Michael Phelps splash. Thanks Jav.lo at flickr.com for the picture.
Well, it's official. Michael Phelps is now the best olympic swimmer ever!! In fact, he's the best swimmer in history. The only debatable question left is whether he's the best athlete of all-time?? [See bottom of page for discussion of that.]
By winning his 8th gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, Phelps clearly surpassed Mark Spitz as the greatest olympic swimmer of all time. Indeed, Phelps is probably the greatest olympian of all-time. And, why not? He's won more olympic medals and more olympic golds than anyone ever. Ever. To get the 8 at the 2008 olympics, he had to swim in 17 races over 8 days. And, again, set 7 world records in those 8 days. Endurance!
It's actually spooky how close the records Spitz and Phelps set are.
But, the thing that really separates Michael Phelps from Mark Spitz is Phelps' longevity. This is the 3rd olympic games Phelps has participated in. In 2000, in Sydney, Phelps didn't medal, but he swam the 200 meter butterfly and came in 5th place -- at the age of 15!
However, at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Phelps won 8 medals; 6 golds; 2 bronze.
And of course, in Beijing, Phelps sweeps an unprecedented 8 gold medals.
So, in total, Phelps ends up with 16 medals all together in his olympic career -- 14 of them gold. Amazing. And clearly well ahead of Mark Spitz who only swam in one olympics game and "only" won 7 gold medals.
So, we think the case is closed, but please feel free to post your comments and opinion at the bottom of this page. Certainly, we could have a lively debate over whether Michael Phelps is the best athlete ever. We'd have to discuss another "Michael" (Jordan) and maybe Tiger Woods, etc.....
Check out the cool Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz stuff on Ebay right now. You can see them (and even bid on something) from right here on this page. Or see below.
The rest of this article was written before the '08 olympics; so it is all about Mark Spitz. Hey, he was great too. [And, he won his medals, and broke 7 world records, with long hair and a mustache and no swim cap (surely, you've seen the pictures) :) Let's see Phelps do that!]
Mark Spitz's image at Madame Tussauds. Thanks to taliaishere at flickr.com for the picture.
Mark Spitz began swimming when he was a young boy of only 2 years old. Eventually, he began to take part in small local competitions before, at the age of 16, he began competing, and winning, at the AAU level of competition in both the freestyle as well as in the butterfly strokes.
Soon he was dominating at the AAU level. And in 1967, he tried out for and made the Men's Swimming team that would represent the United States in the Pan American Games. At that event, Spitz was stellar. He established a record, winning 5 gold medals in those Games. From there, he went on to try out for the 1968 Olympic Men's Swimming team, which he became a member of.
At the 1968 games, Spitz, despite the fact that he managed to win 2 gold medals, considered his own performance to be somewhat of a disappointment. While he swam well in the two relays that he won gold in, he did not manage gold in any of the individual events in which he was slated to compete, winning silver in the 100 meter butterfly, and bronze in the 100 meter freestyle.
Disappointed in his performance at that Olympic Games, Spitz trained with a renewed vigor and determination during the following 4 years while a student at Indiana University. During that team, he dominated NCAA men's swimming, winning a number of national titles.
At the 1972 Olympic Games, Spitz, nicknamed the Albatross, was truly extraordinary. He won no less than 7 gold medals as part of the 1972 United States Men's Swimming team. Of those 7 gold medals, 4 of them were individual golds. Those came in the 100 meter butterfly, the 100 meter freestyle, the 200 meter butterfly, and the 200 meter freestyle. He also won 3 team relay golds, those coming in the 4x100 meter freestyle, the 4x100 meter medley, and the 4xs00 meter freestyle relays.
Mark Spitz at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. Thanks to stephaniecomfort at flickr.com for the photo.
Unfortunately, despite his stellar performance, Spitz was overshadowed at the 1972 Olympic Games by the massacre in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed. Following that shooting, Spitz, also of Jewish descent, left Munich to return to the US.
Following the 1972 Olympic Games, at a point in which Spitz was on top of the swimming world, Spitz abruptly decided to retire at the age of 22, with perhaps, still many potentially competitive years to go. Following his retirement, Spitz tried his hand at acting, landing a number of assorted roles on television series and in movies. However, Spitz proved to be a better swimmer than actor, and his entertainment career never amounted to much.
One last side note to Mark Spitz' career as a swimmer. In 1992, at the age of 41, Spitz attempted to qualify for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics after a filmmaker offered him one million dollars if he made the team. Despite posting times that were just about the same as those which he posted in the prime of his career, it was evident that today's athletes were quicker and stronger, as those times failed to even qualify him.
Other great American Olympic stories are at:
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Michael Phelps Best All-Time Athlete Not rated yet
Gotta say, not only is Michael Phelps the best swimmer ever; he's the best athlete in the world of sports -- in history. I know a good case can be made …
Michael Phelps is the Best!! Not rated yet
I'm sure you are going to update this page as Phelps has clearly passed Spitz as the best all time olympic swimmer. Indeed, simply the best swimmer ever. …