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The Greatest Olympian of All Time


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#1 bsj


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Posted 11 August 2008 - 10:40 PM

My answer: Michael Phelps

Make your case otherwise.

#2 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 11 August 2008 - 10:46 PM

My answer: Michael Phelps

Make your case otherwise.

I said it before, and I'll say it again; Unitl the answer to the question, "How many gold medals did Phelps win in '08" is, "All of them", Heiden > Phelps.

#3 Guinevere

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 11:02 PM

Somewhat random aside, Heiden turned 50 this year, is an orthopedic surgeon, and is the current medical director for USA Cycling.

FNL, you make a good point -- you can't argue with a man who dominated both sprints and distance events. Although if there were only five races in swimming I bet Phelps would swim them all.

Edited by Guinevere, 11 August 2008 - 11:03 PM.


#4 JohntheBaptist


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Posted 11 August 2008 - 11:15 PM

Phelps is hard to argue, but in the annals of human athletic competition, Jesse Owens in Munich looms pretty damn large. In a perfect world you'd be able to separate that athletic performance from its social context- and even then it was impressive- but I don't think it's possible (and I don't really want to) and as a result raises his achievement to even higher levels.

So I'd say him.

Edited by JohntheBaptist, 11 August 2008 - 11:19 PM.


#5 ent5

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 11:18 PM

I said it before, and I'll say it again; Unitl the answer to the question, "How many gold medals did Phelps win in '08" is, "All of them", Heiden > Phelps.

Heiden competed in 5 races in the following days..
500 m...Friday February 15, 1980
1,000 m...Tuesday February 19, 1980
1,500 m...Thursday February 21, 1980
5,000 m...Saturday February 16, 1980
10,000 m...Saturday February 23, 1980

IF Phelps wins 8 medals, he would have swam 17 races in a week, with shorter rest time( hell..he was going to swim a qualifying round less than an hour from his medals ceremony).. to me, the degree of difficulty is more for Phelps, he is also racing in a foreign country, while Heiden was on his home turf, I don't know what the expectations of Heiden were in 1980, but Phelps is basically the focal point of this Olympics, and that's a lot of pressure...
so..if Phelps gets 8 gold medals..he is the best Olympian of all time.

Edit:
The context of Jesse Owens accomplishments as represented by JTB also makes him an inspiring choice, but based on pure athleticism, Phelps ranks high up there.

Edited by ent5, 11 August 2008 - 11:23 PM.


#6 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 12:53 AM

Phelps is hard to argue, but in the annals of human athletic competition, Jesse Owens in Munich looms pretty damn large.


Anytime a 58 year old man makes an Olympic team, it looms pretty large. Can you imagine how well he could have done in the prime of his life, say in Berlin in 1936 or something...

On the Heiden v. Phelps discussion;

1.) The breadth of difference between Hedien's shortest race and his longest is signifigantly bigger -- 38 sec. to 15 min vs. 47 sec to just over 4 min. To match Heiden's breadth, Phelps would have to enter and win the 1500m (and no, if there was a skating paralell in the Olympics to the 10k open water swim, Heiden would NOT have won it) - POINT Heiden

1a.) While Phelps isn't in the 50, had there been +/- 25 sec event for Heiden, he probably wouldn't have won it either - PUSH

2.) Phelps is in events that showcase other ways of doing the sport, and wins them. Would Heiden have won the backwards skating competition if they had it? Who knows? - POINT Phelps

3.) Heiden competed directly against filthy eastern bloc athletes at the absolute height of their shenanigans, and dominated them, however, more countries swim than skate - PUSH

4.) Three of Phelp's eight possible '08 golds are in relay events, and just don't count as much. If there were relays or other team events available, it's quite likely that Heiden led US teams would have been favored - POINT Heiden

5.) Heiden in 1980, like Phelps today, was the absolute "face of the Games" and was expected to win 5 golds. Going in like that, being at home is NOT an advantage. Without Heiden, there was a real possibility that the US would not win a gold medal at their own Games - POINT Heiden

#7 LateRally

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 02:39 AM

Paavo Nurmi has to be in the discussion doesn't he? A quick scan of wiki reveals some pretty amazing things:

- Total of 9 golds and 3 silvers across 3 Olympics - '20, '24, '28 (he was barred from '32 because he was accused of taking payments for running)
- Held world records in the 1500, 5000, and 10000
- Also won golds in 2 different cross country events, which were eliminated after 1924 due to more than half the athletes being unable to finish the race, or ending up hospitalized
- In 1924 won and set world records in the 1500 and 5000, with the finals being run 26 minutes apart


As I said elsewhere it's too difficult to compare across eras and sports, but I think Nurmi deserves at least a mention. Having said that IF Phelps pulls off golds in at least all his individual events, hard to argue against him being greatest.

#8 JohntheBaptist


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 08:55 AM

Anytime a 58 year old man makes an Olympic team, it looms pretty large. Can you imagine how well he could have done in the prime of his life, say in Berlin in 1936 or something...

