Nothing Like It

JerseySenior Analyst IAugust 16, 2008

Michael Phelps must surely be the greatest athlete alive.

Eight attempts, eight gold medals. Eight Olympic records, seven world records.

With the United States winning gold in the medley relay tonight, Phelps becomes the most decorated Olympian in U.S. history. Tonight, when Phelps needed to rely on teammates to achieve his ultimate goal, Phelps did his part, putting the United States ahead for good in the third leg of the race.

Phelps did the bulk of the work himself, winning six individual events. In his two team events, Phelps had to rely on others, but certainly did what he had to.

I am in awe at this herculean effort. Perhaps even more amazing is that Phelps participates in a less-heralded sport. With baseball, basketball, football, tennis, soccer, auto racing, and even hockey more popular than swimming, Phelps has managed to focus an entire nation on a sport they might otherwise disregard.

Much like Tiger Woods, Phelps is a single athlete that drags so much attention on his own to his sport. (And if you don't believe me about Tiger, just look at the difference in TV rankings when he is and is not playing.)

How many of us can honestly say that we'd care so much about Olympic swimming were it not for Phelps?