds, I'd be the first to say Greatest Of All Time...

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  • 138. At 4:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, Left_hand_batsman wrote:


    You can't compare test averages with the number of wins. The better comparision will be Bradmans test average with Michael Phelps speed. Bradman's average is significantly higher than any other batsman ever.

    However, in case of Phelps his speed is only marginally better than other swimmers.

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  • 139. At 4:51pm on 17 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    Phelps has accomplished something that will stand for decades I think, or he might break his own record in 2012 by winning 9 golds again !!! we have to see.

    Talking about the Greatest Sportsman ever well no doubt about it ... Diego Maradona stands head and shoulders above any other player. You can simple sit in the stadium and watch him run and not even compete. He was so graceful on the filed and he was so so talented. A real Gods gift to us. People who have seen him playing live I consider them the luckiest !!! He is the definition of shear genius.
    When he was at his peak there was no other sight that you can compare with him.

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  • 140. At 4:53pm on 17 Aug 2008, dolphin_kick wrote:

    First, let’s discount team medals from these argument; individual medals are the acid test. So, no relays in athletics, swimming, or…. rowing. A team gold only counts once in the medal table, irrespective of the number of team members; so, by definition, they are less ‘valuable’.

    Redgrave was great, but far from the greatest Olympian; only in the UK would he even figure in a shortlist for the title (if you don’t believe me, check out the other forums around the world debating this same topic). He wasn’t the fastest rower in the boat for a couple of his golds, let alone the fastest rower in the world. Phenomenal sportsman, yes, but not in the top 10 Olympians.

    So, to individual golds. Prior to 2008, the most individual gold medals won in athletics was three by Jesse Owens (1936), Blankers-Koen (1948), and Carl Lewis (1984), and in swimming it was four by both Spitz (1972) and Phelps (2004). So, in 100+ years of Olympic history, only a handful of athletes in either sport had won that many individual golds in a single Olympics. Granted there is a *little* inflation with swimming golds, but no way near the amount people are suggesting. Given the above stats, a swimmer has realistic opportunities to win a third more individual medals than a track sprinter. So, I would argue that Phelps’s five individual golds is equivalent to (approximately) four golds from a sprinter. These could come from the 100m, 200m, and long jump (i.e.., as both Owens and Lewis did), together with either the 110m hurdles (as Blankers-Koen did in the equivalent women’s event) (and?!/) or the triple jump. The basis for all those events is sprinting speed; the technique can be acquired through training. (The additional triple jump could actually be won with ‘just’ two attempts – one to qualify, one in the final; I mean I know that’s a lot tougher than three rounds of 200m butterfly, but hey…). A difficult quadruple, yes, but possible by an athlete with Phelpsian talent. But then Phelps’s task was a cake walk, wasn’t it? How many of you out there can swim 25m butterfly, let alone 200m? I bet you could all run a mile, row 2000m etc, albeit slowly.

    Some of you are arguing that swimming is an easy sport. Frankly, you’re embarrassing yourselves by doing that. I could argue at length on this one, but here’s not the place. Rest assured, however, that swimming is every bit as physically demanding as athletics, rowing, or cycling; check out the peer-reviewed sports science literature if you’re in any doubt. All four of these sports, and many others, are phenomenally tough; there’s no easy Olympic golds out there.

    I’m afraid my knowledge of other Olympic sports isn’t what it should be, but Eric Heiden must figure highly in these debates due to his incredible five individual golds in speed-skating in 1980. I’m guessing that there’s gymnasts out there too with multiple golds (can anyone provide info? Ta). Considering that Phelps has won nine individual golds across two Olympics, though, he has to be pretty much at the top of the tree.

    Finally, a lot of people out there – myself included – are comparing swimming to other “human-powered-racing sports”(!) such as running, cycling, rowing etc, which is understandable. However, this overlooks the fact that swimming is a far more technical sport that those three. I can hear the protests already, but bear with me. Those three other sports are 90%+ a question of fitness and the right physiology. Bolt could have run 10.7 without training, such is the superb fast-twitch nature of his muscle fibres. With rowing, if you take a large enough sample of 6’5”, 16 stone guys, and they are willing to train hard enough (a big ask, I do realise this before people argue), you will have a gold medal winning crew. Cycling is similar; the technique of both rowing and cycling is determined largely by the mechanics of the equipment; skill is *relatively* low compared with other sports. Look at Rebecca Romero; rowed at the last Olympics, cycled in these. Eric Heiden, the legendary speed-skater, also cycled in the Tour de France. You’ll never find an Olympian in another sport switching to swimming at another Olympics; the skill level is just too high a barrier. You simply can’t do this in swimming; only a tiny proportion of people possess the requisite kinaesthetic skill to become an international swimmer; chucking a 6’5” guy with big hands and feet into an arduous training programme won’t cut it, they need the kinaesthetic skill too.

    Swimming – like gymnastics – is at the cross roads between the most physically demanding sports such as running, cycling, and rowing – and the most technical sports such as tennis etc (again, check the sports science research literature, but I won’t bore you) . It is this very characteristic that most non-swimmers do not appreciate and the reason why there are different stroke events included; in this respect, it’s similar to the many gymnastics events. Anyway, I’m sure no one’s still reading, so I’ll sign off…

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  • 141. At 4:53pm on 17 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    Second on The Greatest list: Jahangir Khan ...

    10 British Opens, 6 World Opens, 555 Matches unbeaten in a row, world # 1 for 10 years. I am proud that he is from Pakistan.

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  • 142. At 5:04pm on 17 Aug 2008, SuisseBear wrote:

    Let's look historical:

    Top 5 multiple medals based on gold count, swimming has 2, athletics has 2, and gymnastics 1.

    Top 11 multiple medals based on gold count (11 due to several tied at ), swimming has , athletics has , and gymnastics .

    Top 9 in total medal count (not include #10 due to several tied at 10), swimming has 4, athetics has 3, and gymnastics 2.

    Out of the 238 that have 3 or more medals, swimming has 63, athletics 50, and gymnastics 42.

    This is not overwhelming evidence that swimmers get soooo much more opportunities to "multiple medal".

    You can't diminish the wins and say 4 to 1 swimming medals in comparison with athletics.

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  • 143. At 5:05pm on 17 Aug 2008, mrireland wrote:

    Comparing greatness is a bit silly.
    Ping Ping with Equestrian for example.
    We tend to favour certain events by popular not skill or difficulty by endurance or strenghth etc.

    Personall the marathon win by an athlete who looked like one and performed like one impressed me.

    Whjen we can definatively say whether or not an athlete uses PEDs then we can discuss their status.

    At present we have proven repeatedly that we cannot and how many present winners will remain clean ?

    Its a fun discussion but meaningless really.

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  • 144. At 5:07pm on 17 Aug 2008, SuisseBear wrote:

    It didn't record my complete comment:

    "Top 11 multiple medals based on gold count (11 due to several tied at ), swimming has 4, athletics has 3, and gymnastics 2.

    Top 9 in total medal count (not include #10 due to several tied at 10), swimming has 3, athetics has 2, and gymnastics 2."

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  • 145. At 5:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, G_K___ wrote:

    SuisseBear said -

    "You can't diminish the wins and say 4 to 1 swimming medals in comparison with athletics."


    Yes you can.

    Until, that is, athletics introduces races at each distance where you run with your elbows out to your sides, run with your arms in the air, and run backwards.

    Swimming is a joke.

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  • 146. At 5:18pm on 17 Aug 2008, gc wrote:

    #123 Baseball isn't even the most popular sport in America.
    Carl Lewis. Won four golds in 86. 100m 200m 4x100m and long jump. Won 9 golds over 4 Olympics.
    Diego Maradonna. Carried Argentina on his back through a world cup. Did the same for Napoli in serie A for their only 2 league titles. ever.
    Muhammed Ali. Won back his title 3 times. was considered the greatest in an era of Joe Fraiser, Sonny Liston and George Foreman.
    George Herman Ruth. 3rd on all-time home run list with 714. First player to hit 30, 40, 50 and 60 home runs in a season. Transformed the sport of baseball to a power long ball game. Could have been a hall of fame caliber pitcher.
    Pele. 1000 goals. 3 world cups.
    Don Bradman. Test average 99.94. The next best guy has 60.
    Margaret Court. 62 Grand Slam titles overall (24 singles, 19 women's doubles, and 19 mixed doubles). First woman during the open era to win all four Grand Slam singles titles in the same calendar year.
    Mark Spitz. Spitz predicted brashly he would win six golds at the 1968 Summer Olympics(aged 18), won 2. Munich 1972 "If I swim seven and win six, I'll be a failure" Won 7 with world records in each. Retired aged 22.
    Pál Kovács, Aladár Gerevich,Steve Redgrave, Reiner Klimke, and Birgit Fischer have all won at least 5 golds in their sports over at least 5 Olympics.
    Did I miss anybody? Probably. And Tiger didn't beat Jack Nicklaus yet.

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  • 147. At 5:19pm on 17 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    Also watching Phelps win and Bolts win yesterday, I think BOLT stole the show. He was simply stunning ...

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  • 148. At 5:25pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:


    you would want to look historically because swimming used to have half the events it has now whereas mens athletics has had 23/24 events for some time

    Based on the average number of events in swimming over the years has been half the average number in athletics what your stats show is that again you are twice as likely to win three of more gold medals in swimming as in athletics

    Time and time again the stats show the same trend. If you win one medal in swimming then your chances of winning another are higher than in any other sport save for maybe gymnastics.

    You can have all the variations you like in swimmings own world championship but for the Olympics let's cut down the number of different events so it becomes more comparable to other sports.

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  • 149. At 5:30pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    oh and sussiebear - how convenient you picked the top 11....cos of course on gold count by the time you get down to all the people with 5 golds there are another SEVEN swimmers and a mere ONE more athlete.

    and by the time you get down to 3 golds....its another 18 swimmers versus 14 athletes.

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  • 150. At 5:36pm on 17 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    I was initially very impressed by Welshblokes case for Merckx. Career wins and % career wins. However, in each win he was only 5% better than the next guy. He did it for a decade which is awesome, even in a minority sport like endurance cycling, but it is not Bradman, 50% better day in day out for two decades.

    Babe Ruth never faced a black pitcher. Not his fault, but he cannot be argued as GOAT.

    Nobody has mentioned Ray Ewry.

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  • 151. At 5:41pm on 17 Aug 2008, James Rigby wrote:

    Agree with RobSmiley. Modern Pentathlon is a truly versatile sport. Perhaps Sweden's Lars Hall - double olympic gold and double world champion (early 50s) should be the GOAT!

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  • 152. At 5:43pm on 17 Aug 2008, gabbyleigh wrote:

    Michael phelps' accomplishment of winning eight gold medals is my top pick no doubt. He swan a total of 26 times over 8 days, swam all four strokes ranging from 100m to 400m, raced back to back multiple times, and broke seven world records and one Olympic record. Usain Bolt's 100m race was impressive, but he's only scheduled for two medal races. I'd like to see how Bolt would perform with a schedule like Phelps had this Olympics.

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  • 153. At 5:47pm on 17 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    Not the GOAT, but respect please to George Foreman, Olympic champion, heavyweight champion by destroying (utterly, go watch it) the very great Joe Frazier, lost to Ali in a fight he should never have taken (huge ring, Ziare,{the black hero versus the alleged Uncle Tom} middle of night - he would have moidered him in Madison Square in a regulation ring), ten years out to pester God, comes back and wins the legitimate linear title at 46.

    OK, not the social impact of Ali (although I rate his Grill) but in my view, a better fighter.

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  • 154. At 5:57pm on 17 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    altough a great athlete and olympian no doubt, i beleive it would be more accurate and appropriate to call phelps the 'most decorated' olypian of all time

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  • 155. At 5:58pm on 17 Aug 2008, hackerjack wrote:

    A gold is a gold is a gold.


    Nope. How can you possibly compare a sport like swimming where it is relatively easy to recover from a race and thus enter multiple events with the likes of the Marathon or even more extreme the football?

    It is ridiculous that Swimming can claim 32 golds whereas football can only one.

    A fair olympic tables would onl show what countries have won an entire sport. so one title for swimming, one for track and field, one for football, one for track cycling and so on.

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  • 156. At 5:59pm on 17 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:


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  • 157. At 6:00pm on 17 Aug 2008, Rob Olivier wrote:

    I don't have a problem with the individual event numbers in swimming; but I'd limit any individual from being entered for more than 3 events. Its like the the same althlete being entered for everything. Its not particularly sporting.

    Perhaps eight swimming events can be put together for such guys and be called "Octtathlon". Perhaps add diving and synchronised swimming for Phelps to compete in.

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  • 158. At 6:05pm on 17 Aug 2008, Ceedeer wrote:

    Motor sport can hardly be considered in this context and Schumacher was, in fact, a notoriously 'bad sport'.

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  • 159. At 6:08pm on 17 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    in regards to Bolt's amazing 100m, michael johnson's reaction was hilarious

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  • 160. At 6:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, stwl wrote:

    There's a slightly out-of-date comparison here ( that supports Bradman's claim to pre-eminence.

    This comparison method doesn't generalise well to other sports, but I think if you insist on naming an all-sport G.O.A.T., it's probably the Don.

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  • 161. At 6:11pm on 17 Aug 2008, vern wrote:

    Original question is just too simple to take much time on. One race ( granted an astonishing one) in one Olympics for Bolt compared to the domination Phelps has shown over two Olympics and his range of times and events make the achievements of Michael Phelps far more impressive.
    Phelps shows power , speed, anaerobic endurance (100 fly) aerobic endurance (400IM), technical ability (butterfly + breaststroke) and that thing that separates the greats from the very good, the ability to find a way to win when he has no right to do so ( 100 fly coming back from 2 meters down to win by touchout )

    Now if Bolt ( or any other track + field star) could win gold and break world records in say 100m 110 hurdles,200m 400m long jump, 4X100 and 4X400 all in the same games I would say that would equate to Phelps' achievement. Those are 7 events that, in theory, have physical requirements don't make it impossible to combine with each other. I guess if you wanted to get an 8th event you could add triple jump or 800m into the mix but I think that's a stretch.

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  • 162. At 6:11pm on 17 Aug 2008, REzLad wrote:

    I'm hearing the Bradman argument and I have to agree that he is right up there..... as the greatest 'sportsman' ever. Despite the more recent professionalism brought to the game and many top cricketers now being superb athletes in their own right I do not however believe that a cricketer could be the greatest 'athlete' of all time... and I ay this as a qualified coach who has played at a high level.

    As a few people have highlighted throughout the thread there seems to be a contradiction between greatest athlete/sportsman/olympian.

    As greatest olympian the medal count will speak for itself and barring any arguments regarding medals available in any each discipline, there can surely be only one winner.

    As greatest sportsman the field is thrown wide open and decisions will always be rather subjective. However, the thought that Maradona could be described as a better sportsman the Bradman is quite humerous.

    As greatest athlete, again there are so many measures. Bolt is remarkable in the ease of his win. Armstrong and Merckx are both remarkable in their feats of endurance. I still stick to my belief that Kelly Slater (yes, a surfer) is a greater athlete than all of them. It may be a niche sport but with an understanding of what it takes to be an 8 times world surfing champion.... it may alter a few perceptions ;-)

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  • 163. At 6:16pm on 17 Aug 2008, nightmair wrote:


    Whether you 'believe in all that genetics stuff' is rather immaterial, you can want it baaaaad but you think Tyrone Edgar trains less often and less hard than Bolt? Your body, defined by your genetic make up is capable of only so much.
    My best mate has rowed for years, is fitter than I am, stronger and more dedicated. I can beat him by nearly 10 seconds in a 2000m race on the concept rowers, why? He's 5ft 8, I'm 6ft 4. It doesn't matter how hard he trains, his body won't let him go any faster.

    You might want to look up physiology and genetics and it will nicely explain why there were no black africans winning medals in the will also explain why all the 100m finalists were of black african descent. Slow and fast twitch muscles....genetics, whether you beleive it or not. Although I'm sure if you look hard enough you'll find some exceptions to the rule but they are just that...

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  • 164. At 6:25pm on 17 Aug 2008, REzLad wrote:


    good post and probabaly spot on, although I have friends of black african descent who would tell you that the reason you don't see them in the pool (or the sea for that matter) is because they were brought up to believe that spirits lived in there!

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  • 165. At 6:30pm on 17 Aug 2008, markyg_ wrote:

    Michael Johnson's existing 200m record records him going faster than Bolt yesterday.

    The swimming events are quite similar so Phelps achievements are not as good as they seem.

    Of course they'd both whoop me either on the track or in a pool.

    However, I wait with anticipation to see Bolt run flat out for the full distance of his favourite 200m, then we really might see something truly amazing - but it will get less TV coverage.

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  • 166. At 6:41pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    You might want to look up physiology and genetics and it will nicely explain why there were no black africans winning medals in the will also explain why all the 100m finalists were of black african descent. Slow and fast twitch muscles....genetics, whether you beleive it or not. Although I'm sure if you look hard enough you'll find some exceptions to the rule but they are just that...