Ah. You got me! My face is red. I am a jelly donut!

#9 ifmanis5


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:38 AM

How about Carl Lewis? For career value certainly...

- 10 medals
- 9 Gold, 1 Silver
- 4 Gold medals in '84 matched Jesse Owens of '36
- Voted "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee
- Named "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated
- Competed in 84, 88, 92 and 96 (would have been in the '80 games except for the boycott)
- World Athlete of the Year: 1982, 1983, 1984
- US Athlete of the Year: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1991
- 11 World Records
- 16 US records

#10 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:50 AM

How about Carl Lewis? For career value certainly...

- 10 medals
- 9 Gold, 1 Silver
- 4 Gold medals in '84 matched Jesse Owens of '36
- Voted "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee
- Named "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated
- Competed in 84, 88, 92 and 96 (would have been in the '80 games except for the boycott)
- World Athlete of the Year: 1982, 1983, 1984
- US Athlete of the Year: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1991
- 11 World Records
- 16 US records

Biggest knock on Heiden is a lack of longevity. I might concede him not to be greatest OLYMPIAN ever on that, but his 1980 sweep was the greatest Olympic feat ever.

Lots of holes, though, in the above arguments;

1.) Not all of his medals are in individual events. Relay medals weigh less, so to say.
2.) 1984 Was an "Olympics Light", with a signifigant portion of the worlds athletes absent (OK, so they were the ones who chronically cheated, too, and not the strength of the events Lewis ran, but still, they weren't there)
3.) Lots of the above isn't "Olympian", so doesn't enter in our conversation.

Nurmi, by the way, does merit consideration. Also - you have to figure in athletes who simply don't have the chance to pick up multiples because the program doesn't offer the events. Al Oerter didn't have 4 different weights of discus to throw, for instance...there was one gold for him ever for years, and he took it.

#11 ifmanis5


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:56 AM

I think the Heiden/Lewis debate is just a classic peak v. career argument. There is no topping Eric's 1980, but Carl was an elite track & field olympic performer for almost 2 decades. That's unheard of, relays or no.

#12 Morgan's Magic Snowplow


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 12:46 PM

If we are including women in the discussion, then Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina seems pretty tough to top. She won 18 medals (including 9 gold) over three games, and only once in that entire time entered an event and didnt win a medal. Unless Phelps competes at a high level in 2012 (at 27, he'll be old for a swimmer), he cannot catch her for the total medal lead (although he'll have more golds) and won't match her longevity either.

#13 bsj


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 12:54 PM

If we are including women in the discussion, then Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina seems pretty tough to top. She won 18 medals (including 9 gold) over three games, and only once in that entire time entered an event and didnt win a medal. Unless Phelps competes at a high level in 2012 (at 27, he'll be old for a swimmer), he cannot catch her for the total medal lead (although he'll have more golds) and won't match her longevity either.


Phelps probably will compete in 2012, but he has said that if he does, he will scale back his events signfiicantly. Instead of going for 8 or 9 golds, it will probably be more like 4 or 5.

#14 Guinevere

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 01:24 PM

After Heiden left speedskating he went on to become a professional cyclist -- no small feat in the US in the '80s. From wiki:

After his speed-skating career, Heiden became a professional racing cyclist. He was one of the first cross-over athletes, becoming a founding member of the 7-Eleven Cycling Team. Together with his former speed skating coach (and ex-bike racer), Jim Ochowicz, he conceived of the idea of a European-style sponsored team for North American riders. Heiden won a few American professional races and took part in the 1986 Tour de France, although he did not complete the race as he fell five days from the finish.

Heiden is believed to hold the unofficial record on one of the local benchmark climbs in Woodside, California: Old la Honda Rd. In 1985, Heiden won the first US Professional Cycling Championship and thus became the American road race champion.

In 1999, Heiden was inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame.



#15 Sille Skrub

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 05:36 PM

IMHO, it is Phelps already. Anything he does from here on out is gravy.

#16 LahoudOrBillyC


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 08:17 PM

Some of you will likely misinterpret my comments below as a criticism of Michael Phelps, but I assure you it is not. I love watching swimming, and I love watching Phelps. He is a great athlete and champion.

The purist Olympic events, in my opionon are the ones where you have to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. Downhill skiing, speedskating, the 400 meter dash, the 100 meter freestyle. Each of these pure endeavors has varieties--different distances mainly, or even the introduction of obstacles. Hurdles. Slalom skiing.

Only in swimming, however, do you also introduce different strokes. Although we have all grown up with the idea of these different strokes, it is worth stepping back and asking how we got here. In my view, the 100 meter butterfly is really kind of a bastard event, much like skipping would be a bastard event to running. Of course, skipping seems like an absurd event, but why? Why is it not absurd to say, "OK men, get down to the end of the pool, but you have to use both arms at once over your head. Ready, go!"

