Monday, August 18, 2008


I am tired of Michael Phelps.

Yes, he's a great athlete. He's a phenomenal swimmer, and what he has done this past week in China is spectacular and deserves heaps of praise. But really? Enough is enough. We've figured out that he's won more gold medals than anyone ever in Olympic history. We got that. Let's move on now. He's a great athlete, and he makes for some really great eye candy out of the pool, but he isn't nearly as beautiful or as graceful to watch as Nastia Liukin, who has the potential to match Shannon Miller's 1992 haul of five gymnastic medals in one Olympics. So how come we don't hear about her and all the other medalists? Or for that matter, the other medalists from other countries?

Let's talk, for instance, about Louis Smith, the British gymnast who took bronze in Pommel horse, the first Olympic medal in gymnastics for Great Britain since 1928. Or about Oksana Chusovitina, the German who won silver in the vault at the age of 33. Or Walter Dix, the American who beat out two previous world champions to take home bronze in the men's 100 meters. Or Blake Russell, the only American even to finish the woman's marathon, in 27th place. Or Paula Radcliffe, the Brit who dropped out of the woman's marathon in Athens with only a few miles to go, but who pushed herself this year to finish 23rd. Or Stephanie Brown Trafton, who won gold in the woman's discus, the first time an American woman has won in the event since 1932. Or Paolo Espinosa and Tatiana Ortiz, the synchronized divers who took bronze in the 10 meter event, the only medal Mexico has won so far. Or Mariel Zagunis, Sada Jacobson, or Becca Ward, the American fencers who swept the medals in Women's Individual Sabres, then worked together to win bronze in the team event.

But I can hear you saying it now. Those aren't swimmers. It isn't the same. Well, ok. But what about Kirsty Coventry, who has one four medals (one gold, three silver), the only medals her country of Zimbabwe has won so far. Or Rebecca Adlington, the Brit who edged out favorite Katie Hoff in the woman's 400 free. Or Oussama Mellouli, who won the gold medal in the men's 1500 free, the only medal Tunisia has ever won in swimming, and the only one they've currently won this year. Or Grant Hackett, the Aussie who came in second to Mellouli in an attempt to be the first person to win gold in the event in three straight Olympics, and shortly after learning that his wife had been taken to the emergency room after suffering a serious fall in her hotel room.

Oh, but those aren't Americans? Ok, how about this. Let's talk about Rebecca Soni, who won the gold medal in the 200 breast, upsetting Aussie favorite Leisel Jones. And Dara Torres, who will, at the age of 41, go home with three silver medals, and, when she was lining up to swim in the semis for the 50 free, noticed that another swimmer had to replace her suit because of a rip and asked the officials to hold off the race until she had arrived (the other swimmer didn't place into the finals, but at least she got to race), and when Dara was edged out of the gold later in the finals by 0.01 of a second (the same margin by which Phelps won his 100 fly) simply hugged the gold medalist and joked that she shouldn't have filed her nails the night before. And don't forget about Natalie Coughlin, who won the gold medal in the 100 back and will be going home from China with six medals, more than any other American woman has ever won in a single games.

I think Jason Lezak (you know, the American who chased down Frenchman Alain Bernard in the men's 4x100 free?) said it best: When interviewed about his performance, he said quite frankly (and I'm paraphrasing here, obviously) that he didn't swim his absolute best so that Phelps could keep his record performance alive. He did it for himself, for his teammates, and for his country, and because the Olympic spirit and creed demanded it of him, and he would have swum that way whether Phelps was on the relay team or not.

Well said, Jason.

On a totally different note, Here. Discuss.

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