    Absolute rubbish. Unless you have been reading physiology books that were part of the South African school curriculum of the 1960's!
    Anthony Nesty of Surinam won the 100m butterfly gold in Seoul. Unless my memory fails me Anthony was, and still is, black. People of European origin are not interested in the sprints and even in long distance running. It is that simple. As for black Africans not doing well in swimming, I grew up in my native Kenya and never saw a swimming pool well into my teens. I can not swim and not interested in swimming. How on earth do you expect my countrymen to compete for swimming medals in the Olympics?

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  • 167. At 6:41pm on 17 Aug 2008, kevin2000jm wrote:

    I Agree with the point that it is difficult to compare athletes from Different sports, however I will say that for a single performance in a single event, Bolts 100M victory at the Olympics in a worls Record Time, and just the dominant way in which he did it, does for me rank as the single greatest individual performance by an athlete in an Event.. Tiger Woods for me is close, when one wins a Masters by a ton of Strokes thats a great performance, and we can go through the list of Michael Jordan, Brian Lara Taking back the record for most Runs in a Test, Michael Phelps is definitely there, etc etc, A few special athletes have been able to dominate an, event, a sport, but with regard to just a single performance Bolt does it for me, you just need to see the reaction in the Stadium afterwords, everyone was just in awe, many speechless.

    For Bolt to be considered G.O.A.T we need to wait and see how he does in the 200M, and whether he can repeat this in London in 2012, but certainly his performance in the 100M is the most dominant in a single event I have ever seen

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  • 168. At 6:48pm on 17 Aug 2008, bigli wrote:

    At 10:24am on 17 Aug 2008, Melnibonean wrote:

    "If I had to choose a place where you'd find the top athlete of all time, though, I'd not look much beyond the Decathlon. Right there, you'll find a group of athletes whose combination of all around endurance, strength, speed and skill that is unmatched in just about any other field I can think of. So I'm picking Daley Thompson, and I'm sticking with it."

    That pretty well sums it up for me too.
    Thompson won 2 Olympics on the trot by competing in ten events each time but only won 2 gold medals.
    He had to master :-
    100 metres
    long jump
    shot put
    high jump
    400 metres
    110 metre hurdles
    pole vault
    javelin and
    1500 metres.

    Yes, it can be argued that he won them in olympic games where on both occasions the games had been boycoted by a number of nations but at the time of the 84 olympics the only person who was even close to Thompson was Jurgen Hingsen who competed and he was still officially world number 1 in 1980 whether the closest competitors to him, Bruce Jenner (USA) and Guido Kratschmer (West Germany) had competed or not.
    For me it is Thompson, followed very closely by Steve Redgrave for winning 5 golds in five seperate olympics in a sport that, whatever some people may choose to say, is EXTREMELY physically demanding.

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  • 169. At 6:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, BlinkenLights wrote:

    There's one way to settle this and that's to have an international Superstars competition.

    We should also have rock wall climbing as an Olympic sport.

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  • 170. At 6:54pm on 17 Aug 2008, FreedomIW wrote:

    Different strokes for different folks, if you'll pardon the pun...

    As someone with a keen interest in running and cycling I've been glued to the screen for GB's awesome dominance in the track and hope to see Wiggins in Green in the Tour before 2012. I think Bolt is amazing, would have loved for Paula to have won the Gold she deserves and for Geb to have scraped into the medals in the 10,000.

    Swimming though, leaves me cold; multicoloured, faceless heads moving back and forth in the water. Technically the strokes may be very different, but to an uninformed spectator they all look the same, (except backstroke, which really does evoke the 'running backwards' image). Try as I might, I can't get into it.

    Phelps is clearly an incredible talent, but swimming will never electrify the public in the way athletics can and so I think most will baulk at tagging him the 'greatest ever'.

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  • 171. At 6:59pm on 17 Aug 2008, RDK5020 wrote:

    Clearly this is a difficult question to answer. I give it to you that Usain Bolt's race was captivating to watch, but that doesn't necessarily make him the better athlete.

    Phelps, on the other hand, more or less swam a marathon in the past couple of days. Even through fatigue, he was still able to steal eight medals. I'm not sure how exactly devalues the sport at all, if anything he's pushing other swimmers to climb past their comfort level. I can't tell you how many of these races that he's swam where there have been several others swimming with him that were also beating the world record.

    Bolt is just the same though, he's really pushing these athletes. Personally, I felt the sport was a little devalued when he actually began to decelerate when he was within sight of the finish line.

    Regardless of all that. This Olympics will be remembered for both Bolt and Phelps. I'm sure there will be other names tossed in the hat, but twenty years from now, their names will still ring.

    To be honest, I couldn't choose between them. They both seem to have been blessed by the heavens. I've never witnessed or heard of any other human being able to compete like that. Being able to demonstrate such mastery.

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  • 172. At 7:01pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:


    I suspect you're half right.

    The top sprinters, with very few exceptions, are of black WEST African descent. The sprinters from the USA and West Indies are the descendants of West African slaves, who were, no doubt, the fittest and strongest that the slave traders could find. Even then, they were weeded out by the despicable conditions in transit and on the plantations, so there was, literally, "survival of the fittest". Their body type appears to be particularly well-suited to (but NOT exclusive to) explosive power events, such as sprinting, baseball, basketball, boxing etc.

    The people of East Africa and North Africa obviously have different body types (generally). These body types appear, at the elite level, to be particularly suited to endurance events, such as middle and long distance running.

    You're argument about black swimmers, however, is wrong. I was surprised and pleased to see black swimmers in the Olympic finals, including at least one on the US swim team. Swimming is a power event and I think that the absence of black athletes in swimming is solely a result of cultural factors. It's hard to become an Olympic-class swimmer without access to a swimming pool.

    I think it's particularly exciting to imagine what effect black athletes will have on events like cycling in the fuure, as these events become democratized. It's surely only a matter of time before the Kenyans and Ethiopians, for example, become major forces in the world of track and road cycling.

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  • 173. At 7:02pm on 17 Aug 2008, REzLad wrote:

    At 6:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, TerriblePerson wrote:

    There's one way to settle this and that's to have an international Superstars competition.

    We should also have rock wall climbing as an Olympic sport.


    The funny thing is I was just catching up on superstars and watching Graham Thorpe who was a sublime talent with a cricket bat in his hand looking silly on the climbing wall.

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  • 174. At 7:08pm on 17 Aug 2008, namewhichnoonehas wrote:

    The G.O.A.T? I tend to agree with the school of thought that comparison between sports is just too difficult to make this a valid prospect.

    While sitting open mouthed at the lightning Bolt winning the 60 metres and looking like he was jogging down the shop for a paper for the last 40 , once again fairly or unfairly it raises the spectre of waiting for the revelation in the tabloids in a few days. Such a shame but athletics will need to go a way to lose that taint. No doubt there is virtue in the comments that have been posted ... yes a spectacle like the 100 will always draw the attention and the spotlight will always overshadow lesser known but still as deserving sports. As for swimming , definitely the scope to win multiple medals is more present because of the nature of the event , Phelps has become the greatest olympic swimmer of all time due to winning more golds than any other , the question is , does winning more medals entitle him to the G.O.A.T crown? Probably not in my view , too many people will have a view (and too many views will be nationality oriented) for this to happen.

    The main question I have after these games is the professional vs amateur thing.... Obviously the IOC has reasons for the seemimgly indiscriminate scattering of pros , amateurs , under 23 pros , over 17 pros , and possibly left and right handed pros for all I know that are allowed to compete in each discipline , I wish they would share that reasoning cos I'm stumped.

    Time for a smoking a cigarette whilst slurping coffee and simultaneously scratching the belly for an overweight bald man event to be imncluded I think (Quick guys at 47 I'm running out of olympics , I'm happy to be amateur)

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  • 175. At 7:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:

    @ fabulousredsredsreds:

    My apologies -- I realise that it was not you making the argument about black people being unsuited to swimming.

    You're partly wrong about about (white) Europeans etc. not being interested in sprints and distance running. I do think that interest in these events has waned in mainstream (white) European and American society in favour of other sports. Success in these events seems to go in phases, with certain countries dominating for a few years at a time, and new people entering the sport to emulate role models.

    I look forward to the day when people of all nationalites and races have equal access to training facilities etc. -- only then will we know who really IS the greatest athlete in any discipline.

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  • 176. At 7:13pm on 17 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    1816 to 1841, (posts #163 to 166) a new record for someone getting precious about comparisons based on race and making an unfounded accusation of racism.

    Anthony Nesty, the winner of one gold brought up to "demolish" the generalisation (I think we have by now established that one swimming gold does not an Olympic great make). Against that exception, not one black face did I see in the pool this year. The white Zimbawean girl who won gold? How come we didn't nick her under the Zola rules?)

    The mens 100m semis? All black as far as I can remember, but note this, Americans, Caribeans and West Africans, not Kenyans or Ethiopians.They, however, utterly dominate the distance stuff.

    Rational observation of facts is not racism. the denial of it, however, sometimes is.

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  • 177. At 7:26pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    The mens 100m semis? All black as far as I can remember, but note this, Americans, Caribeans and West Africans, not Kenyans or Ethiopians.They, however, utterly dominate the distance stuff.

    John Akibwa of Uganda won the 400m hurdles gold in the 72' Olympics. Samson Kitur of Kenya won a medal in the 400 flat. Anders Garderud of Sweden won the 3000 sc Olympic gold in a world record time of 8:08:02
    Your argument falls on its face. Sports has nothing to do with race. If you plant such ideas in your head, you've lost even before you wear your spikes.

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  • 178. At 7:33pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:

    I think the point on race and elite sports is as (or should be) as follows:

    Certain racial charactristics predispose to athletic ability in certain events. It is then up to the athlete to make the most of them, or to overcome the lack of them.

    I have watched Kenyan children in Nanyuki running alongside my shared taxi for fun. Any one of those kids could, I reckon, have been trained to a pretty high level of performance at middle distance. Does that mean all Kenyans are better distance runners than whites? -- of course not, absurd. Does it mean that their body types are suited to middle distance running? -- certainly.

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  • 179. At 7:45pm on 17 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    Silly me, I did not notice that the political correct dismissal of all racial characteristics came from Fabulousreds, whose very name suggests certain characteristics, such as inate chippiness, left wing certainties, senstitivity to any slight percieved or real, and a tendency to nick things. OK, I made the last one up, but even money he went to a school called St Something or our lady of someone.

    Forgive me please, my views on certain very loose generalisations are demolished by so few exceptions that you were able to name them all individually. All I could do was note that every other swimmer in history to win a gold other than Anthony Nesty was white. And every sprinter to make the semis was of west african descent. But eric the eel was black, so maybe I am wrong and Liverpool is a hotbead of industry.

    BTW, George Foreman? The real greatest.

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  • 180. At 7:48pm on 17 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    Hey, fabulous reds, how many pygmies play in the NBA? Are they excluded by some institutional racism?

    BTW, Valerie Villi who won the shot has a Scottish father, we should have nicked her under the Zola rules too.

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  • 181. At 7:51pm on 17 Aug 2008, gunnerkavi wrote:

    Firstly, REzLad, I am so happy that someone has mentioned Kelly Slater. Such an amazing and dominant athlete in a sport that takes, as you said, superhuman strentgh among other attributes.

    And has anyone throughout this entire debate actually said what makes the greatest athlete or olympian? Is it dominance in one sport over an extended period of time? Is it the ability to compete and win in multiple events? Or is it being able to participate in completely different sports and still do well?

    How about people who have competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympics? Eddie Eagan who won gold medals in both games in boxing and bobsleigh? Or Christa Luding who competed in four different games (three Summer and one Winter) for cycling and speed skating AND medaled in all of them? Or even Clara Hughes (again cycling and speed skating)?

    I guess it depends on your definition... there are many contenders and it might be impossible to single out one person as THE GREATEST.

    And for all of those discounting Phelps' acheivements... Please, try and remember the vast differences between the strokes. It might be a bit more difficult than you imagine.

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  • 182. At 8:01pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    And every sprinter to make the semis was of west african descent. But eric the eel was black, so maybe I am wrong and Liverpool is a hotbead of industry.

    Simple question. When was the last time a West African lined up in the final of the Olympic 100 m dash? After all, West Africa is the mother of all the African American and West Indians isn't it? Can you explain your theory?
    By the way, plenty of English girls must be feeling very sorry for themselves because they were unlucky to have missed out on that valuable Russian tennis gene, if we are o listen to you!

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  • 183. At 8:01pm on 17 Aug 2008, Acmebetatest wrote:

    1) Swimming is not a natural exercise for humans, unlike running - so someone who does well at multiple swimming events, particularly in a pressurised schedule as modern swim meets have, has to be considered to have some superiority over a sprinter who runs one or two events. However, I consider the marathon to be the toughest athletics event - no heats, huge distance, and superior training requirements all combine to make it so.

    2) Having said that, Zatopek's performance from the 1952 Olympics, particularly adding the marathon at the last moment, makes him a more likely candidate for G.O.A.T. then Bolt or Phelps (or, for that matter, Dara Torres, whose performance on the other side of 40 years of age merits some consideration).

    3) Having said all this, I would have to flip a 10p between Zatopek and a Nottinghamshire pair named Jayne and Christopher for G.O.A.T., despite only having one gold medal and one bronze medal (the fact that the judging at the Lillehammer Olympics was so dodgy, that even the presence of an East German judge would have caused an improvement in the judging performance, should not count against them, in my opinion)...

    4) ...and Zatopek, without the aid of an East German judge, wins my vote for G.O.A.T., 5.825 to 5.820 - but Torvill and Dean cop 6 perfect sixes in artistic merit, as opposed to 3 perfect sixes for Zatopek and Phelps - Phelps takes fourth with a 5.450, behind Jesse Owens (5.750, with 6 perfect sixes for artistic merit). But Phelps can improve his score in London in four years' time.

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  • 184. At 8:09pm on 17 Aug 2008, grooverblooter wrote:

    I've read one or two comments on here stating that we need to 'wait and see' whether there are revelations to come in the papers in the coming days relating to Bolt's performance.

    Testing is not as simple as this, and a negative test result is far from conclusive.

    Athletes who are testing clean may merely have suspended their use of banned substances for a given period prior to and during competition to avoid detection. This is not to say that they aren't benifiting from residual effects from previous use. Athletes evade positive tests for years at a time! Their drug programmes are very sophisticated and involve precision timing.

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  • 185. At 8:13pm on 17 Aug 2008, kingrodneytrotter wrote:

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

  • 186. At 8:15pm on 17 Aug 2008, SuisseBear wrote:


    To grooverblooter,

    To imply the use of drugs without any evidence is despicable! In addition, if you will insist on doing so, you should imply this for all the athletes and not narrow one out.

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  • 187. At 8:24pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:


    The answer to the question "When was the last time a West African lined up in the final of the 100m?" is...


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  • 188. At 8:25pm on 17 Aug 2008, FixedGuru wrote:

    A few other contenders:-
    Ray Ewry (USA) won 3 medals in the same events (standing long jump, standing triple jump and standing high jump) at each of the 1900, 1904 and 1908 Games.
    So he has three different events and defended these titles on two occassions.
    Eric Heiden in 1980, won every disciple in speed skating 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m, basically dominating as a sprinter and endurance athlete.

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  • 189. At 8:26pm on 17 Aug 2008, kingrodneytrotter wrote:

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

  • 190. At 8:27pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    The answer to the question "When was the last time a West African lined up in the final of the 100m?" is...


    Good. How many West Africans have won medals in the 100m dash? If it is down to genetics, they should have won more medals than African American and West Indians.. Hope you can answer that one too!

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  • 191. At 8:28pm on 17 Aug 2008, Moutarde wrote:

    "I pray to God Christine Ohuruogu loses this week. How can an athlete who has missed 3 drug tests still be allowed to compete for Great Britain at the olympics."

    Agreed! It's a huge stain on an otherwise magnificent olympics for us that she gets to compete for Great Britain. Well, Chrissy, you're not competing for me, let me tell you. I hope you trip over 3 yards from the line.

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  • 192. At 8:31pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:


    You miss the point. African Americans are, by and large, genetically of West African descent, as are West Indians.

    Therefore the correct comparison would be between people of West African ancestry (e.g. African Americans, West Indians, West Africans, black British runners etc) and those of non-West African ancestry.

    And if you can't be bothered to look on Wikipedia for the answer (which I suspect is obvious) then I'm not doing the work for you, I'm sorry...

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  • 193. At 8:40pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    Excumbrian - You miss the point yourself. You claim that genetics has a big role to pay in sport, citing the Olympic semis for 100m consisting of runners of West African extraction, nor Kenyans or Ethiopians. I have given you names of a Ugandan and Kenyan who have won Olympic medals to counter your argument. I gave you a chance to show me how many medals West African have won in the 100m dash. If the 100m dash is down to genetics, surely West africa should have the lion's share of the sprint medals!
    Athletics and sport has more to do with your determination to win and your current environment that it will ever have to do with genetics or race. You have got to want it to win it, and you need the support. Otherwise you can feel sorry for yourself and blame your genes. The easy way out..

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  • 194. At 8:43pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:

    "Good. How many West Africans have won medals in the 100m dash?"

