Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Trust me, no one takes this comparison lightly.
Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever. He might be the greatest Olympian ever. Comparing another athlete to Michael Phelps is the swimming equivalent of calling a novelist James Joyce Jr.
In other words, we wouldn't draw the parallel unless it felt real. And in case of Phelps and Franklin, there are substantive similarities between the two.
Both achieved enormous success at a young age. Both have near-perfect swimming bodies: long torsos, long arms, big feet. Both are uncommonly versatile.
That last note is key. It isn't Phelps' speed in any one race that makes him so great. It's the fact that he's so fast in so many different events.
In that regard, Franklin has flashed Phelpsian potential. She's already world class in backstroke and freestyle. Considering her abundant athleticism and high swimmer I.Q., one imagines she can add a few more events as she matures.
And so in the growing canon of Franklin-related articles, you'll find frequent mention of Phelps:
The Washington Post: "...already draws frequent comparisons to Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever."
The New York Times: "Michael Phelps, to whom the versatile Franklin often is compared..."
USA Today: "Missy Franklin, at 16 as precocious in the pool as the teen-aged Michael Phelps was, could be the breakout U.S. star."
Sports Illustrated: "Even Phelps, the gold standard for versatility, wasn't as accomplished at Franklin's age."
ESPN: "Missy Franklin, whom some have called 'the female Michael Phelps...'"
The Today Show: "Comparisons to Phelps, the most accomplished Olympian of all time, are no accident..."
Michael Phelps (via The Washington Post): "Phelps said she 'reminded me of me as a 15-year-old,' and 'She’s probably one of the best female swimmers I’ve ever seen.'"
Yes, even Phelps seems to have given the comparison his blessing.