August 23, 2016
By Conor Langs, Mount Carmel
He’s Superman in disguise. He’s a human fish. He’s America’s Golden Boy. He’s the “Baltimore Bullet.” He has nearly three times as many olympic gold medals than the athlete with the second most.
Who is he?
You guessed it, he’s Michael Phelps. Every four years over the past decade and a half, Phelps has united the country to cheer for something much greater than swimming. Because of Michael’s heroics, the debate of which country is the best at athletics ended years ago.
With 28 total medals (23 of them gold) under his belt, Phelps called it a career after the Rio games, going out on top with five golds and one silver. The perfect storybook ending.
With Phelp’s magical career in the rearview mirror, it is appropriate to put him in the conversation with the all time greats. But I’m not talking about the greatest swimmers ever, nor even the best olympians ever. I’m talking about the greatest ATHLETES ever.
Is Phelps the greatest athlete of all time? With five Olympic games appearances, almost 30 total medals, and seven world records in his back pocket, there’s no doubt that he’s a master at his craft. But does that put him over the top of all-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or Muhammad Ali? I certainly think so.
Over the past 16 years, Phelps has displayed a level of dominance that may never be reached again. He’s been the top swimmer in the world for his entire career, smashing records left and right, and winning so many gold medals that he can’t even keep count. Swimming takes a toll on the human body, and for Phelps to defy the odds and continue to dominate the sport as he aged is absolutely mesmerizing. It’s something only a superhuman can do. Let’s also not forget about the greatest performance in the history of sports Phelps put on at the 2008 summer games. Over the course of nine days in Beijing, Phelps won an olympic record eight gold medals in one games, with seven of them being world record times. Nothing in sports can compare to that, and nothing ever will.
With the upmost respect for Jordan, Ali, and Woods, none of them maintained the consistency Phelps held. None of them were the best at their sport for their entire careers, and none of them were winning their respective championships in their sport for their entire careers. Only one man in sports accomplished those feats, and his inhuman abilities will never be matched.
Michael Phelps was one of a kind, something that we may never see again. So, is he really the greatest athlete of all time?
Yes, yes he is.
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