    My argument is that all the black winners of 100m medals are, essentially, West Africans...

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  • 195. At 8:45pm on 17 Aug 2008, c_murphy86 wrote:

    For me the separating point of great athletes is innovation. There are those who are the biggest, best, fastest and strongest and there are those who change our perceptions of what is possible. For me in that respect Phelps tops Bolt. Bolt beat arguably the most important world record there is, however it is a record that has fallen consistently since it began and as an improvement in time is not as great as Maurice Greene's 1999 run. Also personally as a cyclist I think Jamaica's lacklustre and indeed at times confrontational approach to anti-doping casts a shadow over it.

    Phelps decided to do something that people had thought was inconcievable and did it, its not even the fact that he could do it but the fact that he even aimed that high is what impresses me it puts him up with Tiger Woods in that respect.

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  • 196. At 8:48pm on 17 Aug 2008, Vexington wrote:

    There's only one way to settle this.

    Phelps Vs Bolt head to head in a Triathlon.

    I'd pay to see that.

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  • 197. At 8:56pm on 17 Aug 2008, bigzird wrote:

    This thoughtful posting reminds me of something my late grandfather used to say - who, like the rest of my family, was born and raised in Kenya.

    When watching the Olympics to support the Kenyan runners he'd regularly get miffed that swimming had multiple medals for doing the same distance in different ways. In his words: "The idea should simply be to complete the distance in the fastest way possible. Otherwise, why not have the 100m dash done sprinting, running backwards, hopping on one leg, and crawling on all fours?"

    Over the years I've posed that question to friends who swim and never received a satisfactory answer (anything I heard, i.e. "it's a different technique to master" "it uses different muscles" etc could be equally applied to track events performed running backwards, sideways, etc.)

    Call it my cynicism, but the only reason I can see for it is to expand the opportunity for a small subset of eligible people (probably 5% of the world who fit into middle class or above in the rich countries of the world) to win gold medals.

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  • 198. At 9:08pm on 17 Aug 2008, boonthefence wrote:

    The sheer natural talent Bolt has been given makes him more impressive than Phelps for me.
    Im not saying Bolt just turned up and won but he gives me the impression he really enjoys himself and hasnt really trained all the personality out of his body in the way Phelps has.
    In short I reckon Phelps has been forced to train every day by his parents since he was 6 while Bolt has just ran around with his mates and found out he could run fast and then started to train. Natural talent is always more impressive to me than someone who trains like a psychopath all their life

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  • 199. At 9:12pm on 17 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    "Good. How many West Africans have won medals in the 100m dash?"

    My argument is that all the black winners of 100m medals are, essentially, West Africans...

    Sorry, your argument is wrong. They are predominantly American. They win because of backing and financial support they get. Paula Radcliff is the world record holder in the marathon. She has won most of the major marathon races in the circuit. She is not Kenyan or Ethiopian, she is English. So was Seb Coe and Steve Ovett. Anders Garderud is Swedish. There are countless examples. It is sad to hear about all this genetic rubbish. People are just giving up even before they give it a try! Believe me there are just as many hopeless people in athletics in Kenya as there are here. Nobody is born a runner. Runners are made.

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  • 200. At 9:15pm on 17 Aug 2008, chalobilly wrote:

    don´t be so naive you lot. Do you all really believe that swimming or light athletics is free of doping?
    Or doesn´t it matter anymore?

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  • 201. At 9:28pm on 17 Aug 2008, Ranbir wrote:

    I think it is insane swimming has so many medals to go for. Do any other events even provide an opportunity to attempt what Phelps has done?

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  • 202. At 9:35pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 197

    Spot on.

    That same argument can't be laid against any other sport in my opinion though I'm sure the swimmers will say that 400 flat and 400 hurdles are the same.

    I'm suprised swimming hasn't tried to add the swim on your back using both arms together instead of alternately like you see some people do sometimes, just to add to their medal opportunities claiming it is "another stroke".

    I think I'll do some research into the origins of the differing strokes!

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  • 203. At 9:37pm on 17 Aug 2008, peter2o6 wrote:

    With name like U saying Bolt, who needs nick name?

    This guy is a ridiculous legend. Quite a spectacle.

    He shows up after eating fast food and taking an afternoon nap as if he's going for practice.

    Being the only guy sprinting with his untucked shirt, this 21 year old phenom proceeds to celebrate 85% into his race, in the process, setting a new world record.

    To top it all off, did I mention he is 6'5, how many 6'5 quick guys do you know?

    Lastly, but most importantly, the kid is clean!!!

    I'm still awestruck. It's definately up there with the great all-time performances, in all sport.

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  • 204. At 9:37pm on 17 Aug 2008, garrettroyce wrote:

    This whole argument is ridiculous!

    Can you honestly say that Phelps trained in his particular sport his entire life just because it has the most ODDS (not guarantee) of winning multiple medals?

    The fact is he earned every medal and in the end they count as much as every other medal earned. He didn't choose how many medals to award himself, he just went out there and did what he does best.

    What if that were the case for your job? If you were told your work is only 1/3 that of someone else because you have more of an opportunity to work, that would be offensive to you, right? No, you worked so hard and you would want to be compensated for your work.

    Phelps won 8 events fair and square. He wins 8 medals equal to every other gold medal every other athlete will win.

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  • 205. At 9:37pm on 17 Aug 2008, Cyclespur wrote:

    Whoes the greatest athlete Phelps or Bolt? The answer is of course Bradley Wiggins.
    He is going to win three golds to add to the Gold, silver and bronze he got last time. He has already broken the world record for the individual pursuit and the team pursuit. Furthermore, he rides a bike in the most cyclephobic country in the world.
    Bolt only has to exert himself for 9 and a half seconds, and as for Phelps, most cyclists already know that swimmers can't ride bikes.
    Simple really.

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  • 206. At 9:45pm on 17 Aug 2008, peter2o6 wrote:

    How many Athletes in any sport have started relaxing at the 85% mark and still broken the world record. Add to that, it was the big occassion - once in 4 years.

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  • 207. At 9:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 204

    Yes he won 8 events fair and square - the whole point is he shouldn't have 8 events to compete in!

    Nobody is saying he took up swimming to improve his chances of medals - but the fact remains that whichever way you look at it swimmers get more chances and more medals.

    It is a nonsense and it devalues the achievements of others when people go on about Phelps or Spitz or Otto who won 8,7,6 golds at a single games.


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  • 208. At 9:55pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    But hats off to this guy from NBC!!!

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  • 209. At 9:58pm on 17 Aug 2008, BoroTaz wrote:

    These comparisons between competitors in different sports is an exercise in futility. It's like asking "What's the best mode of transport, a formula one racing car or a donkey". Each needs to be compared against the merits of it's own environment and only compared with others in its field.

    Until there are 15 medals for each sport, comparing how many medals one person has over another is ridiculous.

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  • 210. At 9:59pm on 17 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Here is part of an analysis of Phelps and swimming by the Chicago Tribune's longtime Olympics expert Phi Hersh from today's paper-

    "It is easy to win multiple medals in swimming. The sport is far more forgiving on the body than track or gymnastics. And Phelps does not yet have the long-term record of the others.

    Lewis won nine gold medals, four in the 1984 Olympics and four straight in one event, the long jump.

    Nurmi won nine gold medals at distances from 1,500 to 10,000 meters over three Olympics. He likely would have won more had he not been declared ineligible after 1928 under rules that demanded Olympians be amateurs.

    Latynina won nine gold medals and 18 total medals over three Olympics.

    Fischer-Schmidt won her first of eight gold medals in 1980 and her last 24 years later as a 42-year-old mother of two. She won three for the old East Germany and five for the unified Germany. She won in singles, doubles and fours. She also won four silvers.

    Redgrave won gold medals in five consecutive Olympics while rowing in three different boat types.

    I asked Phelps Thursday if winning the most golds makes him the greatest of all time, and he sounded like a man wisely focused on the present.

    "I have no idea," he said. "I just get in the water and swim. That's the only thing I think about."

    I asked renowned Olympic historian David Wallechinsky the same question, and he ranked Nurmi and Lewis as co-leaders.

    "I think Phelps needs one more Olympics to join them," Wallechinsky said.

    Over 12 years, Lewis won two gold medals in the 100 meters, one in the 200, two on the sprint relay and an unprecedented four straight in the long jump, an event in which the impact on the body of the run-up and takeoff has been likened to falling off a truck at 25 miles per hour.

    "What Lewis did is extraordinary. He is Number One," said France's Marie-Jose Perec, one of three runners to win the 200 and 400 meters in the same Olympics.

    "You can't compare track and swimming. In swimming, you can recover. You can do five races in a day and get world records in all of them. That's impossible in our sport."

    Don't try to argue that Phelps has been part of world-record performances in his first five events.

    New pool and suit technology have made swimming's world records meaningless, with 18 record performances through Thursday in the Olympics alone. Just four world records have fallen in track and field all year.

    Swimming allows an athlete to race two finals in 24 minutes, as U.S. Olympian Ryan Lochte planned Friday morning.

    Track and field is so much more physically demanding that neither Allyson Felix nor Sanya Richards dared a 200-400 double after the Olympic schedule put the second round of the 200 within three hours of the 400 final.

    "Swimming is pressure off your body, where we are pounding on it," Felix said.

    Swimming offers three relays with the risk of a false start minimal. Some sprinters run both track relays, the 400 and 1,600, but the exchanges on the sprint relay are so dicey Lewis lost a certain medal in 1988 when other U.S. runners botched a baton pass in a preliminary round.

    If Olympic track had an 800-meter relay, an event in which Lewis was part of a world-record performance, he likely would have won at least two more gold medals.

    Three of swimming's four strokes -- everything but breaststroke -- might as well be the same. Otherwise, how could backstroker Matt Grevers say he barely trained that stroke before winning an Olympic silver medal in the 100? Nearly every good freestyler can be a good butterflyer, and vice-versa.

    You don't see any 100-meter runners in the mile, or any milers in the long jump.

    Don't get the wrong idea. Track athletes have great respect for what Phelps has accomplished.

    "It's inspiring to watch in amazement at everything he's doing," Felix said.

    But he's not the most amazing Olympian ever."


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  • 211. At 10:17pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:

    @ fabulousredsreds

    I admire your political correctness, but your argument is naive. Perhaps you should ask:

    "Given that there are no differences between black American sprinters and white American sprinters, why don't white US sprinters win gold medals"?

    I can tell you it's not because they're a discriminated-against minority...

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  • 212. At 10:19pm on 17 Aug 2008, bigli wrote:

    It is so so nice to see some proper informed debate on this site for once rather than the chest beating abuse that is thrown about on the football forums.
    I'm thoroughly enjoying what I'm reading and will be gutted when the Olympics is over and there will be little chance for such wide ranging debates for another four years.
    Good on everyone and let's hope it stays this good for the rest of the week.

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  • 213. At 10:25pm on 17 Aug 2008, Daryllcs wrote:

    If they increase the range of events available in the sprints eg

    1. 100M Running Backwards
    2. 100M Running with you hands tied behind your back
    3. 100M Running with a paper bag over your head
    4. 100M Running smoking a fag
    5. 100M Running in high heels
    6. 100M Running in stockings and suspenders
    7. 100M Running being chased by a Pit Bull
    8. 100M Running and drinking a pint

    Then bolt would easily win 8 Golds. Maybe they should include the dog paddle in 2012 so Mr Phelps can have a chance to win 9 useless golds. Bolt's achievement is greater.

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  • 214. At 10:47pm on 17 Aug 2008, gundarooster wrote:

    Michael Phelps is probably the greatest swimmer of all time but by his own admission he eats, sleeps and swims. No time for anything else. What kind of a life is that. His intake of food is staggering. 10,000 calories per day enough to feed five average sized men abundantly and twice that number of chronically hungry children in the world’s poorer countries. Condemnation in my book not adulation.

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  • 215. At 10:47pm on 17 Aug 2008, bigli wrote:

    Strangely enough, there is a race held in Germany called the stiletto run, with the winner doing 100M in 14.7 seconds (which is faster than i could run it wearing a pair of Nikes),1518,500828,00.html

    And if they were to incorperate 100M running whilst being chased by a copper into the olympics then i'm sure Britain would stand a good chance of getting the gold

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  • 216. At 10:58pm on 17 Aug 2008, zeuszeus00 wrote:

    Best male athlete: Roger Federer (tennis)

    Best female athlete: Sasha Cohen (ice/figure skater)

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  • 217. At 11:13pm on 17 Aug 2008, swimmer84 wrote:

    I am a swimmer so I am bias to Phelps but I also know how much work goes into being good at swimming. I know that most swimmers at the Olympics and those that just fell short train intensively for 2 hours in the small hours of the morning and 2 in the evening with atleast one hour of landwork (weights, circuits, running, core etc) in between. And that is for 6 out of the 7 days.

    Also each stroke used different muscles and needs specific physical attributes. With breaststrokers being the ones who need extremely flexible knees (they can externally rotate theirs to 90 degrees) and ankle joints (inverting so the soles touch). Butterfly swimmers need very flexible shoulder and incredibly stroke abs for the fly kick. Freestyle and backstrokers need great leg fitness as well as huge lats.

    Phelps is a freak as he is huper flexible and produces far less lactate than most swimmers (about 5 compared with 10+ for everyone else) this means he can push his body harder for longer and then recover a lot quicker than everyone else. If swimming was so easy then why are other swimmers swimming in multi events like Phelps has?

    With running it is running. You don't have to change your whole technique when you go from 100 to 200 to 1500. The long jump is a sprint and then your just jump at the end. Bolt could be quite good at this I'm sure.

    For me Phelps is the man at the moment, but Bolt is just as special. If Bolt can repeat his performances at the next Olympics like Phelps repeated his Athens swims, then He'll be the best but for me Phelps is the god of the Olympics.

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  • 218. At 11:13pm on 17 Aug 2008, FawltyBasil wrote:

    I think most of the comments here favour Bolt because track and field is more popular as a sport than swimming, especially in GB.

    It depends what we are trying to measure. As a one-off performance I think Bolt's 100m will be unsurpassed for many years to come. It was breathtaking and a joy to watch.

    However if you take the overall performance over a series of races then I would have to go for Phelps. Bolt will have to win the 200m in world record and then decide to do the 400m and do that in a world record as well to convince me that he should be the outstanding person of the Games because Phelps has done the equivalent of that in track and field terms.

    As for greatest Olympian of all time - again it depends on the criteria by which you judge this. Is it number of golds won in this games? Phelps. Is it number of golds won in total at all Olympics? Phelps. Is it how dominant a person is in their own particular sport? Phelps yet again.

    If there any other measures by which one should judge this issue, then please tell me as I am keen to know what they are.

    The one thing that is wrong is to downgrade and dismiss his achievements, as Michael Johnson has done, simply because he competes in a sport which happens to have a much lower profile than athletics and other more media-focussed sports.

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  • 219. At 11:22pm on 17 Aug 2008, mulltipease wrote:

    To everyone who thinks swimming is easier than athletics and wants to discount phelps' acheivement.

    Go to your pool right now and try and swim a 100m butterfly and then come back on this forum say that. You could run a 5,000 metres no matter how slowly, but you wouldn't even finish a 100m butterfly.

    I bet most of you have never swam a competitive lap or run on the track. I have raced against phelps as a junior and when I was 17 turned to athletics and competed to a national level. So trust me when I tell you that Phelps' acheivement is worth more than you will ever know.

    It is very easy for a couch potato to criticise the amount of medals available in swimming, but until you have mastered all 4 strokes I am afraid your opinion is worthless.

    Now I love both swimming and athletics, but there are some points I want to clear up about the two sports:

    1) training for swimming is harder than training for athletics. I know this is going to raise heckles, but it is. The sheer volume and variety of training you have to do outweighs that in athletics. Also swimming is far more technical, which is reflected in the amount of time swimmers dedicate to doing drills. If you want to argue this point, please go and swim a 100m butterfly before answering.

    2) recovering from a swimming race is easier than recovering from a track race. That is true. However this point is contradicted by the fact that phelps was swimming an average of 2 and a half races a day at world record pace during the eight days of olympic swimming. The stamina and conditioning of phelps is incredible, this should be recogninsed.

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  • 220. At 11:28pm on 17 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:

    One of the problems -- if not THE problem -- with all this swimming vs. track debate is that the Olympics schedule would preclude Bolt (or anyone else, for that matter) trying to compete in multiple events.

    I am pretty sure that it would be impossible, schedule-wise, to try the 100m, 200m and 400m triple. We would surely have seen it done already (e.g. by Marita Koch). I would guess that in the longer events it would also be impossible to do the 800m, 1500m and 5000m (or 3000m steeplechase) triple.

    I would also argue that the physiological requirements of middle-distance running are completely different from those of sprinting -- hence Bolt would be no good over 10,000m. I bet that Phelps could manage a good 1500m freestyle though.

    I'm not trying to minimize Phelps's achievements -- but to compare swimming and athletics by number of medals is like comparing apples and oranges.

