Is Phelps the Greatest of All Time?

Rio 2016 Review of Day 8

Michael Phelps conquista 20ª medalha de ouro e é ovacionado 1036413-09082016- mg 6336 01

Michael Phelps now has a career tally of 23 gold medals, 3 silver medals and 2 bronze medals, after being part of the winning US team in the medley relay. He has won more than twice as many golds as anybody else. So can it be said that he is the greatest ever?

The counter-argument is that swimming is the sport where multiple medals are easiest to achieve, which is undeniably true. But while it is not uncommon for swimmers to win four or five gold medals, nobody apart from Phelps has done it more than once. He has four times won four and three times won five. Phelps is distinguished by his longevity.

Indeed, while swimmers have the advantage of many events, they are disadvantaged by shorter careers. This makes it all the more remarkable that Phelps won gold in the same event at four consecutive Games, the 200m individual medley, something that had been previously only achieved by two sportspeople, both athletes, Carl Lewis and Al Oerter.

If Usain Bolt wins three gold medals this week, he will achieve a triple triple, nine golds in total, but I am not convinced that even this will be quite as impressive as what Phelps has done. If he wants to be in the same bracket, Bolt would have to come back in Tokyo.

If only individual title are included, Phelps has thirteen golds, but that is still enough to beat Leonidas of Rhodes, the record holder from the Ancient Olympics. Leonidas took three laurel wreaths at four Games and is noteworthy for the fact that he won two short events and a distance event in full armour. He combined the consistency of Bolt and the longevity of Lewis with the versatility of Katie Ledecky. My conclusion therefore is that Phelps is indeed the greatest Modern Olympian but he loses out to Leonidas for the all- time title, if only because he would struggle to swim an individual medley in full armour.

Mo Farah Beijing 2015

Four years ago, Great Britain won three track and field gold medals in little more than an hour, on a day dubbed Super Saturday. All of its champions were scheduled to compete once again at the same session in Rio. Mo Farah (above) retained his title in the 10,000m despite a fall, his third gold in all, but there was no repeat for Greg Rutherford, who had to settle for bronze. The long jump competition was won by Team USA’s Jeff Henderson.

Jessica Ennis-Hill ended with silver in the heptathlon where the gold was won by rising star Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium, who scored personal bests in five of the seven events.

Tennis history was made as Monica Puig became the first unseeded champion in singles, having never reached a Grand Slam quarter final. It was Puerto Rico’s first Olympic gold.

Team World

It was all change at the top of the golf leaderboard at the end of the third round. Justin Rose of Great Britain is twelve under par to lead by a single shot from Henrik Stenson of Sweden. Former leader, Marcus Fraser of Australia, is a further two shots behind. Sergio Garcia is on two under par, so a medal is unlikely but not completely out of the question.

There was another victory for Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in badminton, who beat Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia. But there was disappointment for Brazil’s men’s volleyball team, as it lost to Italy. It must beat France to ensure progress.


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