I don’t care if it’s the pool, the basketball court, or who can make it to the car from the front entrance of the mall first; you have to have super discipline to thrive in a setting that has been contaminated with an open challenge.
Only the best can do it, and once they accomplish it, they usually set the tone for every one to be tight-lipped in future competition.
Have you ever considered what we, swimming enthusiasts and common sports fans alike, have pegged as the measure of success for Michael Phelps? To be the greatest swimmer of all time. Not a champion, not the best of this generation. The best that ever did it.
Very few athletes in the history of sports have handled the pressure of expectation as masterfully as Phelps.
That’s what Michael Phelps did in the recently concluded world championships. He won gold medals. He set world records. Both of those things we’ve seen him do, over and over again.
But we’ve never seen him respond to someone calling out his style, his gear, and his talent like Milorad Cavic did.
But Phelps didn’t lose his cool, didn’t lose the rhythm of the stroke, and kept his focus on the race instead of the moment that shrouded it. By hitting Cavic in the mouth in a tight race after being openly called out, Phelps solidifies his place as the best athlete ever in swimming, and puts himself in the running for greatest athlete of all time.
Tiger Woods, Jim Brown, Deion Sanders, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Michael Phelps. That’s the list, folks.
Phelps could’ve lost the race to Cavic and still been regarded as the best swimmer of all-time and the Olympic Games are his ultimate validation. But to achieve in the face of personal scrutiny on the wings of some good ol’ trash talk, Baltimore’s finest showed the grit of Charm City courses through his veins when it comes to challenges.
Both he and the sport will benefit from Phelps’ display, but not as much as fans who love to see a champion deliver on the promises of past and future glory.