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No more sand in face of Dockers
No more sand in face of Dockers

Not all Olympic gold medals are the same.

That’s certainly the view of Londoners this week.

While the world marvelled at yet more success for Michael Phelps in the pool, many in the UK - especially the negative types that pervade the media - were questioning whether the American’s achievements were that great after all.

No one has won more medals than the 27-year-old. As this is being written he has 20 prizes from three Olympics, including a record 16 gold. More are in the offing before we leave the Stratford aquatic centre.

To put it in perspective Phelps’ career tally is the same as the haul of the entire Australian swimming team at the Beijing Games. And the Dolphins finished second on the medal table.

Yet not everyone is impressed. Indeed the Brits have had the audacity to suggest that Phelps can stand in the shadows of their own rower, Sir Steve Redgrave, who won gold medals at five successive Games from Los Angeles in 1984. He holds that record on his own.

Redgrave, who triumphed in coxed pairs plus and coxless pairs and fours at his events, is one of the most loved sportsmen on these isles.

The argument here is that Redgrave was restricted to two events at each Olympics whereas Phelps can swim up to eight events at any Games like he did in Beijing. Phelps is swimming seven events in London. And the Englishmen had greater longevity that Phelps, who will retire after London.

One commentator on the BBC’s late night sports program suggested Phelps got eight medals four years ago for “doing the same thing”.

Like Phelps, the claims don’t hold much water. Phelps still has seven races here in which he has to try to beat the rest of the world’s best aquatic stars. He just doesn’t turn up and get the lanyard put around his neck.

Having watched every race Phelps has competed in at the past two Games the ability of the boy from Baltimore to succeed at a variety of disciplines and distances shows extraordinary versatility.

But it was someone who wants to be great that put Phelps’ achievements into perspective.

Shortly after failing to realise his Olympic dream in the 100m freestyle in a performance tormented by a malfunction in the stroke’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay earlier in the meet, Australia’s sprinter James Magnussen said, “I’ve got a lot more respect for people like Michael Phelps who can come out and back up under pressure.”

And that is why Phelps is simply the greatest Olympian of all.

Follow Ross Lewis on Twitter - R_Lewis_thewest

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