Colgate Around the Hill – Is Michael Phelps the Greatest Olympian of All Time?

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is Michael Phelps the Greatest Olympian of All Time?

It is always hard to compare athletes between sports. Who’s to say if Jerry Rice is a better athlete than Hank Aaron? The only way to evaluate these athletes is to compare their dominance within their respective sports. As the gold medals show, there has never been a more incredible athlete than Michael Phelps. His performance at this year’s Olympics was nothing short of amazing. Some may argue that he had the most opportunities to win gold medals. However, these opportunities represented a rigorous schedule that many athletes would never have even attempted. The scary part is, he is not done. He is just entering his prime. In four years, he could conceivably be even better.

PAUL KASABIANMaroon-News Copy Editor

With all due respect to track star Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals during the 1936 Summer Olympics amidst the political and racial scrutiny of Nazi Germany, Michael Phelps is without a doubt the greatest Olympian of all time. A scary thought is that Phelps will almost certainly have more than the 14 gold medals he currently owns before he hangs up the freakish full-body Speedo suit for good. He plans to race in London in four years.

However, can it be said that Phelps performance is better than those of every individual and every team that has participated in the Olympics? I don’t think so. The 1992 Dream Team won its games by an average of 42.75 points and didn’t even need to call a timeout during its eight games of play. So while Phelps stands at the pinnacle of individual greatness at the Games, the Dream Team stands atop the pedestal of Olympic perfection.

HARRY RAYMONDMaroon-News Assistant Sports Editor

What Michael Phelps has been able to do in his first two Olympics puts him in elite company. 14 gold medals will do that. However, there is no way his eight-gold medal performance compares to Jesse Owens’ performance in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Hitler hoped to use the Berlin games to showcase Aryan racial supremacy, but Owens, an African-American, certainly proved otherwise. Surrounded by swastikas, Owens won four gold medals en route to winning the long jump, tying the 100m world record, and anchoring the world-record 4x100m relay team (a 20 year old record). Four gold medals without intense training regimes and millions in endorsements is an amazing achievement in itself, but doing it while you stare Hitler in the face makes Owens the greatest Olympian of all-time.

MITCH WAXMANMaroon-News Staff

Yes. It’s just impossible to say anyone else is better than the man who has 14 career gold medals to his name. Of course, people will always argue a swimmer has the opportunity to win more medals than other Olympic athletes. That is certainly true, but I feel people need only look to Katie Hoff, the “female Michael Phelps”, to prove Phelps’ dominance. Hoff entered the 2008 Olympics with six scheduled races, and most swimming experts expected her to medal in each of them. Yet when the Games concluded, Hoff emerged with only one silver medal and two bronze medals, a disappointing result to her games. Hoff was criticized for taking on too aggressive of a schedule, yet she was still racing in two less races than Michael Phelps! If Hoff was worn down by her six races, only a superhuman, the greatest Olympic athlete ever, could have garnered a gold in each of Phelps’ eight events.