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  • 221. At 11:55pm on 17 Aug 2008, JonCaterham wrote:

    Regardless of anything else, Phelps's achievement is huge, as anyone who has tried to swim competitively will know. His achievement also matches another record in a way that I haven't seen commented on to date:

    Mark Spitz did not hold the record for the most individual gold medals in a summer or winter games. He won four individual events and was in three winning relay teams. Eric Heiden won five individual speed skating golds, all in world or Olympic record times, at the Lake Placid Olympics. This record was matched by Phelps who has obviously just won five individual golds, all world or Olympic records.

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  • 222. At 00:06am on 18 Aug 2008, Antonis48 wrote:

    Neither Phelps nor Bolt is the greatest ever. Although I dont care for sports heroes and "gladiators" like Woods and Jordan, I have to say that Dara Torres or Sergei Bubka fit the profile of the role model more than anybody else. It is too early to judge Phelps and my guess is that Bolt will disappear into the sunset before the cheer subsides.
    Congratulations to all of them for setting a goal and achieving it however irrelevent to real life and its problems.

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  • 223. At 00:12am on 18 Aug 2008, Antonis48 wrote:

    Marita Koch
    Emil Zatopek
    Dara Torres
    Spyros Louis
    Abebe Bikila
    Olga Korbut

    are some of the great ones that still command respect.

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  • 224. At 00:21am on 18 Aug 2008, mulltipease wrote:

    Impossible to say who is the greatest, but someone you should consider is Kelly Slater. He has won 7 world surfing Titles. He ticks all of the boxes of a great athlete: Stamina, Skill etc... But something that surfing has that other sports competitive sports lack is the element of danger. Every year Kelly Slater competes at Pipeline and Teahupoo (put these into youtube and see what I am talking about). Not only does he have awesome ability like other top athletes, but he literally puts his neck on the line for glory. Surely he should be invited into the 'Greats' category!

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  • 225. At 00:22am on 18 Aug 2008, afdandrea wrote:

    Shocking to see Mr. Slater declare Maradona "the greatest sportsman of all time". This is one of the most dishonest, arrogant and problematic players of all times - certainly not an example for our youth. What a dumb declaration. Just think of Pele! Mr. Slater, such declarations are not typical of a BBC professional...

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  • 226. At 00:34am on 18 Aug 2008, Crayolabob wrote:

    Matt Slater has already answered the question of the the G.O.A.T.

    ''How can you compare the apples and pears of so many different sports and eras? You can't.''

    M. Phelps and U. Bolt are both fantastic athletes, head and shoulders above their respective rivals that have, in turn, compelled two talented people to be so proficient and productive at what they are so very good at.

    Tremendous stuff to witness on the tele..... I just hope they both return -ive tests, past, present and future.

    I recall seeing a similar 'jaw-dropping' performance by a 100m sprinter smashing the WR for Olympic gold.

    I sincerely hope not.

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  • 227. At 00:39am on 18 Aug 2008, ChandraSF wrote:

    I nominate the last Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, Mulai Ismail (1646-1727) for the title of greatest athlete of all time. In 1703 he had at least 342 daughters and 525 sons and by 1721 he was reputed to have 700 male descendants. This is a sport that both rich and poor can engage in - a very level playing field. The athletic part comes in surviving the conniving plots of wives and progeny. You have to be smart, focused and nimble.

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  • 228. At 00:44am on 18 Aug 2008, kinglofthouse wrote:

    If I had to watch skeet shooting everyday then I would volunteer to be the skeet. Honestly should this be in the Olympics? I say if it is then Darts should be in the 2012-we would be a shoe-in for a gold. Eric Bristow would then be the greatest Olympian of all time.

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  • 229. At 00:47am on 18 Aug 2008, kinglofthouse wrote:

    Chandra SF.

    I am still up (in the US) and you just made my day. That's the funniest post of seen for a long time. Still laughing as I type this.

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  • 230. At 00:49am on 18 Aug 2008, kinglofthouse wrote:

    See I told you I was laughing-typed of instead of I've.

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  • 231. At 00:51am on 18 Aug 2008, Kiwifan1 wrote:

    It almost seems nowadays that the media can only think in terms of the last 10-15yrs when thinking of candidates for the greatest Olympian or athlete of all time.

    Taking nothing away from Phelps, I think Jesse Owens is a greater Olympian. He won gold in all 4 events open to a sprinter and in front of possibly onle of the most hostile crowds.

    Unlike today's athletes, he couldn't dedicate his life to training. He never received a scholarship to college, had to live in segregated accomodation and to fit training in between jobs to pay for his schooling.

    He never had the opportunity to defend his titles at the next Olympics as his amateur status was removed when he tried to make money out of his success.

    Muhammad Ali is right up there for me also.

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  • 232. At 00:58am on 18 Aug 2008, BrightEyes wrote:

    do you see a trend in the top 10 list????
    I see it.

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  • 233. At 01:07am on 18 Aug 2008, niceteeth1968 wrote:

    Simon Burnett says it best.
    "I just don't think there is a perspective for him," said Simon Burnett, British anchor of the 4x100 medley relay freestyle, when asked to put Phelps in perspective. "He's beyond everything we know. In Athens when he was going for eight golds, I said it would never happen -- not in this day and age with semifinal swims and the competition level. Phelps has taken every expectation and broken it. He seems to be the only guy who sees the impossible as possible, and that's what makes him the best. Once he crosses the threshold, other people are able to foresee it happening. If he can do it, we can do it. But he's always one step ahead of us."

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  • 234. At 01:37am on 18 Aug 2008, writehaseeb wrote:

    People who deny Maradona are either hippocrates like Pele or they dont know anything what is called shear genius.

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  • 235. At 01:48am on 18 Aug 2008, Williedaho wrote:

    Didn't Cassius Clay/Muhamed Ali get voted greatest Athlete of all time beating the likes of Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz, Pele, Michael Schumacher, Borg etc etc.

    Cassius/Ali may have only won 1 gold.
    But had he continued as an amateur boxer, he probably would have won many more golds at consecutive Olympics.

    He did proclaim that he was great.
    I believe him very much so.

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  • 236. At 01:53am on 18 Aug 2008, shniggles wrote:

    greatest olympian ever?........thats easy, eric the eel

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  • 237. At 02:04am on 18 Aug 2008, Makelele6 wrote:

    I am Sorry but Maradona has no place in this Debate, he was a cheat on the pitch and a Druggie off the pitch.
    What Phelps has done is very special and for Bolt to be considered as a Comparison to Phelps, he has to win the 200m and 4x100 Relay in this Olympics and also dominate in 2012 as well. Usain Bolt is the Olympic Champion, but he is not the world champion. So he has a way to go to prove himself to be as good as Phelps. Maybe in 4-5 years people can consider him a great athlete but Phelps has evelated the sport of swimming to another level.
    Phelps is the greatest Olympian and should not be compared to non Olympians others like Schumacher or Ali. Ali was good but he wasnt unbeatable nor was Schumacher.
    Tiger Woods took advantage of an Old man's sport and is the best golf player ever but Golf is a Game that depends on you hitting a round by yourself, alone. Sports like Tennis is different as you can Hit great shots but your opponent will compete with you.

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  • 238. At 02:16am on 18 Aug 2008, Kiwifan1 wrote:

    Makelele6 as Phelps has said himself, he is not unbeatable. Thorpe beat him when he was swimming at the last Olympics.

    However, no-one beat Owens.

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  • 239. At 02:40am on 18 Aug 2008, leocbldw wrote:


    Thank you for supplying some much needed levity. I've stayed with this blog long past sanity. Having had a good laugh, I think I'll close down for the night.

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  • 240. At 02:57am on 18 Aug 2008, Vacca wrote:

    I wonder how this column would have gone if Michael Phelps had been a British swimmer and Ursain Bolt American?

    No matter, but to compare Bolt's few seconds of natural ability to Phelps years of self-sacrifice and training, is beyond stupid. One single, solitary performance against someone who has trained in multiple disciplines, and then beaten the worlds best in disciplines they concentrated solely on, leaves me at a loss. Is it just your desire to denigrate what Phelps has achieved solely for the sake of running him down?

    If swimming was so easy to get medals in, how come only three of the top twenty male medal winners in Olympic history, have been swimmers?

    I think you need to think very carefully over just how ridiculous your points of view are.

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  • 241. At 03:21am on 18 Aug 2008, kwajimu wrote:

    Inevitably, any G.O.A.T. argument is going to compare apples and oranges, and comparisons are odious, as the old saying goes.

    But perhaps one relevant point is this...can the exponent of any minority sport (such as basketball, baseball or Tug-of-War) really lay claim to the title? You might as well consider the the current world tiddlywinks or marbles champions, if you did that.

    The major sports in this world all have their own well-defined championships, watched in a wide variety and a large number of countries around the world, and their players are well-known and well-recognised.

    The Olympics - as originally conceived - grouped together a variety of popular track-and-field sports that were otherwise irregularly played, or organised only at an amateur level, but which roughly compared to the disciplines practiced by the Ancient Greeks in their Olympics, and gave them a world-wide venue.

    Quite why sports, such as either tennis or football, are admitted to the Olympic Games of the modern era is beyond me, as much as I am mystified by the inclusion of synchronised diving, rhythmic gymnastics, and synchronised swimming.

    Does anyone truly believe that the Olympic tennis gold medallist is the greatest tennis player in the world? More than, say, the winner of Wimbledon? Or the US Open? Unless they all happen to be the same person, that is... :-)

    Most of the sports/events at the Summer Olympics will be largely ignored until the next games, four years hence. Yes, those deeply involved in these games will get excited about World's, or the European's, or the Commonwealth's etc which pierce the global sporting consciousness on a periodic basis, but even the most avid sporets fan amongst the rest of us will pay only passing attention until the next Olympic Games.

    I chose Sir Donald Bradman as the G.O.A.T. in any sport for well-defined and obvious reasons. The popularity of the sport, the esteem in which the Don was held by fellow-professionals and the fans alike all over the world, for achievements in a game which has been played for longer than almost any other in the history of sport, by a simply enormous number of people and countries, and which generates more interest around the world than any other (except football).

    In this context, his achievements were and are startling, and not just wholly unmatched by any other athlete in any other sport or discipline, but which exceeded by a wider margin not only the achievements of those who came before him in the sport, but of those who have come after.

    I am a fan of an enormous number of sports, a couple of which I actually prefer to cricket. But I sm still forced to admit that Sir Donald Bradman stands head-and-shoulders above all others in the accomplishments in his sport - far higher than any other exponent in any other sport, and by a huge margin.

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  • 242. At 04:06am on 18 Aug 2008, Excumbrian wrote:

    @ rlsuth,

    "If swimming was so easy to get medals in, how come only three of the top twenty male medal winners in Olympic history, have been swimmers?"

    Well if the list on Wikipedia is accurate, I make it 5 swimmers (Phelps, Spitz, Biondi, Hall and Popov).

    The gymnasts, of course, have a lot of opportunities to win medals, as shown in the same list. (there's 8 of them). But does that mean that Nikolai Andrianov, with 15 medals, is the second greatest athlete in history (behind Phelps with 16?). I'm not even sure Andrianov would make that claim.

    The point is not that winning medals is easy (far from it), but that certain sports give athletes more opportunity to do so. Hence rating greatness by medal count is illogical.

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  • 243. At 05:43am on 18 Aug 2008, thegator44 wrote:

    Dun agree with Matt's comment abt Usain's achievement being greater than Phelps. Phelps and Co, have broken seven world records and one Olympic reconds on route to his eight gold medals. Ok, he did get help along the way for some of the events but in the main his solo events were excellent. Usain may win the 200 so he will have two medals to show for his efforts, even tho he only shaved .03 seconds off the old record. Phelps has shattered old records be seconds not just hunderdths of seconds. Also his wins were in multiple disciplines and distances.

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  • 244. At 07:08am on 18 Aug 2008, Jamaican954 wrote:

    It has been a pleasure to read all the comments on this topic of the G.O.A.T Olympian. However, I do feel that we have failed to put his (Matt Slatters) discusion into perspective.
    Micheal Phelps has achieved greatness, his 8 gold medals proves his dedication and ability to master the realm of swimming, but only within the realm of swimming. For it to be the greatest of all time no one most repeat his astronomical feet of 14 overall gold and the task of 8 within an olympic games. But i bet Mark Spitz never really expected anyone to beat his lucky number 7. Phelps is only great until the next great arrives.
    Usain Bolt my fellow Jamaican, I am very proud of you and your accomplishment (as we all should be). He won this race in 9.69 like a true Yardman (jamaican) when he beat his chest to signal his moment of glory. But he is still only the fastest today until the next 100m where he will have to prove it grandour again.
    Neither of them are the greatest of all time, unless time has ended in your neck of the woods. They are only the greats of today and maybe for generations to come. But as sure as the sun sets, there will be someone to surpass both their records but never thier legacy.

    NB. Usain i think is way better dancer than phelps thoguh, lol.

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  • 245. At 08:10am on 18 Aug 2008, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    I admire your political correctness, but your argument is naive. Perhaps you should ask:

    "Given that there are no differences between black American sprinters and white American sprinters, why don't white US sprinters win gold medals"?

    I can tell you it's not because they're a discriminated-against minority...

    Jeremy Wariner is white. Kostas who won the 200 gold in Sydney is white. You know what? I have given you so many example that I am tired. You can go binge drink and blame your genes if you wish. There will always be those who are determined to win and put in the effort, from all backgrounds and nationalities. It will not take long before Kenya dominates in the swimming as well. What will you do then? Confine yourself to computer games and claim that they don't have the genes for computer games to beat you in it?
    I am out of here!

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  • 246. At 08:26am on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 232

    well we'll have to wait until the end of the games....but judging by trends in recent years where we only see 4 or 5 double gold medallists in athletics.

    Whereas in swimming there were...wait for it....4 swimmers who got 2 gold medals in the relays!

    But as of today 18 of the top 35 multimedallists are swimmers.

    I see absoutely no justifcation why swimmers should get more opportunities.

    I've posted it elsewhere but I'll post it here aswell....

    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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  • 247. At 08:34am on 18 Aug 2008, dubz2008 wrote:

    Yes swimming is a sport that is mainly for those with access to cash and proper swimming facilities.
    However, although running can be done anywhere for free, it's not as if a huge number of countries are represented.
    How many nationalities have won the gold in the 100 and 200 in the last 20 years?
    Mostly americans, a brit, and a few carribeans. So basically sprinting is no less exclusive than swimming.
    The carribean have a proud history of running (as well as a handy genetic makeup that makes them predisposed towards running faster than light) and those countries do invest time and money in the coaching of their potential winners.
    That Usain trains on his old course in Jamaica is fantastic, but I didn't see a global representation in the 100m lineup. In fact the vast majority of the world were not represented!

    What we have to remember is that swimming is well represented across a number of nations, that there are a lot of very strong swimmers, and that Phelps won EVERY race he entered.

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  • 248. At 08:49am on 18 Aug 2008, shameterryslipped wrote:

    Swimming, behind athletics, is the 2nd most watched sport in the Olympics.

    For those who believe a swimming gold is worth less, go and ask the GB medal winners how hard it was - or even ALL the GB non medal winners.

    If it is that easy why did it take GB so long to win a swimming gold? Swimming is popular in Australia, but not so much in the US. Indeed Phelps has said that one of his aims is to raise the profile of swimming.

    In terms of Maradona - he was a fine footballer, perhaps the finest I have seen (although Ronaldo + 10 years may have a shout at running him close). However, greatest sportsperson of all time? Surely to win this accolade you need to not to be linked with football betting and drugs.

    To me the greatest athlete of all time is Lance Armstrong. And before those of you play the drug card - he is also the most tested athlete of all time with ZERO positive tests, despite the efforts of the French.

    Phelps however is the greatest Olympian of his generation, and will prove this again in London 2012 (I hope).

    Bolt's run was beyond compare in terms of beauty / art, but I do not see him winning the long jump (ala Carl Lewis / Jessie Owens), standing up to the most evil man in history (ala Owens) or showing the consistency (yet) to allow anything more that "it was an amazing run" to be said.

    He does see a genuine individual who just wants to run fast and win medals. However, raising the bar by that much is always going to attract doubters (ala Armstrong). I hope he is clean and not another Flo Jo or M Jones.

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  • 249. At 08:53am on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Swimming is NOT well represented across a number of nations.

    Statistically it shares its medals out amongst fewer nations than any of the major sports.

    And not by a small margin either.

    On average over the last few gamess

    Athletics shares its 120 or so medals on amongst over 40 nations - less than 3 medals per nation

    Rowing shares is 42 or medals amongst over 14 or so nations - less than 3 medals per nation

    Swimming on the other hand shares its 96 medals out amongst 18 - over 5 medals per nation.

    And don't even get me started on the percentage of medals won by US/Aus when compared to other sports!

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  • 250. At 09:05am on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    But just for info:

    Here are the medal shares by country

    Swimming 96 medals available over the last three games for the top performing nations

    USA 28, 33 ,26
    Aus 15, 18, 12

    USA roughly 30%
    Aus roughly 15%

    Atheletics 132 medals available
    USA 25 ,15, 23
    USA roughly 15%

    Is it any wonder US television wants swimming to have such a high profile. And it is any coincidence that the swimming finals were in the morning in China .......swimming finals in the morning????? Oh hang on taking in the time difference thats prime time TV in the US isn't it!

