While we watch the track and field events in the Olympics this next week, it is time to reflect on the past week's events in the pool. The London Aquatics Centre provided some spectacular and memorable moments over the past week, from world records to shining young stars, to the swan song of an Olympic legend. The last indoor swim races took place on Saturday, ending a week that should not be forgotten. There are three main things to think about as the swimming events have ended in London:
Michael Phelps: Greatest _____ Ever
Michael Phelps said goodbye to Olympic competition this week, and did it in style. Phelps needed only three medals of any color in London to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. After failing to medal in the first race in London (the grueling 400m Individual Medley), Phelps became the man that we all fell in love with in Athens and Beijing in 2004 and 2008, respectively.
In each of his remaining six races, Phelps took a place on the medal podium. Even more impressive, four of those times he got to listen to the Star-Spangled Banner as the gold medalist. He not only passed former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's record of 18 Olympic medals, he obliterated it. Phelps will end his career with 22 Olympic medals, 18 of which are gold. To put that in perspective, the next highest total for gold medals in a career is nine, held by Latynina, American swimmer Mark Spitz, American runner Carl Lewis and Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi.
So where does Phelps stand in history? It's not difficult to say that Phelps is the great swimmer ever. It is even generally agreed upon that he is probably the greatest Olympian ever. How about greatest athlete ever? Yes, it's a stretch, but this has to be discussed. It may be too soon to think about, but Phelps' accomplishments are at a legendary status. He has achieved the same greatness, athleticism, and flair for the dramatic that have been obtained by athletes such Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. This is not to say that Phelps is greater than those three legends, but he definitely should be included in the conversation.
A Look Into The Future
While the Olympics said goodbye to Phelps, they also introduced the future of Olympic swimming. Most people say that the prime of a swimmer's career is when they are between the ages of 20 and 25. Yet much of the glory that was given in the pool was given to teenagers. The undoubted breakout swimming star of the London games was 17-year-old Missy Franklin. Franklin, who is still in high school, amazed the crowd at the London Aquatics Centre with her performance, which included winning four gold medals and one bronze. And she's just getting started. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Franklin will be 21 and in her prime. She has the ability to turn in a performance in Rio similar to what Phelps did in Beijing four years ago.
But Franklin isn't the only teenager who turned heads in London. At age 15, Katie Ledecky was the youngest member of the United States Olympic Team. However, she proved that age was just a number by winning gold in the longest female indoor individual swim at the Olympics, the 800m freestyle. And not only did she win, but she recorded the second-fastest time in history in that event. Meanwhile, fellow 15-year-old Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania won gold in the 100m breaststroke over American favorite Rebecca Soni.
And of course there's 16-year-old Ye Shiwen of China. Ye won both the 200m and 400m Individual Medleys. She may have been accused of doping (an accusation which has almost no grounds and is most likely false), but Ye's performance cannot go unmentioned. She set an Olympic record in the 200 IM and a world record in the 400 IM, two of the most difficult events. And have I mentioned that she is only 16? As we look ahead toward Rio, we will most likely continue to hear the names Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky, Ruta Meilutyte and Ye Shiwen.
Let's take a look at the swimming medal count:
At least one American swimmer participated in every final, and the United States failed to medal in only six of the 32 events. Granted, the last time that the United States did not lead the swimming medal count in the Olympics was in Seoul in 1988, but they blew away the competition this year. Countries with high hopes for their swim teams, such as Australia and France, were left in the dust. When the United States boasted names like Phelps, Lochte, Adrian, Franklin, Soni and Schmitt, they couldn't lose.
That is it for what was an excellent week in the pool. Americans dominated, young stars shined and Phelps made his place in history. Here's to seeing more in four years. See you in Rio.
Fan Hub Action
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
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