in all the hype after phelps’ 11th olympic gold medal, this question has been tossed around a little too lightly. is phelps the greatest olympian ever? everyone’s answer seems to be a resounding “yes.” i’m not about to argue that phelps isn’t great…even insanely great. my objection concerns the basis for this claim.
when stating that phelps is the greatest olympian ever, what is the evidence cited? 10 olympic gold medals…more than anyone else. ever. period. i cannot and will not argue that this is amazing. upon winning his 9th my roommate responded “9, that’s insane. i wish i could have 1!” yes, 11 olympic golds (with the hope of many more to come) are something worthy of a parade (maybe even 2 parades). this is the reason he is considered the greatest olympian ever. it was only after winning his 10th that broadcasters began addressing him with this title.
but is it fair to state that he’s the best olympian ever based solely on gold medal count? i argue that it’s not. medal count is a good indication of how good you are, but it shouldn’t be the sole indicator of “greatness” (at least all-around greatness). what about marathon runners? there is only one chance every four years for 1 medal. 1 medal per 4 years. same with soccer, field hockey, basketball, etc. there is only one gold up for grabs per sport every 4 years.
phelps? isn’t he going for something like 8 medals just in beijing? how is it fair to compare him to a marathon runner when he has the chance to win up to 8 medals every 4 years? it’s near impossible for a marathon runner or basketball player then to be considered for this lofty title. it just doesn’t work that way. it’s like comparing apples to oranges or a swingline stapler to a manila folder. it doesn’t make sense.
greatest olympian ever? it’s really impossible to assign that title…to anyone. he’s definitely one of the greatest olympians ever. perhaps even the greatest olympian swimmer ever. but i don’t think it’s fair to determine the greatest olympian ever based solely on medal count. thanks for playing. try again.