This is not to say these other events aren't interesting. I watch all of them. Swimmers are beasts. I just think its hard to compare the haul of gold medals between a swimmer, many of whom race in five or more events, and a track star. Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens had perfect Olympics, and each included a long jump which is a very different discipline.

You also can't really go by setting world records. Phelps's records will all be gone soon. Swimming is still evolving, and there are 25 new records every year. A track and field world record is special--a wonderful historical thing to witness. The first man to go under 3:50 in the mile did so 33 years ago. Since then the record has gone down six seconds.

Mark Spitz, like Michael Phelps, had a signature event as the 200 meter fly. Spitz's time in Munich was 2:00.70, a time that Michael Phelps would scoff at. However, Spitz broke the Olympic record by 6 full seconds. Mark Spitz was a beast, an extraordinary athlete and champion, and a giant in Olympic history. Nothing Phelps does will change that in the slightest.

I don't have an answer to the question posed by the thread. Phelps is a good a guess as any and I won't argue with it. I do think, however, that some are too quick to belittle the champions of the past.

Edited by LahoudOrBillyC, 12 August 2008 - 08:19 PM.


#17 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:05 PM

In my view, the 100 meter butterfly is really kind of a bastard event, much like skipping would be a bastard event to running. Of course, skipping seems like an absurd event, but why? Why is it not absurd to say, "OK men, get down to the end of the pool, but you have to use both arms at once over your head. Ready, go!"


What about, "Walk as fast as you can, and make sure you don't have two feet off the ground at the same time"? Is that absurd?

#18 Deathofthebambino


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:08 PM

Some of you will likely misinterpret my comments below as a criticism of Michael Phelps, but I assure you it is not. I love watching swimming, and I love watching Phelps. He is a great athlete and champion.

The purist Olympic events, in my opionon are the ones where you have to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. Downhill skiing, speedskating, the 400 meter dash, the 100 meter freestyle. Each of these pure endeavors has varieties--different distances mainly, or even the introduction of obstacles. Hurdles. Slalom skiing.

Only in swimming, however, do you also introduce different strokes. Although we have all grown up with the idea of these different strokes, it is worth stepping back and asking how we got here. In my view, the 100 meter butterfly is really kind of a bastard event, much like skipping would be a bastard event to running. Of course, skipping seems like an absurd event, but why? Why is it not absurd to say, "OK men, get down to the end of the pool, but you have to use both arms at once over your head. Ready, go!"

This is not to say these other events aren't interesting. I watch all of them. Swimmers are beasts. I just think its hard to compare the haul of gold medals between a swimmer, many of whom race in five or more events, and a track star. Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens had perfect Olympics, and each included a long jump which is a very different discipline.

You also can't really go by setting world records. Phelps's records will all be gone soon. Swimming is still evolving, and there are 25 new records every year. A track and field world record is special--a wonderful historical thing to witness. The first man to go under 3:50 in the mile did so 33 years ago. Since then the record has gone down six seconds.

Mark Spitz, like Michael Phelps, had a signature event as the 200 meter fly. Spitz's time in Munich was 2:00.70, a time that Michael Phelps would scoff at. However, Spitz broke the Olympic record by 6 full seconds. Mark Spitz was a beast, an extraordinary athlete and champion, and a giant in Olympic history. Nothing Phelps does will change that in the slightest.

I don't have an answer to the question posed by the thread. Phelps is a good a guess as any and I won't argue with it. I do think, however, that some are too quick to belittle the champions of the past.



I'm not going to belittle your opinion, although I'm not sure I share it. That said, a discussion about who the better Olympian is when you're talking about Phelps or Heiden or Owens or Lewis is really just an exercise in futility. At this level, we're all just splitting hairs.

I think if Phelps sweeps these individuals, he's the best ever, but that's just an opinion. Specifically to your post though, there is another sport that changes the "stroke" in getting from point A to point B, nobody respects it though. Olympic speedwalking. Learn it, love it.

I think you overstate how much swimming changes or will change, and I'm not sure your claim that Spitz broke the world record by 6 seconds is true. However, as years go on, it's simply the case that a record gets harder to break. At some point, there is a critical point that can't be broken. Phelps is not just breaking the world record, he's crushing them because you have to remember, most of the time, he's just adding onto his own record. Yesterday, he won the 200 by almost 2 full seconds. That's ridiculous by today's swimming standards.