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  • 251. At 09:21am on 18 Aug 2008, jonesstrikesback wrote:

    To even question who is better is fruitless... Phelps is astonishing in the fact that he has single handedly destroyed the opposition in Beijing, set new world records and will be competing in London in 2012.
    Bolt should be there too, and since his return to Injury has looked like an Olympic champion elect and proved his worth with a blistering new WR time. If he stays injury free then there is no reason not to go on and decimate his field... Either way, my point here is they are both at the top of their game. The fact that Bolt looks as though he can still go faster, should be hailed by all. The fact that Phelps can add to his tally, and he should do, should make the rest of the swimming world take note and get them to tighten their speddo suits futher.
    Its been fantastic to watch both guys in action. A real privilege. If there was an event for running backwards, Bolt would probably win it. the Two are just solely focused on dominating the sport for the foreseeable future and winning every time they compete. Its a ruthless mentality, one all greats have.
    I have no problem with that, and refuse to knock their achievments, unless of course, there has been some foul play... and that for me is the sticking point to all athletes in the games who've set records, The drugs cheats win at the games, get found out later by which time the damage is done. Sadly this is my biggest concern.

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  • 252. At 09:31am on 18 Aug 2008, im2lazy wrote:

    What a bunch of nonsense.

    Excellence is immeasurable.
    Excellence is palpable, but beyond objective comparisons or measurements.

    I enjoyed Phelp's saga of close shaves and dominant performances.

    I enjoyed Bolt's unbelievable picturesque moment.

    Enjoy your debate comparing a cheetah and a sailfish.

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  • 253. At 09:41am on 18 Aug 2008, mrc1875 wrote:

    Exploding Myths

    1) It is harder to win medals in athletics because of various strokes in Swimming. Therefore chances are higher to win gold medals in swimming.

    Michel Phelps vs. Carl Lewis Case study

    Carl Lewis won 4 golds in 100m, 200m long jump + relay.
    All these events require the same short energy systems and take less than 30 seconds.

    Q. but why didn't carl lewis win the 110m hurdles, 400m, 400m hurdles or the triple jump

    A. because they are technically more difficult or require a different energy system.

    These other athletic events represent the equivalent of different strokes in swimming, as they are technically different. Most people can not competently perform the 4 swimming strokes especially butterfly.

    Carl Lewis could not complete 200m butterfly

    Michael Phelps could complete 100m, 200m and the long jump and get within a few seconds or metre of the world record.

    Why? because running and jumping is relatively easy to butterfly.

    Michael phelps completed more technically challenge events across wider range of distances. From 50secs to 3.30 minutes.

    Lance vs. Phelps

    If the Olympics were every year then Phelps would win a wide range of event from 2004 to 2016 giving phelps 12 tour de frances equivalents.

    Maradona vs. Phelps

    A fat druggy vs. machine

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  • 254. At 09:52am on 18 Aug 2008, bigli wrote:

    219. At 11:22pm on 17 Aug 2008, mulltipease wrote:

    It is very easy for a couch potato to criticise the amount of medals available in swimming, but until you have mastered all 4 strokes I am afraid your opinion is worthless.

    To call anyones opinion worthless simply because it doesn't agree with yours or doesn't have 100% first hand experience is as offensive as it is patronising and has no place in what is supposed to be an informed debate.
    It is exactly what it says it is, an opinion.

    Apparently in a democracy every body has the right to their own opinion, or is there a statute tucked away somewhere that everyone else missed that states

    "everyone is entitled to their own opinion so long as it doesn't go against anything Multipease says"

    Well, in my view, your opinion is offensive, however, it is YOUR opinion, which you have every right to express

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  • 255. At 09:54am on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:


    "Michael Phelps could complete 100m, 200m and the long jump and get within a few seconds or metre of the world record.

    Why? because running and jumping is relatively easy to butterfly."


    what complete and utter nonsense!

    The plains facts are that medal winning swimmers win more medals than in any other Olympic sport.

    It is about time the IOC did something about this.

    If in your own World Championships you want to have multiple medal winning opportunities then feel free to do.

    But in the Olympic Games the achievement of a single gold once every four years is something even the most elite athletes achieve maybe once or twice.

    Look at the current individual medal table - there are FOURTEEN double gold medallists in swimming. I think over the past few games the average is thirteen.

    In athletics it average four double gold medallists a games despite that being a greater number of events!!!

    It is FARCICAL that a single sport, swimming dishes out medals in this way.

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  • 256. At 09:55am on 18 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    Hulk Hogan vs. Phelps

    Hogan could probably give Phelps a close race in most events and would beat him in the fly.

    Phelps would get annihilated in the ring by the female wrestlers let alone the male ones. Hogan would have a field day against Phelps in the ring.

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  • 257. At 09:56am on 18 Aug 2008, joekonn wrote:

    Thought you Brits had longer memories than us Yanks, but no one mentioned Jim Thorpe. Won both the Pentathalon and the Decathalon in one Olympics (won 8 of the 15 events), played professional football (American), basketball and baseball and was a champion ballroom dancer. He was a magnificent athlete.

    And boy, did he know how to treat royalty. When King Gustav of Sweden told him, "You are the greatest athlete of all time", Jim replied, " Thanks, King!". (Why you're just another fan!)

    Being great in one sport is, in my opinion, not nearly so rare as being great in 4 or five sports that require different skill sets.

    In the end. however, we all must face the fact that the G.O.A.T. is merely a departure point for discussion, there is not nor ever will be a definitive answer.

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  • 258. At 10:01am on 18 Aug 2008, Bell_4_Goalie wrote:

    Michael Phelps - Not Even Greatest Olympian at 27th Olympiad

    What MP has achieved is clearly exceptional, and he is a a great Olympian. However, thera re others at Bejing who's achievements are, arguably, even better. Within just the British team there is Ben Ainslie who has just won Gold in the sailing. He adds this to the silver and two golds he has already won. Medalling across four Games (a 12 year time span) is a remarkable achievement. By contrast Phelps has only been at the top f his game for four years. Then there is Rebecca Romero - gold in the cycling (with the possibility of another) to add to silver in the rowing four years ago. Medals across two fundamentally different sports! Astonishing, and truly the sign of a great athlete. Chris Hoy is likely to win three golds at these Games to add to his tally at Athens - a 100% strike rate the same as Phelps. Then, of course, there is Usain Bolt. A sensational performance in what is traditionally the blue riband event of the Games, with the promise of more to come in his favoured event, the 200m. Could he break Michael Johson's amazing world record time of 19.332 seconds? For the first time ever, it seems possible. Goodness only knows what other amazing feats have been achieved by competitors from other nations, I'm sure there are many, many more tales of heroism and true Olympic spirit.

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  • 259. At 10:04am on 18 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    'In the end. however, we all must face the fact that the G.O.A.T. is merely a departure point for discussion, there is not nor ever will be a definitive answer.'

    You as an American should know better than that! There is a definitive answer, your compatriot - HULK HOGAN, he is the GOAT!

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  • 260. At 10:19am on 18 Aug 2008, trevrut wrote:

    Whilst you have to credit Bolt for his victory and, NOT selling himself off to represent other nations like many others, I applaud his achievements and Nationalism.......However it was just one event.

    The plaudits in this 'mis-matched' pair up must go to Michael Phelps because it takes a lot of endurance to win 8 gold medals in 8 days!!

    Well done to BOTH but in this event I'm affraid it's a 'Ninth' Gold for Phelps

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  • 261. At 10:46am on 18 Aug 2008, RubberNutz wrote:

    This is stupid. Who authorises this drivel to be written and/or published?

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  • 262. At 11:08am on 18 Aug 2008, IHaveaDream wrote:

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

  • 263. At 11:15am on 18 Aug 2008, mulltipease wrote:

    254. At 09:52am on 18 Aug 2008, Bigligfc wrote:

    219. At 11:22pm on 17 Aug 2008, mulltipease wrote:

    It is very easy for a couch potato to criticise the amount of medals available in swimming, but until you have mastered all 4 strokes I am afraid your opinion is worthless.

    To call anyones opinion worthless simply because it doesn't agree with yours or doesn't have 100% first hand experience is as offensive as it is patronising and has no place in what is supposed to be an informed debate.
    It is exactly what it says it is, an opinion.

    Apparently in a democracy every body has the right to their own opinion, or is there a statute tucked away somewhere that everyone else missed that states

    "everyone is entitled to their own opinion so long as it doesn't go against anything Multipease says"

    Well, in my view, your opinion is offensive, however, it is YOUR opinion, which you have every right to express


    Everyone IS entitled to their own opinion, I never said they weren't, but some opinions are worth more than others. I am sorry Bigligfc if the truth hurts.

    I find ignorance offensive in the same way you found my opinion offensive. I just hate it when people pretend to know something when really they don't, which seems to be the case with most of the posts on this forum bashing swimming.

    If you are going to comment on this forum you have to be ready for it to be scrutinised.

    Go ahead and disagree with me, I might even change my viewpoint if you have a good argument.

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  • 264. At 11:27am on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Multipease - whilst not defending some of the comments, your views that you have to have swum butterfly etc isn't exactly condusive to debate is it?

    A lot of people on here are not bashing swimming per se - but bashing the RELATIVE ease with which swimming gets multi-medallists when compared to other sports.

    I know how difficult it is to swim fly - when doing triathlon we often did other strokes other than free in training. But I have no experience of competitive swimming nor indeed have I ever done more than a length of fly.

    But I still feel I am entitled to my views that based on the statistics available a double gold in swimming is CHEAP when compared to a double gold in athletics. Why? Because with fewer events in swimming you get 3 times the number of double gold medallists in athletics.

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  • 265. At 11:35am on 18 Aug 2008, hamhoi wrote:

    Just to clairify a comment made by (aliswimmingspurs ) earlier. Usain Bolt was trained in Jamaica by Jamaican coaches. He along with Asafa Powell are a new breed of Jamaican athlethes who are furthering their education locally and are being guided by a a group of quality coaches some of whom are past olympians.
    In the past US Colleges and Universities sent scouts down to the Jamaican High School national championships and offered scholarships to the outstanding athlethes. Thereafter most of their coaching then took place in the U.S

    The fact that Bolt is a home grown, and hom coached talent makes his achievement so much more special and is indicative of the quality of coaching available localy.

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  • 266. At 11:54am on 18 Aug 2008, Oskar_the_dog wrote:

    The greatest ever? There's only one guy who really stands out, and he was an Englishman ... CB Fry.

    Who? I hear you say...

    Charles Burgess Fry had the looks of a Greek god and often performed like one. He possessed an array of talents that have never been equalled and his sporting achievements left a whole generation awestruck and idolatrous.

    He played football for England, opened the batting for England at cricket, and would have played rugby for England as well but for his football commitments.

    He was also the finest English track and field athlete of his day, holder of the world long jump record and would probably have won both Olympic sprints had he not been too busy elsewhere to find time to go!

    In his spare time Fry achieved first-class honours in Latin and Greek at Oxford, was a gifted writer who became a fine journalist. He also represented England at The League of Nations, commanded a naval training school, stood for parliament three times and, believe it or not, was once offered the throne of Albania!

    Perhaps if they'd had Spice Girls back then he might have married them all and be better known today...

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  • 267. At 11:58am on 18 Aug 2008, Michael wrote:

    Pointless trying to compare them both. There will never be a definitive answer.

    However some of the comments here against Phelps and swimming in general are incredibly naive and ignorant.

    I'd rather sit back, watch and appreciate two great sportsmen rather than argue an unwinable argument.

    I'm afraid reading this blog does nothing to dispel what the Aussies say about the British. The glass does seem to be half empty in this country.

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  • 268. At 12:06pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:


    I agree that watching a guy demolish his opposition in the 100m with a new worldworld record, all whilst celebrating before reaching the line is memorable. It was almost like watching a repeat of the 1988 Olympic final.

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  • 269. At 12:06pm on 18 Aug 2008, amat124 wrote:

    Concur with dudepod45 comments. What an utterly pointless waste of webspace this 'debate' is. Matt S, go do what the BBC pay you to do...whatever the heck that is ?!?!

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  • 270. At 12:13pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stafford3 wrote:

    I haven't managed to read all the comments on this topic, but I always like a good comparison debate like this - I believe they're interesting and relevant, and always lead to fevered discussion, largely because there is no right answer, no objective framework in which to compare apples with oranges. And so as someone mentioned earlier, the arguments are always so subjective and obviously biased.

    In my opinion some of the choices for the accolade of greatest sportsmen WITHIN their field are fairly obvious:
    Bolt / Michael Johnson
    Haile Gebreselassie
    Tiger Woods / Jack Nicklaus
    Bjorg / Martina Navaratilova / Sampras / Federer
    just to name a few

    Team sports are harder of course - you have different positions or disciplines within the pursuit, but I would argue Pele in football typically wins it, and the ever-lasting Sir Donald Bradman in cricket (with Shane Warne a distant second). Michael Jordan in basketball?

    So how do you decide who's the best of the best?
    I would argue you have to take into account a few things:-
    1) how big is the sport in question
    2) how dominant is that athlete within his sport compared to others within theirs, and how long are they dominant for
    3) what kind of records are they setting, and how long are these records lasting?
    4) what is the impact on that sport from his / her achievements

    So Phelps clearly scores big on 2, and possibly on 3 and 4 but maybe not so much on 1.
    Bolt right now is dominant, but for how long? I am a huge Michael Johnson fan, and his records are standing the test of time - though maybe in the 200m not for much longer?
    Sir Donald Bradman's record is simply immense. Most sports have changed so much in the modern era that old records are distant memories, and yet it's quite possible that, even without body armour and helmets, with worse pitches and still rapid bowlers, his record may survive forever. And as someone mentioned before, statistically it is unparalelled - noone in any mainstream sport has been so many standard deviations better than the average of that sport.
    But I would argue still that Woods is head and shoulders above the rest. He doesn't yet have all the records but if he achieves them, I'm fairly sure they will last for decades. He is so completely dominant within his sport currently that only Bradman really stands ahead of him (and that's on results only, not necessarily profile). I suppose though until recently there was much chat about Federer being as dominant, and we'll see if he can return to the top. However it's not just about results, but profile too and whether we like it or not, money tends to be a fairly efficient measure of these sorts of things, and that's another way in which Woods dominates his profession like no other. Advertisers simply want to pay him more than anyone else, because he is the biggest sportsman in the world and gets more air-time than anyone else (including all the rest of the golfing community put together). I'd contend that any sports equipment / clothing manufacturer would rather have Woods in it's stable than any other athlete, and if they made clothes for some other sport, they'd open a whole new golf range if they could bag Woods (rather like Nike did).
    On the various measures of greatness, I reckon he is top or near the top on just about all of them - certainly in the four mentioned above (not least because in this humble writer's opinion golf is an extremely hard sport to master requiring vast technical proficiency, mental strength, power interspersed with finesse etc etc). Love it or hate it, golf is huge, and that's in part due to Woods himself, his profile is so massive, his impact on his sport (number 4) is simply extraordinary.

    So maybe if you are going to compare these sporting apples and oranges, you have to look at the extent to which that the athelete dominates his own particular sport, and then, whether or not you agree with it personally, the extent to which one sport dominates another. Woods wins

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  • 271. At 12:19pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Post 270 - great post.

    But Woods? Surely not.

    Merckx! Nobody even comes close in the field of cycling.

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  • 272. At 12:28pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:

    In reply to 1welshbloke:

    You seem to like quoting statistics but you obviously don't have the expertise to analyse them so I'll help you out.

    1. Swimming has many more multiple gold medalists than athletics.

    True, but if you take the relays out, which do skew things somewhat, and look at individuals performances, you will find the imbalance is not as great.

    Even so, more swimmers than althletes are able to double up based on individual events. This is related to training, swimming is not so stressful on the joints and a swimmers season is not typically interupted by injuries.

    2. The swimming medals are distributed across fewer nations.

    Fairly simple this one, it comes down to basic physiology. Just as althletes of african origin are advantaged in running, they are disadvantaged in swimming.

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  • 273. At 12:35pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stafford3 wrote:

    Post 271 - I have to admit complete ignorance in the world of cycling - I have head of Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France and that's about it.

    Which is the bigger sport globally? I think golf but maybe I'm wrong? I also think more people have heard of Woods than of Merckx and as a result their earnings due to sport are not comparable. These have to be taken into consideration - not just performance but profile too no?

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  • 274. At 12:45pm on 18 Aug 2008, kingsircarl wrote:

    To solve this issue i would pick out the relevant sports such as athletics ect disregardind the so called class sports such as eventing as they are so limited in who can compete in them for various reasons
    Step 2 Pick out the greatest competeter in that sport (no easy feat )
    step 3 Make a short list of say ten champions
    step 4 Let the arguaments begin
    ....and Zatopeck wins

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  • 275. At 12:53pm on 18 Aug 2008, terriblebore86 wrote:

    In finals alone Phelps swam:

    100m x 3
    200m x 4
    400m x 1

    and by stroke and distance per race

    50m fly x 1
    50m free x 1
    50m back x 1
    50m breast x 1
    100m fly x 3
    100m free x 2
    100m back x 1
    100m breast x 1
    200m fly x 1
    200m free x 2

    therefore totals
    550m fly
    650m free
    150m back
    150m breast

    ... i think these are correct

    First of all this is a fantastic achievement and is undoubtably worthy of 8 olympic gold medals and this should not be forgotten.

