Olympic legend: Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time

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Olympic legend: Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time
We do not yet know if the most decorated Olympian of all time will have a happy return to the pool, but what we do know is that the world has never seen a swimmer as good as Michael Phelps.

The 'Baltimore Bullet' came out of retirement in April 2014 to challenge himself to add to his 18 Olympic gold medals

By Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Thu 14 Jul 2016, 8:39 PM

Last updated: Fri 15 Jul 2016, 1:07 AM

After having faced epic challenges in two Olympics, South African swimmer superstar Cameron van der Burgh knows how tough it is to do what Michael Phelps did in three Olympics.
"To me, he is the Greatest Olympian of All Time. You know what he did in Beijing was out of the world," Van der Burgh, the 2012 London Olympic gold medalist, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview in 2013. Of course, it's unlikely that any athlete would even dare to attempt to win eight gold medals in a single Olympics like the American famously did and succeeded at the Beijing Games in 2008.
The 'Baltimore Bullet' came out of retirement in April 2014 to challenge himself to add to his 18 Olympic gold medals (six gold in 2004 Games, eight in 2008 Games and four in 2012 Games) at the Rio Games next month. "He wasn't in great form at the London Games in 2012, but he still won four gold medals. Even when you are not in the best condition of your life, and you still get four gold medals. That's so impressive," Van der Burgh had told us then.
"I know Usain Bolt took most of the glory in London. But believe me Phelps is definitely better than Bolt as an Olympian.
"If Bolt had to be compared to someone like Phelps, he would have to do the 100, the 200, the 400, the two relays and the long jump and the hurdles because Michael Phelps was doing all the different strokes!
"I mean Phelps makes everybody look stupid. He is such a talented swimmer. He is going to be remembered for a long, long time. Watching him win all the eight golds in Beijing was amazing and after a while it became boring as you had to listen to the American Anthem every time! But seriously, people kept talking about Mark Spitz since the 70s, and for the next 40 years, people will keep talking about Phelps! It was a great honour to be able to swim at the same Olympic Games with Michael Phelps."
Remarkably, Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe - who was Phelps' biggest idol - had openly put a question mark over the possibility of Phelps winning all eight gold medals at the Beijing Games in 2008. Phelps took it as a motivation and Thorpe was in the stands when the American eventually won his eighth gold in the 4x100 event.
Thorpe, who had beaten Phelps for the 200m gold in what was termed as the Race of the Century at the 2004 Games, even congratulated and hugged Phelps after the American won his eighth gold in Bejing.
We do not yet know if the most decorated Olympian of all time will have a happy return to the pool, but what we do know is that the world has never seen a swimmer as good as Michael Phelps.

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 30: Michael Phelps of the United States competes in a heat for the Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley during Day Five of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 30, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska.   Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 30: Michael Phelps of the United States competes in a heat for the Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley during Day Five of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 30, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
(From L) Britain's Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, London Mayor Ken Livingstone and London 2012 organising committee chief Sebastian Coe talk after the launch of the brand for the 2012 Olympics and Para-olympics at the Roundhouse in London, 04 June 2007. Organisers hope the logo, designed to be instantly recognisable worldwide, will help boost its campaign to raise two billion pounds (three billion euros) to stay the Games. The budget for the 2012 Olympics has soared to 9.3 billion pounds (18.6 billion dollars, 13.7 billion euros), nearly four times more than the first projections of how much it would cost to stage the Games in London. AFP PHOTO/SHAUN CURRY / AFP PHOTO / SHAUN CURRY
(From L) Britain's Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, London Mayor Ken Livingstone and London 2012 organising committee chief Sebastian Coe talk after the launch of the brand for the 2012 Olympics and Para-olympics at the Roundhouse in London, 04 June 2007. Organisers hope the logo, designed to be instantly recognisable worldwide, will help boost its campaign to raise two billion pounds (three billion euros) to stay the Games. The budget for the 2012 Olympics has soared to 9.3 billion pounds (18.6 billion dollars, 13.7 billion euros), nearly four times more than the first projections of how much it would cost to stage the Games in London. AFP PHOTO/SHAUN CURRY / AFP PHOTO / SHAUN CURRY

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