Going back in history, here are the times of the Olympic winners, their name and country in the 200m freestyle:

1968: Michael Wenden, AUS 1:50.29
1972: Mark Spitz, USA: 1:52.78
1976: Bruce Furniss, USA: 1:50.29
1980: Sergey Kopliakov, USSR: 1:49.81
1984: Michael Gross, West Germany: 1:47.44
1988: Duncan Armstrong, AUS: 1:47.25
1992: Yevgeni Sadovy, ENU: 1:46.70
1996: Danyon Loader, 1:47.63
2000: Peter Van Den Hoogenband: 1:45.35
2004: Ian Thorpe: 1:44.71
2008: Michael Phelps: 1:42.96

Ultimately, the amount of time between Olympic winners every four years was always in that 2 second range, even before Spitz. However, it appeared to slow downover the 30 years following Furniss and wasn't until 2004 that we saw those 2 second numbers come back again in the form of Ian Thorpe. Considering Phelps is only 23 and his next closest competitor this year was almost 2 seconds back, I think it's a safe bet that his record stands awhile, or at least until he breaks it again himself.

Edit: I did the numbers of the freestyle and just realized you were talking about the fly. Sorry about that. You were right about the fly being a huge jump when Spitz broke it.

Edited by Deathofthebambino, 12 August 2008 - 09:10 PM.


#19 gaelgirl


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:27 PM

If we are including women in the discussion, then Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina seems pretty tough to top. She won 18 medals (including 9 gold) over three games, and only once in that entire time entered an event and didnt win a medal. Unless Phelps competes at a high level in 2012 (at 27, he'll be old for a swimmer), he cannot catch her for the total medal lead (although he'll have more golds) and won't match her longevity either.

First of all, 27 isn't impossibly old, though it isn't particularly young. Jason Lezak is 32, for example, and Phelps is the best swimmer of all time. He could almost certainly be competing in 2012, though the events will likely be different. He said after the 400IM that he was probably going to drop it, and the announcer indicated he'll focus on events like the 100 and 400 free instead.

Still, as of right now (as far as I know on the West Coast) he has 11 medals, nine gold, and five more chances at these games alone. Thought I won't speculate about what will happen in the future, he has a decent chance to come pretty close to her record, if not exceed it (if nothing else, older swimmers, assuming he continues, tend to qualify for relays, where Americans are consistent podium finishers).

Regardless, my larger point is that the only thing preventing Phelps from swimming more events and possibly winning more medals at these games (and Athens, for that matter) is logistics. He's a world class backstroker who can at least compete in the same class as Peirsol, if not beat him with more focused backstroke training. He set the American record in the 100 free during the relay -- an event he doesn't swim individually. He entered nine individual events at trials, eventually dropping four to focus on the ones he's swimming now (though he swam prelims of the 100 free to get a qualifying time for the relay).

He's dropped backstroke in the past largely because of logistics -- the 100m backstroke final was maybe 45 minutes after the 200 free final, and I think it was a similar situation in 2004. If my research is correct, coming into the games, in the 100m back Phelps holds the seventh-best time set in 2008 and the third-best time in history (set in 2007). In the 200m back, he has the third-best time in history and the fourth-best time set in 2008. And these are events he dropped.

Finally, I think the fact that he's the best in the world in two different strokes, among the best in a third and dominant at the medley events has to count for something extra. Heiden had a huge range of distances, from sprints to endurance, and that's stunning in its own right, but it was all the same discipline. He didn't have to dominate in completely different racing styles (i.e., short and long track). Carl Lewis had three events, but only two disciplines (sprints and long jump). Phelps is dominating in three different disciplines and maybe dropped a fourth just for logistical reasons. Incredible.

#20 A Bartlett Giamatti

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 10:46 PM

The case for Lewis:

The guy won golds in both the long jump and 100M. When Phelps win a diving gold, then we'll talk.

#21 DannyHeep


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Posted 12 August 2008 - 11:01 PM

The case for Lewis:

The guy won golds in both the long jump and 100M. When Phelps win a diving gold, then we'll talk.


I would say that different swimming strokes has to count for something.

#22 favreauk

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 11:20 PM

I've been thinking about this--
For Phelps to do what he has done with all of the expectations and pressure is simply amazing, in and of itself. Add to that the level of difficulty today compared to 20 years ago. Adding even further, the fact that records are being broken in every event in swimming, it's not like he's competing against amateurs, and still he is head and shoulders above every one else.
He now holds more Gold medals than any Olympian ... ever, and he isn't even done yet.


Amazing

#23 LahoudOrBillyC


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Posted 13 August 2008 - 12:14 AM

Again though, every race is setting new world records. Not just every final, almost every preliminary race is setting a world record. It reduces the impact somewhat when all the Athens records can't even get you in the finals here. Some of this is the suits, but its also a reflection of the fact that the sport is still immature, IMO.

#24 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 13 August 2008 - 12:45 AM

While you might expect WR times in a sport like swimming to follow what started as a steep curve of improvement, with improvements coming in smaller increments as time passes - you may find that in fact, improvement follows a linear curve - just as things might start to level out, something happens, better pools, better suits, year round training, doping, etc to keep the linear curve going.

Right now it's the suit, 10 years from now, it'll be something else...

If FINA was smart, they would have nipped the suit thing in the bud and banned them right away - no sport needs to introduce a need for an expensive, specialized piece of equipment that puts being competitive further out of the reach of all participants. The suits do nothing to make the sport better except make it all a certain percentage faster...