    However this is an achievement which is not possible in athletics:


    if you look purely at the distance of the individual races, 7 out of 8 were of 100 and 200m. There are 3 races of this length for a sprinter.
    3 out of 8 of these races are relays, (and Phelps is in one of two dominant swimming nations who could possibly have won even without him)

    There is also another important feature of Phelps which has not been discussed. A large part of Phelps' success is his fly leg kick; which assists him massively in races with components of fly and free - which every race he takes part in has. This is a fair advantage, but one which is only possible in a discipline such as swimming where many of the strokes are have connections.

    Put simply, I applaud Phelps for his achievement, but it must be compared to what can be accomplished. For example, if phelps had been born in Togo not the USA he would have 5 golds and this would not discount his achievement.

    A sprinter must look to win the 100, 200 and 100 relay. This is what they 'can' achieve.

    Similarly, a swimmer 'can' achieve much more - as shown by the preponderance of swimmers at the top of the individual medals list.

    Although terms such as greatest athlete / olympian are hugely crass and generally useless we must look to over achievers such as Ovens, in the olympics or Bradman in a wider field, as their achievements stand alone in their respective disciplines, and their conduct and contribution to their own sport and to sport in general in over and above anything which could be expected. If Bolt achieves his 200 and 100 relay he can be thought of as on a par with Phelps, but neither of these have done what is necessary to be the greatest of all time ... yet

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  • 276. At 12:59pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stafford3 wrote:

    PS - while it was an excellent spectacle and an emphatic victory in a very popular event - Bolt is nowhere on this chart other than crushing the field in one race and setting a world record which apparently happens in swimming quite regularly. Is anyone else quite irritated by him not running full-tilt for the whole race - would have loved to see what he could achieve in terms of record time, but apprently it's to do with future endorsments and earnings...

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  • 277. At 12:59pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Doc_kev wrote:

    "You seem to like quoting statistics but you obviously don't have the expertise to analyse them so I'll help you out."


    I am a mathematician and statistician.

    And as for your physiology comments "Just as althletes of african origin are advantaged in running, they are disadvantaged in swimming."

    Back it up with facts and figures. And if they are advantaged in running then how does that help your argument? Cos by the same token athletes of non african origian are therefore advantaged in swimming!

    And as for
    "True, but if you take the relays out, which do skew things somewhat, and look at individuals performances, you will find the imbalance is not as great.

    Ok I will:

    Last three Olympics 2000, 2000 and 1996
    Double gold in athletics 2, 1 and 3 - TOTAL 6
    Double gold in swimming 5, 7 and 5 - TOTAL 17

    Good grief - three times as many from 3/4 of the events.

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  • 278. At 1:05pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:


    It's the wrong comparison to make. Rather than compare the distances you should be comparing the length of time a race lasts since this relates to the energy systems required.

    The shortest race in Phelps programme lasts around 50 seconds - I'd compare this with a 400m hurdles (I'd compare the 100m freestyle with the 400m flat - Phelps did not race this event but he's the third fastest ever). The 200m and 400metre events can be compared with the 800m and 1500m.

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  • 279. At 1:05pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Incidentally doc - my previous analyis whcih included relays found

    13 multiple gold in swimming versus 4 in athletics - i.e. just over 3 times as many

    removing the relays is just under 6 on average in swimming verus 2 on average in athletics.

    So I agree you with you the imbalance is not as great.

    It moves from just over 3 to just under 3!!!!!


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  • 280. At 1:06pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:


    I'm also a professional statistican and clearly better at it than you.

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  • 281. At 1:10pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Of course you are - you're ability to show how wrong my figures are is a clear stand out isn't it.

    I have countered your arguments and your clearly academic response is "I am better that you"

    PMSL this time.

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  • 282. At 1:24pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Oh and and for you telling terriblebore it was the wrong comparison to make.

    Actually his comparison had nothing to do with the physiological requirements for an event but to do with the fact that a swimmer has more medal opportunities at his disposal given a specialism at certain distances.

    If the 200m/400m is one ou wish to compare to 800m/1500m then good. Cos of course the 200m/400m swimmer has the 4x200m relay at his disposal whereas the 800m/1500m athlete has not. Ergo....more medal opportunites!

    I notice you are a swimmer. I'll admit I'm not. But neither am I an athlete.

    I used to do triathlon, though my best discipline was cycling.

    I'm not anti swimming - just anti the RELATIVE ease in which to win multiple medals.

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  • 283. At 1:28pm on 18 Aug 2008, Mclumpher wrote:

    Those of you that say it's easier to win a gold in swimming than athletics are just talking non-sense.

    There are 6 billion people int he world and each and every one could enter the 100 metre sprint if they were good enough. Those same people could enter the 400 IM if they were good enough. So in any event you have to be better than the other 6 billion people. So the odds of winning a swimming race 6,000,000,000 to 1 are the same as any athletics event.

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  • 284. At 1:31pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    You are joking surely!

    No-one is saying it is easier to win a single gold - but if you have the ability to win a single gold in swimming (or a single medal for that matter) you have better chances of winning multiple medals than in any other sport save for gymnastics.

    And the statistics bear this out.

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  • 285. At 1:35pm on 18 Aug 2008, REzLad wrote:

    The debate has entered new territory and now we are looking for the greatest statistician of all time. Incidentally, Sir Ronald Fisher gets my vote ;-)

    Anyway.... Post 266. CB Fry was indeed a very talented individual but would only win if we were looking for most privileged upbringing I suspect.

    I'm not sure you can compare an 1893 long jump world record with one today. I suppose in fairness he would probbaly have excelled in the modern era given his all round abilities but I would suggest that the vastly increased competition would severely restrict his efforts if he attempted the same a century later.

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  • 286. At 1:36pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:


    I suggest you take a look a the map of africa. There's an awful lot of countries (South Africa aside) that have no hope in hell of winning a swimming medal. Ever.

    As for your comparison. Inititially, you compared thirteen multiple gold medalists in swimming with an average of four in althletics. After removing relays this is a comparison of 6 with 2. I didn't go looking into the figures, which you clearly have, but my initial arguement was that this difference can be attributed to swimmers rarely picking up injuries compared with athletes. Looking at percentages just skews the comparison, and you should know better.

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  • 287. At 1:55pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Ah so on that basis I'm assuming Doc that you're saying that athletics is more competitive than swimming because "an awful lot of countries have no hope in hell".

    The argument about swimmers rarely picking up injuries? I haven't seen that post so I can't comment on it.

    And the only time I looked at percentages was a tongue in cheek post about Eddy Merckx after someone claimed Bradman was the greatest because his test average has 50% higher than the next person.

    Anyway onto the crux of the argument here.

    Let's start with my hypotheses.

    If you are at the top of your sport it is easier to win more than one gold in swimming that in other sports.

    So tell me exactly what is wrong in the figures I have looked at, save for the sample size?

    What exactly is wrong in quoting the number of multiple gold medallists per games in swimming versus the number in athletics? Remember swimming has fewer events than what is it that skews the figures?

    Is it the number of events swum?
    Is it that if you win say the 100m in swimming your are more likely to win the 200m as well than the equivalent in athletics?
    Is it because the competition is weaker?

    Or none of the above?

    I mean this isn't meant to be an in depth analysis - its meant to beg the questions WHY DO MORE SWIMMERS WIN MULTIPLE GOLDS.......and then possibly "SHOULD SWIMMERS HAVE MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO WIN MULTIPLE GOLDS"

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  • 288. At 2:00pm on 18 Aug 2008, Mclumpher wrote:

    Usain Bolt is the fastest man ever, fact!

    Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever, fact!

    Tiger woods is the best golfer in the world, fact!

    Chris Hoy is the fastest cyclist in the world, fact!

    They are what they are!

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  • 289. At 2:02pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Damn - missed the last bit off which is

    You surely cannot disagree that more swimmers win mulitple golds than other sports?

    (Let's not go back more than a few years please - as far back as 1972 maybe but you know back in the 1950s there were only 11 swimming events compared to the 34 now).

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  • 290. At 2:10pm on 18 Aug 2008, terriblebore86 wrote:

    re 278

    As you point out, Phelps' races last between 47.51 secs (100 free relay split) and 4:03.84 (400 im)


    never does he do more than 200m in any 1 stroke meaning that different muscle groups are tested to different degrees. In particular, in the 400 im this allows slightly different stresses to be used - which distinguishes it from the 1500m where the same muscle groups are being used.

    he is only doing one stroke for a max of 1:52.03 in any one race and in multiple races for just over a minute (sorry don't have 400 im splits) The point being that even an analysis based on timing is unable to take the use of different muscle groups into account and that although it might seem that the rough ration of 4 to 1 for max to min distance / time which Phelps achieves is not a direct comparison.

    to relate this to Bolt a similar relation would hold if he wished to break the 400 wr (43.18) but this is only one muscle group and would be a much greater achievement than Phelps' differing distances and is (i think) an unrealistic requirement for a great sprinter. So we could expect him as a sprinter to enter 3. Phelps could be expected to enter 7 and maybe 8 (400 im as the maybe). But an analysis of how hard this event is for a 100-200m swimmer is difficult without specific scientific data about the degree of fatigue produced by each stoke and its effect on others.

    in the GOAT debate. my point is that Phelps is amazing, but is so close to Spitz (who raced in such similar events) that it is not clear how much the 400 im adds to his record and that his versatility could be at least in part a product of his events and not just his supreme ability

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  • 291. At 2:17pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Ooops - apology - of course I've seen the post about injuries.

    I don't have the time to do so now but yes I would think more swimmers do double up.

    But then they have more chances to do that too.

    50/100 free
    100/200 free/fly/back/breast
    200/400 free/IM

    100 pick any two from free/fly/back/breast
    200 pick any two from free/fly back/breast

    Thats a lot of permutations across the events isn't it? And I've missed out a few too. (I'll admit you don't normally combine breaststroke with another stroke although the medley is an opportunity) - And of course i have missed out the relays.

    So 17 disciplines and 32 permutations (granted 20 is you take out the breaststroke permuation with another stroke).

    Realistically there are nothing like that many permutations in athletics.
    100/long jump
    (Some of the above are a little unrealistic in my opinion).

    So 22 disciplines (I've not split up into men/women), 11 permutations.

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  • 292. At 2:20pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:

    I'll stand by my comments regarding post 278. It was not intended to be a comment related to medal opportunities. I'm simply trying to make the point that a runner could not hope to be competative over distances of 400-1500 metres since the physiques of athletes at the two extremes of this scale are very different. The same goes for swimming, should you watch a reply of the 100 metres butterfly, have a look at the physique of the guy in lane 4, next to Phelps and you'll see he's a man mountain who trains specifically for shorter events. A guy who swims 400's, should not be able to compete. Thats why the guy is so special.

    The data will soon be available for your comparison though terriblebore, he's got bored of his current programme and will be swimming different events, most likely including the 400 free. He's so much better than Spitz ever was, it's far more competative era now and Spitz never had semi-finals in his era.

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  • 293. At 2:23pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:


    You missed out the chucking events and the long/triple jump combo!

    I agree, many are unrealistic because your joints would pack up with the strains but I think some altheltes are capable of moving between events.

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  • 294. At 2:32pm on 18 Aug 2008, The Rhymenoceros With A Mic In His Hand wrote:

    Fabulousreds your quite simply being an idiot

    Genetically afro caribeans are quicker than any other ethnic group, you can try arguing against it but the fact that fastest a caucasion has run the 100m is about 10:10 whereas there are a countless number of black athletes who have gone under 10 seconds.

    Secondly you asked when was the last time an athlete from western africa made the final, I don't know the answer but you look at the countries who are represented in the final and you'll notice they are all athletics heavy weights. America and the Caribean nations put a lot of money into developing their young runners.

    Also genetically caucasions are far better suited to cycling, it's a real power sport that uses your lower body, that develops through evolution and europeans have been cycling for decades and have a strong advantage.

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  • 295. At 2:39pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Yes Doc - quite deliberately in the same way I missed out the IM in the 200 combinations.

    I've tried to make it nice and simple and look at realistic multiple medal opportunities.

    If I added in the ones you suggested I might get another 8 in athletics.

    If I added in the 200 IM to the 200 free fly back br I'd also get another 8 combos.

    My contention is that it is easier to win multiple medals in swimming. Do you not agree? If not, why not.

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  • 296. At 2:49pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Actually that was badly worded....not easier - more likely.

    Winning a medal is never easy.

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  • 297. At 2:53pm on 18 Aug 2008, terriblebore86 wrote:

    re 292

    yes, I agree with all of what you say. But Phelps does not swim 400s, he swims one 400 - the im and this is what makes the achievement incomparable to the 400 - 1500 you suggest - the 4 different stokes may make it possible. I hope Phelps does swim the 400 free in addition to a 100 event- if he did it would certainly be an achievement greater than any track star, but until then the comparison you draw is unfair as nothing on a track compares to the im - at any distance.

    re your comment on looking at sizes / physiques - watch the 100m final again ... bolt is so much taller than everyone else - almost like a 400m runner. a guy that tall shouldn't be able to compete.

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  • 298. At 2:57pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:

    I agree it's easier but in general I'd say the plausible combinations in swimming are

    50/100 freestyle.
    100/200 within a single stroke (except freestyle)
    400/400 freestyle
    400 1500 freestyle or 400/800 for women
    100 free/100 butterfly just for women.

    are all realistic, 7 for men and 8 for women.

    slap on the wrist for confusing your combs and perms ....

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  • 299. At 3:03pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    People might want to read these responses to a recent blog by Tom Fordyce, which saw many of the same debates, but more in terms of just "the greatest Olympian" (which is hard to enough to call) :

    Interesting to compare this article, which compares Phelps' multiple medals in one or two Olympics, to a single glorious performance by Bolt. Tom's article was more about comparing Phelps and Spitz's supremacy at a single Olympics compared to the people who do it Olympiad after Olympiad. It's impossible to say what weight you should put on one over another.

    But until a few days ago, one could argue that Phelps wasn't even the best swimmer in _this_ Olympics. Grant Hackett might well have got a medal at Atlanta had he gone, but then he was unbeaten in his event for 10 years. 10 years. Shame he only got silver this time, but his is a truly awesome record. Unfortunately he only has one medal to win - there's no 1500m relay/medley/breast/back/fly.

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  • 300. At 3:10pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    I'd agree with the basic premise that there's too many swimming events, and that even the ones we have are too similar in their demands - multiply swim distance by 4 to get approximate track equivalents, so most of them are in that 400m/800m "fast endurance" range.

    (sorry, having filter problems)

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  • 301. At 3:14pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    yea - oops - the order is irrelevent.

    50/100 is the same as 100/50.

    School hols - must brush up up my stats before teaching S1 and S2!

    Hee hee.

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  • 302. At 3:17pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    25m would make for a genuine fast-twitch sprint - and do it from a floating start to take out the effect of dives and turns. I'd also ban suits from legs and arms.

    I'm tending towards Teofilo Stevenson as the greatest ever Olympian - Ali was a greater overall boxer, but only did one Olympics before taking the money. Stevenson preferred "the love of 8 million Cubans" to the love of millions of dollars and continued to support the Games. Ali gets much Olympic kudos for providing _the_ moment of the Atlanta Games, but rather loses it by throwing away his Olympic medal. "Greatness" has to include the stuff away from the track/piste/pitch.

    Greatest Olympic team of all time - Hungarian sabre team 1932-60.

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  • 303. At 3:19pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    Grr - the filter just hates the idea of my attempt to say that there should be 10000m, 1500m, 100m x 5 and 25m.

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  • 304. At 3:20pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    It seems it didn't like 10 followed by the first letter of km.

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  • 305. At 3:24pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    I must confess I do like the idea of having open water swimming - where people can swim in a pack and draft etc.

    I'd actually be all in favour of getting rid of backstroke and fly all together (but maybe leave one medley) and get rid of the 400 medley relay.

    And then use these freed up medals for some open water swimming with no lanes, although at differing distances than at the swimming wolrd champs.

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  • 306. At 3:26pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:

    Different subject really welshbloke, but don't you thin kthey ruined the trialthon when they allowed drafting at elite level?

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  • 307. At 3:26pm on 18 Aug 2008, KMBayes wrote:

    Different subject really welshbloke, but don't you think they ruined the trialthon when they allowed drafting at elite level?

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  • 308. At 3:35pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Totally Doc.

    I can see why they did it - I remember competing in the World Duathlon Championships prior to drafting being allowed- and a bunch of over 40 riders formed.

    It was like being in the bunch in cycling and come the run the better runners just ran away!

    The problem as I see it is that you have so many evenly matched people that drafting is almost inevitable.

    The solution for me would have been "cut down the number of people" - even 60 athletes could in theory be spread out over 2 mins with a 2 second gap in between. And are there actually 60 triathletes capable of winning gold?

