Greatest Olympian ever

IS HE a man, an amphibian or an aquatic monster? While most mortals would give arm, or even a leg, to lay their hands on one Olympic gold, Michael Phelps has picked up five. Five days, five events, five golds; and all five in world record time. And it isn’t over yet.

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Published: Fri 15 Aug 2008, 10:05 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

On Wednesday, the 23-year-old Baltimore Bullet became the greatest Olympian of all time with his 10th and 11th career golds. Those were his fourth and fifth golds of the Beijing Games. He’s got three more races to swim at the Water Cube in the ancient Chinese capital. Three more victories and he will surpass fellow American Mark Spitz’s 36-year-old record of seven golds at one Games.

Phelps added a chilling message to his rivals, when he came up for air on Thursday, by declaring that his most difficult events are behind him. If Jose Mourinho is the master of mind games in football, Phelps is his equivalent in water. The lanky American, with a slightly crooked grin, positioned himself for the next step on his road to Olympic glory by posting the second-quickest time in winning his 200 metres medley semifinal on Thursday.

Then he said: “I think medals mean more than times, so that’s what I’m going to be focusing on over the next three days,” With Wednesday’s two golds, Phelps moved ahead of past Olympic icons Paavo Nurmi, Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz and Larysa Latynina, who all won nine golds in their careers. Russian swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov, a friend and rival, summed up the supreme athlete quite well. “He’s just a normal person, although maybe from a different planet ... a planet from a different galaxy.”

Only the foolhardy would bet against the American not picking up more golds in the 200 metres individual medley, the 100 metres butterfly and the 4x100 medley relay. According to research data, Phelps’ phenomenal exploits have helped propel US television ratings for the Olympics to an all-time high.

So, is he a man or an amphibian? One thing we know for sure is that he is certainly out of this world. The man from the future!

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