Cycling sets a good example on this - Cycling is cycling, with a very clear definition of what a bike is. If you want to engineer cazy fast machines - they have Human Powered Vehicle competitions for that, which is also a fun, valid sport, but it is a DIFFERENT sport than bike racing.

That said, the "prices" stated on these swim suits are WAY higher than their actual cost, and probably wraps the R & D costs (which are also probably over-stated) into the per-suit price on the press release. It's sexy to say equipment is pricier and more elite than it really is.

#25 Shelterdog


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Posted 13 August 2008 - 10:09 AM

I would say that different swimming strokes has to count for something.


It counts for something, but I am struck by how common it is for a swimmer to win tons of medals because of what appears to be a pretty strong correlation between events; there's always someone who wins a ton of medals. There is a pretty strong overlap between the fly and freestyle - Biondi, Spitz and Phelps all medaled in both - and most world class freestylers seem to be able to race multiple distances. I assume it's because (1) technique is so important, (2) the optimal build for a great swimmer is reasonably similar across very different events - a very similar build could win the 50 free, the 100m butterfly or the 400 im, in part because you are supported by water so you can still be pretty muscular in an endurance event - but the same body can't win the 100m, the 400m hurdles and the 1500 - and (3) there are three relays where a strong freestyler can medal.

Phelps is closing in on being the best swimmer of all time, but Spitz, Popov, Biondi, Thorpe, van den Hoogenband, Klim, Grant Hackett and others have all shown that a swimmer can win a ton of medals in a single Olympics. It just doesn't happen in track that way.

#26 mpjc

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 02:42 PM

Here's a BBC blogger's pretty thorough take on the question. The story also links to another opinion piece that ranks Jesse Owens "the greatest Olympian" and "a champion without peer."

#27 SumnerH


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Posted 13 August 2008 - 02:54 PM

If FINA was smart, they would have nipped the suit thing in the bud and banned them right away - no sport needs to introduce a need for an expensive, specialized piece of equipment that puts being competitive further out of the reach of all participants.
...
That said, the "prices" stated on these swim suits are WAY higher than their actual cost, and probably wraps the R & D costs (which are also probably over-stated) into the per-suit price on the press release. It's sexy to say equipment is pricier and more elite than it really is.


I basically agree, I'd love to see the technology race eliminated and essentially mandate certain kinds of materials and construction.

OTOH, I think the cost issue is getting talked up way out of proportion with its impact. I heard a _ton_ of stories about how many athletes would simply be unable to take up swimming or would be unable to be at all competitive in the Olympics. Now I know that ongoing training costs can be a lot, especially in poorer nations. But I honestly thought from the way people were talking that these were a $10,000+ item that only teams with lots of corporate sponsorship would ever be able to afford. At $500, they're pricey, but I'm guessing most Olympians weren't swimming in $20 K-mart outfits before. The cost is an issue, but at this level it shouldn't be overwhelming the discussion about allowing technology to creep into what's meant to be a test of human skill.

Edited by SumnerH, 13 August 2008 - 02:55 PM.


#28 Crespo Augustus

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 03:49 PM

I don't think Phelps is the Greatest Olympian right now. If he's competing in 2012 and is medaling, then maybe, or if he's medaling in 2016 then definitely. But to me, to be called the Greatest of something, requires longevity. I'd like to nominate Sir Steven Redgrave. He won gold in 5 consecutive Olympics (Coxed 4 in 84, Coxless Pair in 88, Coxless Pair in 92, Coxless Pair in 96, Coxless 4 in 2000), and won a bronze in 88 in the Coxless Pair. While he doesn't have the medals count that Phelps or Owens or Lewis do, he was about as close to a dynasty as you can get in Olympic rowing. Rowers can't really compete in multiple events in a single Olympic Games due to the intense physical toll a single event takes out of you (Heats, Reps, Quarters, Semis, Finals). Winning gold in 5 consecutive games is amazing, especially considering the lifespan of an average Olympic career.

Or Aladair Gerevich, who won 6 consecutive golds, wrapped around two Games missed due to the Second World War. Gold in Team Sabre in '32, '36, '48, '52, '56, and '60. 28 years is a long time, even if the sport isn't all that physically demanding. The exertion required in the sport is the only reason I put Redgrave above Gerevich, but the fact that he won two gold, went and fought in World War II, then came back and won four more gold is incredible. He was almost not allowed to compete in 1960. Taken from wiki:

In the Hungarian Olympic trials for the 1960 Rome Olympics, the fencing committee told Gerevich that he was too old to compete. He silenced them by challenging the entire sabre team to individual matches and winning every match. He missed the finals of the 1960 Olympic individual sabre event, and a possible individual gold medal, by a single touch.


Edited by Crespo Augustus, 13 August 2008 - 03:57 PM.