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  • 309. At 3:36pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    You should try some of the events they had pre-WWI - in one a boat just dumped people in the middle of the Med and expected them to swim to land! They also had obstacle races and underwater races - Phelps seems to be trying to turn the normal races into one of the latter....

    For the London Games a "cross the Channel" event would be appropriate?

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  • 310. At 5:04pm on 18 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    This is a no brainer. The men's 100m is THE EVENT in the Olympics.

    Almost all of us can relate to what it means to run 100m as fast as you can. To do it in 9.69 seconds will have children running across playgrounds across the world.

    Swimming is a poor relation but it is certainly more significant than these minority sports like sailing, rowing and cycling round some weird wooden bowl shaped track.

    That English woman who swapped from rowing to pursuit shows up these events for what they are.

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  • 311. At 5:30pm on 18 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    Rio's Back Pocket said: "Also genetically caucasions are far better suited to cycling, it's a real power sport that uses your lower body, that develops through evolution and europeans have been cycling for decades and have a strong advantage."

    LOL - are suggesting that natural selection has favoured cycling Europeans over their non-cycling counterparts ? Either that or you subscribe to lamarck's theories on evolution.

    Listen very carefully:

    1. Your opinion is worth nothing.
    2. You have no understanding of genetics, evolution or sociology.

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  • 312. At 5:42pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Oh that is priceless - I missed that earlier.

    To think that I''ve been under the misapprehension that evolution has taken millions of years.

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  • 313. At 5:48pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    But fearlessbamber - many sports are ripe for crossover - it does not make them any easier.

    Speed skating, cross country ski-ing and cycling
    Rowing and cycling

    I've only given examples from my own sport.

    To get to the top in any of those disciplines taken years of dedication.........but to get to the top if you switch does not.

    Why? Cos the physical demands are to a point very similar. And generally speaking they are sports that do not require a great deal of "technical ability" - though riding in a bunch on the track as Romero did today is terrifying and does require a lot of skill.

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  • 314. At 5:48pm on 18 Aug 2008, dangerdanaher wrote:

    Good point above, and if cycling is a lower body sport that is dominated by caucasions, why don't more caucasions do well on the track? i'm no anthropologist, but i would have thought running is a mainly lower body sport too?

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  • 315. At 6:29pm on 18 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    To get to the top in any of those disciplines taken years of dedication.........but to get to the top if you switch does not.

    I really couldn't say 'cos I've never ridden a funny bike on a funny track wearing a funny hat or tried rowing or sailing ....

    but I have tried running as fast as I can and swam up and down a pool.

    I'm pretty sure 99.9% of people are in the same boat (pun intended) as me :)

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  • 316. At 7:19pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    I take it you've tried comedy too.....and found you weren't very good at that either!

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  • 317. At 7:24pm on 18 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    I take it you've tried comedy too.....and found you weren't very good at that either!

    Right back at you Einstein.

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  • 318. At 8:19pm on 18 Aug 2008, peter2o6 wrote:

    Whatever Jamaica's testing regime, the IOC have been extensively and independently testing athletes during these olympics.
    His performance to those in the athletics fraternity is not unbelievable as many of his counterparts have commented.

    He is clean and that could be the most phenomenal athletic feat I will ever witnness, here are 10 reasons why:

    1. He is so confident at 21

    2. He is 6'5

    3. He's relaxed - taking naps and eating fast food before the race (we'll take his word)

    4. He showed up for the race acting as if it was a mid-season practice session.

    5. Ran the race with his shirt untucked

    6. There was no tail wind like the previous two record-setting races

    7. He celebrated 80% into the race

    8. Set a new world record

    9. He wasn't sure if he was going to compete in this event 2 weeks before (we'll take his word for it)

    10. Biggest stage and biggest performance, all the while making it look like he wasn't even trying.

    If that doesn't do it for you, you hate sports.

    If the kid doesn't win another race for the rest of his life, that performance was still legendary.

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  • 319. At 11:12pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    Interesting that some people seem to think that rowing isn't a technical sport! It has it all - an "all-body" sport, one of the greatest cardiovascular demands, demanding individual technique, perfect teamwork and tactics. Sure, a bigger crew will beat a smaller crew of the same skill - but often you're pitching the rowing equivalent of Maradona up against Peter Crouch. An example that comes to mind is Cambridge's dominance of the Boat Race in the mid 90's - often they were up against bigger guys from Oxford, often with more foreign imports - but Cambridge would consistently beat them with some of the most beautiful rowing I've seen on the Tideway. Interesting to look at the stats - since the war, the heavier crew has beaten the lighter crew 32 times, compared to 31 victories by the lighter crew. To be honest I'm amazed at that - if only for the effects of the conditions which often favour the heavier crew. But it just goes to show that it's not just a case of throwing big guys in a boat and expecting them to win.

    I'll happily accept that track cycling has similar demands to 2000m rowing - in fact I think Romero has said that the demands of track cycling are more similar to rowing than to road cycling. Certainly those two and cross-country skiing seem to be the sports that demand greatest VO2max, and obviously have similar demands on your leg muscles. Just imagine if Romero had a go at skiing for the 2010 Winter Olympics.....! But I suspect that it is vastly easier to go from rowing to cycling than to go the other way round - and personally I think the uniqueness of Romero's achievement emphasises her specialness rather than the ordinariness of the sports.

    Incidentally - track sprinting is very much a "whole body" sport - that's why the 100m guys have such amazing upper-body development.

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  • 320. At 01:16am on 19 Aug 2008, BenIsRight wrote:

    Greatness to me in sport; the difficulty of the sport, the obstacles overcome, the participation numbers of the sport, longevity, sportsmanship, role model element, style.

    Neither Phelps nor Bolt have matched all of these. What obstacles did he overcome? Was it his freak body that enables him to swim better, deeper and faster than anyone else before he has even had a training session? Lance Armstrong got his climbing body through having cancer if you can believe it. And role model? Phelps is a convicted criminal! And forget about Bolt, he has won one gold medal.

    Its difficult for an athlete to match all these. Before anyone would ask, "why role model", its because the term greatest is being branded about. No one questions why a gymnast doenst get a 10 just because they wobble a little. The greatest is a 10, not a 9.9.

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  • 321. At 08:22am on 19 Aug 2008, Batson_D_Belfry wrote:

    I don't know that you can ever settle such a subjective debate as who is the greatest. All I can say is which of the two made the greatest impression on me.

    Phelps filled we with awe at the guy's power, stamina, mental strength and will to win. I thought at the time that this would be the story of the Olympics this year.

    But Bolt's run was what had me leaping out of my seat. It was sensational, thrilling and came in one of the most central events in all the Games. It was the best Olympic moment for me since Michael Johnson's 200m in Atlanta.

    While I'll remember the fact that Phelps won 8 golds for a long time, the image that I'll remember longest was Bolt's arms going out 10m from the line in celebration. Yes, he is a showman, but there was something inclusive in that gesture, inviting us in to take part in the sheer wonder at his abilities.

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  • 322. At 09:20am on 19 Aug 2008, Matt Slater wrote:

    Nice to see this is still rumbling along, and with plenty of good stuff proposed from all angles.

    I can't really top Batson_d_Belfry's assessment (#321), well said.

    But let me just say a little bit more about my suggestion of Diego Maradona (to be honest, it could have been Ali, Jordan, Bradman, Woods, Jim Brown, Daley Thompson...depends which day you catch me on). I like Diego for a few reasons. First, he plays the most popular sport in the world....a sport that is played pretty much everywhere and by every section of society. To get to the top in football you've come through a very competitive field. Second, I like the all-round test that team sports, particularly ball sports, provide. Speed, strength, balance, co-ordination, heart, mental strength, timing, dexterity etc etc. And third, DM did it on his sport's biggest stage and he did it more than once. It isn't easy for an individual to really dominate a team sport, but he did in the World Cup (he played in four, should have played in five, dominated one completely and almost repeated the trick in the next one). He also made average teams good, good teams great: Boca, Argentina 86 and 90, Napoli.

    And this is the reason, for me, he is a greater footballer than Pele, who, I have to admit, I never got to see live, but have seen plenty of footage of and read plenty about too. It's clearly very close, though......Fifa gave them the player of the century award to share (although DM is rumoured to have won the public ballot).

    Does DM score any points for grace, sportmanship, behaviour away from sport??? No, of course he doesn't! I'll never forget how he broke my 13-year-old heart with his "hand of God" goal in '86....but I also can't forget what happened soon after, his goals against Belgium or his play throughout that tournament.

    I think he is a very reasonable shout for G.O.A.T...but there are plenty more!

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  • 323. At 11:49am on 19 Aug 2008, grooverblooter wrote:

    @ 318

    I am an avid track and field fan, but I am sorry to say the fact that the IOC is testing extensively means next to nothing. Marion Jones tested clean a reported 84 times with no failed tests between 1997 and 2004 - including her tests at the Sydney olympics.

    Yet we know she was using banned substances prior to, during, and subsequent to her olympic campaign. Athletes time their use in order to test clean, or continually use substances which are undetectable.

    The testing system is inadequate.

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  • 324. At 12:41pm on 19 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    criteria for GOAT

    dominance at his/her peak. Bolt, Phelps, Merckx, Bradman, the bookies stop taking bets even against the second best opponent. 10/10

    time at the top. Bolt, two months, Phelps/Hoy, 4 years, Merckx/Armstrong, 8 years, Woods 10 years, Bradman.....20 years. 10/10 to the Don

    Strength in depth of opposition. 100m dash, universal/global, football, the same, basketball,cricket freestyle sprint swimming, fairly global/universal. Bradman 9/10

    Social impact. Ali,Woods, Bradman. 10/10

    Athleticism /endurance required. Merckx/ Armstrong/Bolt/Phelps/Redgrave 10/10. Bradman, maybe 7/10. five days in the field under the Brisbane sun.

    GOAT is still Bradman

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  • 325. At 6:27pm on 19 Aug 2008, alanskillcole wrote:

    I mentioned Jim Thorpe at about blog#88

    "Normally, most of the best Jamaicans are snatched up by the NCAA schools and run every weekend for the school to get points in meets," he said, noting the drop in Jamaican rivals in college meets. "It's like a sprint factory down there. Jamaica just keeps pumping them out.

    "But now, the trend is for them to stay away from the riff-raff in the NCAA. At first, when Usain Bolt didn't want to take the offer to go to a U.S. college, the feeling was that he'd just be another sprinter who'd go away. But he hasn't gone away. That didn't happen."

    Shocking in this day and age that people believe that one group is intrinsically better at one sport than another.
    Is there some new theory just out of "Nature", "Scientific American" to support this?

    1. Years ago
    A few years ago, people thought as much in football...then when Viv Anderson came through and the WBA "3 degrees", that (sorta) changed.
    There was a time that long distance running wasn't dominated by Ethopians, Kenyans or North Africans. When did the supposedly "genetic" factor kick in?

    I was asked the same in chess (though not checkers - check Baba Sy). Look at the struggle of a Simutowe to get to areas to bring up his ELO rating.
    But, pre Anthony Miles, would a Soviet ask an Englishman why there were no English GMs? Would the former dare to say it was a race/gene thing? Then, Miles, Keene, Short, and on came through...weekend tournaments, Bundesliga, Spanish league...
    There's the same lack of emerging talent in US - just influx of those from former Soviet bloc. But that's not genes talking.
    Perhaps, it's what kids find interesting (US football, baseball, basketball).

    2. Societal reasons - necessity
    In some societies, people run long distances as a necessity.
    Was it US athlete Steve Williams (contemporary of Jamaica's Don Quarrie) who made some joke that, in US, they run to get away from trouble?

    How many top class athletes from Jamaica are from rural areas incl. Ottey, Bolt, and others? There may be much work/training with Glen Mills etc, in capital, at the University of Technology, but, many are from rural areas.
    Again, there may be a microcosm of the wider thing of excelling as a necessity - city versus rural opportunities.

    3. Hunger - Gary Player's "The more I practise the luckier I get"...
    Like they say how many middle-class boxers do you see?

    4. What we are exposed to
    How many people out of Jamaica swim? Not many.
    Is that genetics?
    Are there pools?
    If one had had an ability to swim, would it have been discovered if there was no pool?
    And how many schools have a swimming pool?
    The one at my school was non-functioning for much of my time there.
    Pools were more middle class. Just as rugby was at some schools.
    And, no, we all don't just wake up in the morning and see a clear blue sea...
    This is not moaning - it's just stating that it's not something with as much exposure. We don't blame genes for such an inability....nay, even an awareness of what we're missing...

    5. How far to stretch this genetics thing?
    If West Indians - Barbadians, Trinidadians, St. Lucians, Kittians, etc, etc, etc (not just Jamaicans) and if African Americans have this "gene" for sprints, did it derive from Black Africa?
    If so, should Black Africans also dominate at sprints? If not, why not?

    Should West Indians and African Americans dominate at long distances - much as Black Africans (though this argument discounts Aouitas, etc from North Africa) too?

    How is it that this "african gene" dominates in sprints in the West but not in long distances. And contrary in Africa?
    Does that not suggest an environmental slant to things?

    6.Resources and exposure to more sports
    David Weller didn't have the facilities but managed to get an olympic cycling medal...there are road races back home..
    there are other sports but interest and resources are tight...
    now there are world class hurdlers and field eventers e.g.,long jump.
    20+ years ago, it was only track (Quarrie, Miller, etc).
    So, 20+ years ago, we could've said that we're only genetically good at track.
    But we didn't.
    (Great that Colombia's Montoya was exposed to racing: supposedly flew to US training and races in the back of a refrigerated flower cargo plane.)

    7. Who are the trailblazer? "I wanna be like him when I grow up"...
    Was it Bud Collins or another US commentator, the first year of Becker winning Wimbledon, who said that if Becker had been born in the US, he'd probably be a running back or some such in US football?

    Perhaps the buzz for tennis in Sweden after Borg - Jarryd, Wilander, Edberg - was more to do with kids seeing a trailblazer and following?

    Perhaps, kids grow up wanting to be the next Quarrie/Ottey? Or, the next Beenie Man?

    What if?
    Bolt also liked cricket. Could he have been like Michael Holding?
    Manley bemoaned lack of interest in cricket? The appeal (now) of basketball - kids go off on such scholarships to US...does the dominance of WesT Indian islands other than Jamaica in cricket mean much ? Or is it just a matter of the sport that interests one? That pays? Wasn't Lara was in the same class as Shaka Hislop in Trinidad?
    Would WI have baseballers rather than cricketers if there had been exposure to the former? Is a nation's slalom success down to genetics?
    There are jamaican tennis players that, if the facilities/sponsors were there, what they could've been? Perhaps they end up coaching in the resorts.
    (Are the European Serb, Russian and (soon with the coaching at home and in Australia) Chinese women better at tennis than the GB women?)

    It's shocking that success is seen as being just down to a pigeon hole of some "God?" given talent / some racial/ ethnic thing?
    It's, yes, talent, exposure to a range of sports from which one chooses, and staying healthy amongst other things but never thought of it as race / genetics.
    In a few years, when a new powerhouse nation emerges in sport X, hope it's not touted as genetics but as hard work, good coaching, talent, the "right place at right time" of being exposed to it/the hunger to get out of poverty.

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  • 326. At 6:42pm on 19 Aug 2008, alanskillcole wrote:

    Jamaica's proud Olympic record stretches back 60 years, but the seeds of Bolt's success were sown even further back. It was under British rule that Champs, a championship for the country's top high school runners, was founded in 1910. It has developed into Jamaica's biggest annual sporting event, attracting up to 2,000 athletes and daily sell-out crowds every year of 30,000. It is the tip of a competition pyramid that sees children across Jamaica start to take part in sprint races from the age of five. Wherever you find a piece of wasteland on the island you will inevitably see youngsters arranging impromptu races dreaming one day of making it to Champs.
    Anthony Davis, the sports director at Jamaica's University of Technology (UTECH), where Bolt, Powell and many other top athletes train on a grass track and in an unairconditioned weights room, started a scholarship scheme nearly 30 years ago that was designed to stop the top sprinters leaving for the US.
    It is understandable that people are cynical, but Michael Frater, who finished sixth in yesterday's final, in 9.97sec, has said any Jamaican who tested positive would not be able to remain there. 'The country's so small, if you take drugs, you would be embarrassed. In the States, it's big, so you can move around, but here, you can't move.'

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  • 327. At 8:27pm on 19 Aug 2008, peter2o6 wrote:

    @ 323

    Marion Jones was caught because she used "the clear"

    "The clear" was not tested for in a standard drugs test because of its lack of prominence. It as a relatively new drug in terms of athletic, fresh from the labs.

    What is the probablity that:

    1. Usain bolt has run the fastest time as a junior in 200m, first Junior to break the 20 sec. mark. (that's just one achievement).

    2. He's been touted by all his peers as "one for the future"

    3. Passed drugs tests

    4. there is a new drug on the market that hasn't been discovered for a standard drugs test, just before the olympics at a time when the world of Athletics knows that drugs could bury the sport.I think the probability is really small. And at the end of the day he is using.

    5. In the improbable event that such a drug does exist, what are the chances of it being in the hands of the Jamiacans and no one else?

