Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In awe of Phelps

These are Michael Phelps' Olympics, and everyone else just happens to be there.

Through 5 events, Phelps has 5 gold medals, and 5 World Records. Oh yeah, and his total gold medal count now stands at 11, the most ever by an athlete in the Olympics.

And yet, even though this was expected of him, this dominance was almost a given, we are still in awe.

We are in awe of the man-fish, who, swimming against the best swimmers in the world, won the 200 meter freestyle by over two seconds, and broke the world record by more than a full second.

Even in his "questionable" race, meaning, not the one that he wasn't great at, but the one that had swimmers that were seemingly capable of beating him, it simply wasn't so -- Phelps won the gold by more than two seconds, with the man who everyone thought had a chance to beat him, teammate Ryan Lochte, fading to third, more than four seconds behind Phelps.

Much has been talked about Phelps and his natural abilities - his 6'4 frame, his abnormally long torso which is that of a man 6'8", and his shorter legs, which therefore create less drag in the water, with his core being lower in his body, more like that of a fish. His size 14 feet resemble flippers, he has a 6'7" wingspan, and is double jointed. Somehow his body creates about 1/2 the lactic acid of other world-class athletes, which prevents his muscles from tiring and cramping when others would. But, despite the physical attributes that make him almost born to spend much of his life in the water, it is Phelps' drive and determination that have made him the best Olympian ever. And he's not done yet.

Phelps' is Jordan-eque in his hatred of losing; he is Roger Clemens-esque in the intensity of his workouts (minus the 'roids)... he doesn't seem to hate killer workouts or putting his personal life on hold to concentrate on his ultimate goal.

He must consume between 8,000 and 10,000 calories a day just to make up for how hard he trains... and he has 2% body fat.

And to prove to the world that he isn't cheating, that it is God-given ability and hard-as-heck training that has made him the champion that he is, Phelps' volunteered for rigorous drug testing during the Olympics, being tested at LEAST once a day.

And I think one of the things that draws us into Phelps, besides his 6'4" perfect frame, is that he is like a kid when he gets each and every gold medal around his neck - smiling and taking it in, not like the Chinese robots who look solemn, and almost relieved, to get their gold.

So even though we expected this of Phelps, it is still fun to watch, we all still cheer him on each and every race, almost like we do Tiger Woods. They are two of the few Goliath-like athletes that the world cheers for against the underdog Davids of the sporting world. And that is because each time we see Phelps or Woods competing, we KNOW that we are watching history, the best to ever do their sport, and that is exciting, and awe-inspiring.

Oh, and for those of you keeping up, who want to see history live, here are Phelps' remaining races:
• Race No. 6 -- 200 individual medley: Friday morning Beijing time, Thursday night in the U.S.

• Race No. 7 -- 100 butterfly: Saturday morning Beijing time, Friday night in the U.S.

• Race No. 8 -- 4x100 medley relay: Sunday morning Beijing time, Saturday night in the U.S.

Finally, for your viewing pleasure...

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