#29 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 13 August 2008 - 03:56 PM

I'd like to nominate Sir Steven Redgrave. He won gold in 5 consecutive Olympics (Coxed 4 in 84, Coxless Pair in 88, Coxless Pair in 92, Coxless Pair in 96, Coxless 4 in 2000), and won a bronze in 88 in the Coxless Pair.


Al Oerter might have one less gold, but at least he didn't need any help throwing the discus...

#30 Crespo Augustus

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 04:27 PM

Al Oerter might have one less gold, but at least he didn't need any help throwing the discus...


I agree to a certain extent. It's always been the knock on Redgrave, that he never competed in the single, even though it's generally accepted that he would have had very similar success. The man just preferred sweeping to sculling.

I don't think competing in team events should discount the fact that he competed in, and won gold medals in, 20 years' worth of Olympics. It's not like he was a bench player on an Olympic basketball team or an alternate for team gymnastics.

#31 Captaincoop


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Posted 13 August 2008 - 04:44 PM

What are the criteria for "greatest Olympian"? If we're really asking who the greatest Olympic athlete is, to me it is always going to be a decathlete; that is the most incredible all-around test of physical ability in the games. Who is the greatest Olympic decathlete of all times? Jim Thorpe? The King of Sweden thought he was pretty good (I'm mostly posting this because I love Thorpe's response):

Along with the two gold medals, Thorpe also received two challenge prizes, which were donated by King Gustav V of Sweden for the decathlon and Czar Nicholas II of Russia for the pentathlon. Legend has it that, when awarding Thorpe his prize, King Gustav said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world," to which Thorpe replied, "Thanks, King."


If we're talking about who had the finest Olympic career, is it as simple as counting up the medals and using the degree of difficulty of the events as a tiebreaker? Yeah, it gives an advantage to gymnasts and swimmers, but that's sort of the nature of the Olympics anyway.

#32 reggiecleveland


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Posted 13 August 2008 - 11:59 PM

You know what fuck bullshit sports like fencing, and modern pentathlon because there are about 20 people in the world that do them. We cut a guy from our basketball team and three years later he just missed Beijing in fencing and if Canada wasn't so cheap he would be there. He qualified but they only send top 12 in the world or some dumb-ass policy. Anyway he says there are a few countries that compete and do it all year and the Canadians and Americans can't find anyone to compete against without crossing the ocean.

And this includes speed skating. Canada wins medals in this because we have a good program in Calgary. that;s right in one place.

Eric Heiden has always seemed like an exceptionally classy fellow. And understand this. If Carl Lewis was to buy the Red Sox I would become a Yankee fan, I hate that cheating ugly cocksucker more than all the world but even I won't say that Eric Heiden is better. Really a speed skater in the 70s? Fuck that bullshit.

Nobody Speed Skates!!!!!!!!!!!!

I live next to one of the queen's of Canadian speedskating and since her son moved. I don't know a speedskater!

Every kid (before he figures out he is fat or slow) on earth tries to run fast and jump far and that miserable pit faced Little cock from Houston did both better than others for a decade. How many sprinters has the world burned through the last ten years? How many make it back a second Olympics?

OOO! Eric skated distance and sprints that meant he beat all 20 of the speedskaters not just 12 of them!
Drop the names of the long jump/100m champs? Anyone else in the last 12 games? That is two events. Changing swords or skating longer in your gold tights in your little niche sport? Big fucking deal. Oh and who had done the 100/200 combo since this little maggot?

The Insufferable Carl Lewis was Bob Hayes and Bob Beamon at the same time. Not Rolf Von Klidsenberg and Olaf Calpskate fjiordson (or whatever the fucking name of other famous speedskaters would be.) at the same time.

People write poems about running the fastest jumping the farthest not strapping over sized knifes to your feet and skating in a long monotonous circle. There is no ice where most of the people live.

And Phelps is 100 times better than Heiden too but not as good as the cunt Lewis.

By the way I love speed skating, I have my kids in it because there are good coaches here and they have chance to go somewhere. But if one o my kids wins a gold medal in speedskating and the other gets to the final in the NCAA longjump I know kid #2 did something more difficult.

Edited by reggiecleveland, 14 August 2008 - 12:07 AM.


#33 SumnerH


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 12:10 AM

The Insufferable Carl Lewis was Bob Hayes and Bob Beamon at the same time.


This comparison makes no sense if you're trying to talk him up. Beamon is famous for one fluke jump at high altitude with the maximum allowed tailwind. His name is synonymous with a single random lucky shot in sports, the epitome of "skill isn't everything, sometimes something crazy happens".

And Bob Hayes is (sadly) someone almost nobody under 50 who isn't a massive sports fan knows of.

#34 reggiecleveland


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 12:14 AM

Sorry about the tone of the message but I love the olympics and Toga has more medals than Canada!

#35 reggiecleveland


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 12:22 AM

I think a crowd that is throwing around Nurmi,Gerevich,Heiden can handle a reference to Bob Beamon and Olaf Calpskatefjiordson.