    The kid is clean. I will not be responding to responses questioning Bolts alledged drug consumption.

    Why is it that, for some, Usain Bolt is guilty until proven innocent (which will never be for some) but Michael Phelps is innocent until proven guilty, I mean endurance athletes are getting caught all the time - hence tour de farce (can anyone tell me who won it?)

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  • 328. At 8:31pm on 19 Aug 2008, friendlymrsflip wrote:

    re 324

    did bradman ever compete at the olympics????

    just a small point but he cannot therefore be a GOAT only a GAAT

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  • 329. At 8:56pm on 19 Aug 2008, notafscooby wrote:

    Still have seen a relevant view to this irrelavant dispute...Keep trying people.

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  • 330. At 10:21pm on 19 Aug 2008, bozfarey wrote:

    Two possible candidates for the Greatest Of All Time?
    1) C.B. Fry, who played Cricket and Football for England, and held the World Long Jump Record for a while. Also played first class Rugby.
    2) William Grenfell (Lord Desborough), who won a silver medal for Fencing at the 1906 Games, and organised the 1908 Games, but also swam across the Niagara Rapids, rowed across the channel, climbed the Matterhorn. He was also president of the Oxford Athletic Club, Marylebone Cricket Club, Lawn Tennis Association and Amateur Wrestling Association. Also a good shot, but mostly of animals rather than targets.

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  • 331. At 00:08am on 20 Aug 2008, kenroy124 wrote:

    to say that mikeal phrlps is the greatest olypion of all time is too much a strong statment. One aspect we have to take in mind is he did not earn those gold medals by him self he was help by his team mates and scieintifical out fit.
    I would like to say Mark spitz did greater than Phelps in my opinion considering cercomstanes and conditions there is no one I think can say he is not one of the greatest but the greatest is inaproprete

    Ken llewellyn
    brooklyn New York

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  • 332. At 07:22am on 20 Aug 2008, mariesmc wrote:

    There is a bizarre fascination, it seems, for constantly deciding on "the greatest this," "the most awesome that." Can someone explain to me the point of it all unless, of course, you are genuinely comparing like with like?

    Perhaps we can just agree that both Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are truly outstanding athletes, and leave it at that. No more apples and oranges, please.

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  • 333. At 08:40am on 20 Aug 2008, Sanfardo wrote:

    These articles do confuse me.

    The lead into the article from the homepage says-

    'Bolt v Phelps'

    We're then treated to a long article on the merits of Phelps, and asked who is the greatest of all-time.

    No harm done of course but, I've lost count of how many articles on the BBC site run with one headline, and then just chat away about something else, like a child struggling to keep on topic in their GCSE exam!!

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  • 334. At 10:38am on 20 Aug 2008, Flyboy84 wrote:

    I have spent the majority of the morning reading the above comments and feel alot of people have gone of the boil abit. this is a debate about whether Bolt of phelps should be hailed as athelete of beijing.

    First I would like to say i admire both men amzing achievments, i jumps in astonishment when i saw 9.69 from bolt and I stayed up till 4 in the morning to watch phelps win his eigth and stood up toa ppluad that amazing peice of history. Both fantastic.

    I dont see how we can compare the two sports and i dont see why people fo the athletics world are getting on the defensive saying we cant win that many medals, when marion jones won 5 in 2000, the swimming world didnt get on the defensive. For comemnt number 40 on this page i think 4 eents for an athlete to do is alittle poor if we are talking about a superstar multi eventing. lets review:

    Why cant a sprinter do:

    100m sprint
    110m hurdles
    200m sprint
    400m sprint
    400m hurdles
    4x100m relay
    4x400m relay
    Long jump

    Obviousley this has to be programmes inhibited but phelsps did 8 events where he has to swim heats relays and finals for events ranging 100m which is roughly the same time as a 400m in track, 200m swims which is roughly the same as the 800m on the track and the 400m swims which is roughly the same as the 1500m on the track. Someone ike michaeal johnson who was suprime at the 200 and 400 could have done the 100 being 200mWR holder, he could ave done more training and pushed on the hurdles over the same distances and the long jump. The fact is athletics hasnt got anyone that diverse at this point in time and if they did are they willing to train like phelps has over the past decade to be fit and strong enought to BREAK world records and win 8 golds. Yes remeber BREAK world records he dint just win in average times he beat times other swimmers focusing on 1 or 2 events couldnt do. So for anyone in and out of the sport of athletics who say we couldnt win that many medals, I say i bet before spits and phelps swimming didnt think they could. It can be done in athletics, they just need someone that diverse and fantastic who is willing to work to the bone to win that many golds as has micael phelps in athletics.

    I take a quote frm mark lewis francis a few years ago stating he only trains twice a week for his 100m. if he trained all week specifically for 7-8 events who knows how good an athlete cold be if you are as talented as michael phelps.

    To the world of athletics why be so negative when this feat can be done...why not belive someone in that sport could do the same?

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  • 335. At 12:19pm on 20 Aug 2008, grooverblooter wrote:

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

  • 336. At 2:16pm on 20 Aug 2008, DJBoogie wrote:

    bolt= 1 gold medal (will prob be 2) and a world record. phelps 6 world golds last time, 8 golds this time, and umteen world records

    you cannot even put bolt in the same room as phelps, hes NOWHERE NEAR his achievment.

    ask bolt to run 400m and 800m, and win a gold........then I might listen.

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  • 337. At 2:17pm on 20 Aug 2008, DJBoogie wrote:

    all bolt did was win a race and break a world record, a record that WILL eventually be beat.........I am pretty confident.....phelps record will never beat beat
    bolt is a fast runner........phelps is superman
    bolt is the man of the moment (akin to maurice green etc), phelps is a legend

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  • 338. At 2:22pm on 20 Aug 2008, DJBoogie wrote:

    all bolt can do is sprint, pehlps has stamina over various distances

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  • 339. At 3:59pm on 20 Aug 2008, MikeFay wrote:

    Flyboy84 - I suspect the reason 100m sprinters don't train that often is that after doing explosive training, you need to give the muscles time to rest and rebuild - if you do weight training, it actually aches the most two days after.

    Endurance training needs repeating day after day, for much of the week. So a short, explosive event athlete may only train 2-3 times a week, while if you need endurance - and if your event lasts much more than ten seconds then you probably will - then you'll be training more often.

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  • 340. At 4:02pm on 20 Aug 2008, ladyactive8 wrote:

    I am scrolling my way through these hundreds of comments and am itching to say something!!

    I believe that the value of a world record should be held in the highest esteem. The fact that someone can go past the speed, weight, distance etc. of any man or women before them really does astound me. You begin to wonder if there is going to be a point where athletes just cannot perform any better, but we still havent reached that point. Winning a gold at the olympics is a competition between you and the other competitors on that day, you are only better than your opposition to win the medal. To gain a world record you must be the best....ever!

    If you compare the quality and difficulty of the gymnastics to where it was years ago it just shows how far athletics has improved. The fact that in the Men's Pommel Horse very few managed to stay on the horse as they struggled to keep momentum as the difficulty level was so high!

    With regards to Phelps winning his golds, you need to remember that it was not just him swimming when it came down to the relay section, it was a team effort, without them also performing at world class level, Phelps would not have those medals. Also he has done what no other athlete has done before by winning 8 golds, once again pushing past the boundaries of what was thought humanly possible.

    On another subject I believe that individual sporting heroes receive much higher praise than teams. For a start how does say a volleyball team get a world record?? Secondly you can see individuals that perform within a team, but without that team they would be nothing, you need every player to work together to make a winning product therefore the following praise is spread between all the competitors (although goalscorers do tend to receive more glory!!).

    All in all every sporting discipline requires specific skills and athletic attributes in order to be the best so you cannot compare sporting greats across any of them.

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  • 341. At 4:04pm on 20 Aug 2008, end2endgame wrote:

    I love the fact that Matt Slater goes and defeats the very object of the thread he started by declaring that Diego Maradona is the greatest sportsman of all time.

    I thought this thread was Olympian - not just Sportsman/woman. I don't know if Maradona competed in the Olympics but even if he did I don't think he got a gold with Argentina. If he did, winning one Gold hardly qualifies you to be eligible for 'Best Olympian ever'.

    Matt, if your'e talking about 'Best Sportsman' then the title of the thread needs to read 'Best Sportsman' not 'Best Olympian'. And no Maradona was NOT the greatest Sportsman of all time, that's btwn Lance Armstrong and Ali. Federer and Borg won more than Maradona as well. Best Footballer? easy: Pele. Then Cruyff then Best. Maradona? Top 5 Footballer but not even in Top 20 for best Sportsman/woman - let alone Olympian. Has that answered your question?

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  • 342. At 4:06pm on 20 Aug 2008, beefbeerandbaps wrote:

    100m WR and 200m WR at the same olympics by a 21 year old - Unique !!!!
    This has never been done before and will never be done again !! NB even the former athletic GOAT Michael Johnson didnt think Bolt could get his 200m WR (probably the hardest existing athletics WR at the time) this time- around - truly Amazing!

    Phelps is not in the same postcode - Spitz done more or less same - many from relays for both and Thorpe wasnt far off recnelty - they come along every 10 - 15 years in swimming - as long as swim for US or Aus -Thorpe to Phelps was even shorter gap.

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  • 343. At 4:15pm on 20 Aug 2008, alisopinion wrote:

    Oh by the way - Love Maradona!
    However he "his hand of god" won him a world cup which he even admits to with a smile when He and Gary Linneker reunited.
    Great athlete but a cheat too.

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  • 344. At 4:29pm on 20 Aug 2008, mobaystretch wrote:

    bolt's performance has to rank as the greatest in the history of the olympics' sprint events. prior to tonight, johnson's record seemed untouchable.

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  • 345. At 4:30pm on 20 Aug 2008, end2endgame wrote:

    BTW in my opinion the 'Best Olympian ever' is Steve Redgrave. Why? Because he was at the top of his game for 16 here a parallel to this? the man was obsessed with being the best of the best, year after year until his body said enough. This is the mark of truly great olympian and a real sportsman in the truest sense.

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  • 346. At 4:45pm on 20 Aug 2008, ssetumba wrote:

    Wilt Chamberlain is undoubtedly the greatest sportsman of all time. He excelled at a sport everyone of us plays- sex, by sleeping with 20,000 women as he claimed to run himself into American folklore. Now, someone beat that!!

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  • 347. At 5:46pm on 20 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    I was was driven to call Radio 5 when a caller described Alan Shearer as the greatest ever English striker and the correspondent dismissed him out of hand by naming Geoff Hurst. I felt the need to point out that Hurst was not even the best of his generation (Greaves) but a masterful manager read the game well enough to pick him over a better player. I pointed out that if Shearer was born Scottish (like me) he would still be the best British striker to play in the Premiership, but if Hurst was born Scottish you would not remember him.

    The point of all this? Team events. Relays. If Phelps was born Belgian, how many golds would he have? How would he rate?

    Now I dearly hope for Bolt and the great Asafa Powells sake that Jamaica win the relay.

    BTW, Greatest Of All Time remains Bradman. On the statistical measure of standard deviation from norm, ( % wins) Tiger may rival him, but lets face it, golf is not really a sport.

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  • 348. At 6:08pm on 20 Aug 2008, madgroover wrote:

    "Why cant a sprinter do:

    100m sprint
    110m hurdles
    200m sprint
    400m sprint
    400m hurdles
    4x100m relay
    4x400m relay
    Long jump

    Never before in the field of sports commentary has so much ignorance been displayed in so few words.

    Consider Michael Johnson who is regarded as one of the supreme athletes of all time. He was the first person ever to win the 200m / 400m double. His 19.32 was so good in the 200m that the second best was 0.3 behind until today. The next 0.3 would cover the next 100 best - it was that good. Then he also won the 400m in a world record time. This combination regarded as almost impossible. And you want to add hurdling and long jump to that and short sprinting - total of 6 other events using totally different muscle groups as well as combination of pounding from the impacts produced by each??

    In essence, you have answered the question in the opposite way you expected, because the only 8 you can come up is so totally ridiculous that it is impossible. Whereas the fact that Spitz won 7 shows that 8 in swimming wasn't. This is to do with the fact that swimmers are supported by water as they swim, and don't subject their body to the pounding that runners do.

    Not to take anything away from Phelps wonderful achievement. The fact that he won 8 rather than 4 reflects the fact that swimming has too many similar events and that being a middle class sport limited to few countries at the moment doesn't have enough true competition.

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  • 349. At 11:00pm on 20 Aug 2008, end2endgame wrote:

    Some people who've posted here seemed to have blurred the Greatest Olympian ever with the Greatest Sportsman/woman ever. The two are very different from eachother. Bradman, Woods, Schumacher - all greaTsporting heroes but since when were Golf and Cricket Olympic sports? since none of them ever competed at an Olympics and as the title of this thread is 'Best Olympian' and not 'Best Sportsman' ever their names shouldn't be being banded about on here. I'm not being pedantic - read the title thread!

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  • 350. At 12:15pm on 21 Aug 2008, Flyboy84 wrote:

    Just to clarify to a few people comments about sprinters being able to do 8 events as i can see people are getting pretty hit up about it.

    I am not saying it would be easy for an athlete to do 8 events, i would near enough be impossible (for most), but i bet thats what people in swimming said before mark spitz won his 7 medals and if it wasnt for him, Michael phelps wouldt have gone for it.

    I also being a sprinter myself understsnd it is very tough for the demands of eight events with sch high intensity, but as said before, the 400m run is the same as a 100m swim, phelps coped ok with that. the arguement of the hurdles using different muscles groups is a rubbish one as any swimmer will know each stroke uses different muscle groups that they ahve to train. I just think athletics are taking the easy ruoute saying there is no way they could win that many medals. albeit she was on drungs but marion jones did 5 golds in sydney. I still beilive there could be someone in athletics to do that amzing feat.

    I understand training for sprints is hard and more pounding but you think trainign for a 100m, 200m and 400m swim is easy, i gurentee durign a hrd trainign phase phelps was in agony days at a time untill getting prepared and tapering for the big meet. Its all about whether you are willing to get up at 4am, then traina nother 2 times per day.

    But please do not think i am getting at athletics i love the sport just disagree with the idea there could never be a micheal phelps of athletics.

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  • 351. At 2:14pm on 21 Aug 2008, marksgilbert wrote:

    Can everyone just take a step back and remember the basic tenants of athletics?

    FACT: The winner of the decathlon is the best athlete in the world - he has speed, power, endurance, agility, versitility and must be hard as nails to survive their uniquely-brutal training regimen!

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  • 352. At 00:14am on 22 Aug 2008, polyharmonic wrote:

    The fact of the matter is that medals from one sport or event is not equivalent to those in another sport. Therefore to compare athletes solely on the basis of gold medals or number of medals is rubbish. Put it another way, is a single gold medal by a swimmer equivalent to a single gold medal in decathlon? I think not!

    The point that Flyboy84 and others are missing isn't that Mark Phelps attained 8 golds, it is that in athletics it is not possible to even compete in 8 events competitively never mind winning them. With the wear and tear on the body long recovery times, there is no way that a track athlete could compete in 8 races. That is not to mention that the different athletic races are quite different from one another. A sprinter's body looks quite different from a middle distance runner to a marathoner.

    The same is the case in other events like rowing where no athlete could ever consider rowing in more than one event due to the near exhaustion.

    Phelps is perhaps one of the greatest SWIMMERS of all time. But to simply say he is the best Olympian of all time ON THE SOLE BASIS of his medal haul is ridiculous.

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  • 353. At 11:05am on 22 Aug 2008, end2endgame wrote:

    Flyboy84 - As a Sprinter I'm surprised you're making these comments about top athletes being abe to win 8 gold medals in as many days. I am also a runner ( not sprinter but long distance) and in case you hadn't noticed, running is a weight bearing sport whereas swimming is not.

    If Phelps tried to apply what he's achieved in swmming to running he simlpy wouldn't be abe to do it - not because he wouldn't be good enough (don't know what his runing is like? ) but becuse it is imposible to accomplish such a feat- your body would break down after day 4, and that's if you get that far.

    So to compare running with swimming is a non starter. Its better to compare swimmers with cyclists - but even this is fraught with complications. Anyway, am getting away from the title of this thread, but felt I needed to clear things up where comparisons between two sporting disciplines are concerned.

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  • 354. At 11:37pm on 22 Aug 2008, polyharmonic wrote:

    The other point that keeps bearing in mind is that swimming has far too many events where the distances aren't different enough to require different types of skills or physiques resulting in the same people winning multiple events ALL THE TIME.

    The last person to win 100m/200m was Lewis in 1984. The ONLY person to win 200m/400m was Johnson in 1996.

    We only need to however to look back as far as 2004 to see many multiple gold medal winners:
    200m/400m Freestyle Gold: Ian Thorpe
    100m/200m Backstroke: Aaron Peirsol
    100m/200m Breaststroke: Kitajima
    100m/200m Butteryfly: Phelps
    100m/200m Medley: Phelps

    Swimming simply has too many events that don't require skills and abilities that are very different from one another and thus leads to medal inflation.

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