#36 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 01:05 AM

OOO! Eric skated distance and sprints that meant he beat all 20 of the speedskaters not just 12 of them!

The depth of competition works against Heiden here, no doubt. His stunning feat is in the breadth of wht he did. Two things on the depth issue, though -

1.) He beat everything the Soviet Union could throw at him, and in his era, not only did they cheat their asses off, they also had a massive sport system which happened to do a lot of things right too. The talent pool for any sport in the Soviet Union wasn't limited to the kids who joined a local club in that sport, it was the entire young population. In other words, he didn't beat the people who signed up for the sport in the USSR, he beat the system.

2.) Since he beat everyone at everything by a lot, we don't know how good he really was. Sort of a lame defense of a guy in a "niche" sport - but if you double the size of the sport, does he still dominate? What if you triple it or quadruple it?

And just so the world knows, this 2008 summer thing, is pretty much a throwaway Games for Canada - just an inconvienience to the Canadian Olympic Association gumming up the calendar leading up to Vancouver. If COA could've gotten away with not sending a team to Beijing and spent all that money getting athletes ready for Vancouver, they would have.

#37 reggiecleveland


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 02:51 AM

All true.

But do you think it was more important to get skaters to come over for the Super Series or to beat Heiden in 76?

Fuck I hate Carl Lewis though.

#38 Seven Costanza


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 06:18 AM

Someone who certainly deserves to be in the conversation ~ Bjorn Daehlie. 8 golds, 4 silvers spanning '92 to '98- this obviously isn't counting world championships as well, seeing as those are out of the scope of the discussion. He has 9 of those.

If swimming, rowing et cetera is tiring, Nordic Skiing is postively exhausting.

#39 Shelterdog


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 10:02 AM

All true.

But do you think it was more important to get skaters to come over for the Super Series or to beat Heiden in 76?

Fuck I hate Carl Lewis though.


He might have gotten some medals in 1980 as well - he was 6th in the world in the long jump that year, and he was going to compete, so he might have medalled there, and he was also on the 4x1.

And that bitch can sing like an angel.

http://ballhype.com/...al_anthem_1993/

#40 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 11:34 AM

All true.

But do you think it was more important to get skaters to come over for the Super Series or to beat Heiden in 76?

Fuck I hate Carl Lewis though.

Heiden was '80...and to the USSR government, a sport with 5 events > a sport with 1 event, besides, they had enough meat for both.

You ever wonder why the East Germans, with all their rescources, never developed a hockey team, or much of a soccer or basketball team? It's because to them there was no point on wasting 15-25 good athletes to win one medal which was generally contested by a pretty competitive field, when they could disperse all that talent in to smaller ponds like luge and canoe, or in high-medal count sports like swimming and speed skating.

I think the super-series meant more in Canada then it did in the Soviet Union, although the outcome probably had something to do with that. If the USSR won, I'm sure it would have been, "PEOPLE'S TEAM DOMINATES WEST IN HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP" top of the fold, page 1 of Pravda, instead of "canada scores in exhibition" hidden between the obituaries and the jumble.

#41 MarkInLondon


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 12:31 PM

My answer: Michael Phelps

Make your case otherwise.


Steve Redgrave - if only to make the point that human life does exist outside the USA.

#42 DJnVa


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 12:48 PM

Again though, every race is setting new world records. Not just every final, almost every preliminary race is setting a world record. It reduces the impact somewhat when all the Athens records can't even get you in the finals here. Some of this is the suits, but its also a reflection of the fact that the sport is still immature, IMO.


Some of it is also the pool. I read an article earlier this week that talked about this. It's deeper than a normal Olympic pool, which reduces the amount of water action bouncing off the pool bottom. It is also wider than normal, with a gutter along the sides, so waves don't bounce back into the lanes. There were a couple other small things as well. The suits appear to be the major reason, but there are some other factors.

#43 Mark Hellborn

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 11:57 PM

human life does exist outside the USA.


Link?

Edited by Mark Hellborn, 14 August 2008 - 11:58 PM.


#44 Ananti


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Posted 15 August 2008 - 12:37 AM

You ever wonder why the East Germans, with all their rescources, never developed a hockey team, or much of a soccer or basketball team? It's because to them there was no point on wasting 15-25 good athletes to win one medal which was generally contested by a pretty competitive field, when they could disperse all that talent in to smaller ponds like luge and canoe, or in high-medal count sports like swimming and speed skating.


That is precisely why. If your goal is to game the system to win the most golds or most medals you go after the cheap to train sports and the sports that few other countries bother to invest in.

That's what China has done in these Olympics, they will get a ton of medals in sports like shooting, ping pong, badminton, weight lifting, etc.

That's why I've always felt that to be more fair, the teams sports should be awarded the number of medals equal to the number of starting players in the sport. For example a basketball gold should really be 5 golds, a hockey gold should count as 6 golds. That would provide a much more balance between the difficulty of winning an event to the rewards for winning the event.

Edited by Ananti, 15 August 2008 - 12:39 AM.


#45 LahoudOrBillyC


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Posted 15 August 2008 - 01:10 AM

The Chinese are just beginning their quest for dominance in sports. I have no doubt, none, that the Chinese will begin to win gold medals in swimming soon. Chinese too small? There are a billion people in China, and you just need to find 1000 of them that are 6'5" and willing to go practice the butterfly for six hours a day for next four years.

My daughter is a swimmer, ten-years-old, a great swimmer, with a perfect swimmer's body. Will she be an Olympic swimmer? Hell no, but 90% of the reason is that she is not going to get up at 4:00 every morning to work her ass off for the next 10 years. On the other hand, if she was yanked out of my house and sent to a government camp for a decade? Who knows?

#46 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 15 August 2008 - 02:05 AM

That is precisely why. If your goal is to game the system to win the most golds or most medals you go after the cheap to train sports and the sports that few other countries bother to invest in.

That's what China has done in these Olympics, they will get a ton of medals in sports like shooting, ping pong, badminton, weight lifting, etc.

That's why I've always felt that to be more fair, the teams sports should be awarded the number of medals equal to the number of starting players in the sport. For example a basketball gold should really be 5 golds, a hockey gold should count as 6 golds. That would provide a much more balance between the difficulty of winning an event to the rewards for winning the event.


Awarded by who? I guess it was in another thread, but we already established that there is no "Overall Winner" at the Olmpic Games, and this is quite explicity stated by the IOC.

#47 SumnerH


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Posted 15 August 2008 - 02:46 AM

Awarded by who? I guess it was in another thread, but we already established that there is no "Overall Winner" at the Olmpic Games, and this is quite explicity stated by the IOC.


That is as meaningful as pointing out that the _only_ official NCAA Division I football champion is Appalachian State University.

As far as the sports-viewing public is concerned, LSU is the D-I football champion and the medal count has been important since the Cold War started.

#48 CWiggum

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 07:17 AM

That is as meaningful as pointing out that the _only_ official NCAA Division I football champion is Appalachian State University.

As far as the sports-viewing public is concerned, LSU is the D-I football champion and the medal count has been important since the Cold War started.


Really? I mean, maybe I am missing something, but there is no water cooler talk here at work about the overall medal count like, for instance, there is about where the Sox are in the standings, or the C's during the NBA playoffs, etc.

While I am not a huge Olympics guy, I am a sports fan and I do enjoy watching the games. But, it isn't totally clear to me why the US should be my "team" in every event that I watch. I enjoy the events, and generally speaking I root for the US athletes. But, there are plenty of times, after knowing some of the back story about another athlete from somewhere else, that I find myself rooting for another country. I don't see how this is remotely like rooting against the Sox or Cs or Pats, which would never cross my mind for even a split second.

During the Cold War, I could have seen using the medal count (US vs. USSR) as sort of a proxy for "Our way of life is better than yours", when we didn't know that the USSR would ultimately crumble. Now, even if China ends up with more medals than the US, does that honestly bother people? I guess maybe it does, I hadn't thought about it.

#49 Carmine Hose

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 09:02 AM

No love for Eruzione or Craig?

#50 Shelterdog


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Posted 15 August 2008 - 10:49 AM

Really? I mean, maybe I am missing something, but there is no water cooler talk here at work about the overall medal count like, for instance, there is about where the Sox are in the standings, or the C's during the NBA playoffs, etc.

While I am not a huge Olympics guy, I am a sports fan and I do enjoy watching the games. But, it isn't totally clear to me why the US should be my "team" in every event that I watch. I enjoy the events, and generally speaking I root for the US athletes. But, there are plenty of times, after knowing some of the back story about another athlete from somewhere else, that I find myself rooting for another country. I don't see how this is remotely like rooting against the Sox or Cs or Pats, which would never cross my mind for even a split second.

During the Cold War, I could have seen using the medal count (US vs. USSR) as sort of a proxy for "Our way of life is better than yours", when we didn't know that the USSR would ultimately crumble. Now, even if China ends up with more medals than the US, does that honestly bother people? I guess maybe it does, I hadn't thought about it.


It's a waste to worry about the overall medal count because there are so many medals in so many minor sports.

According to Wikipedia, there are 302 events (and 906 or so medals). A lot are are in track and field (47 events) and swimming (34 events), but you quickly get into some somewhat goofy sports with a lot of events. Cycling has 16 events, shooting 15, badminton 5, canoeing 16, weightlifting 15, sailing 11, rowing 14 and taekwondo 8. Freaking equestrian gets six. China has already won 7 medals in shooting - which is 7 times as many medals as we can get for Men's basketball. Women's trampoline counts as much as the 100m dash.

Unless you think it's a good use of time to spend money on riflery and canoeing teams, don't worry about the olympic medal count.