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NBC likes to talk about Bolt (because the Bolt global phenomenon is too great to ignore), but their stupid commentator (Bob Costas) always inject the name Michael Phelps in when mentioning Bolt. Excuse me? Usain Bolt does not need the name Phelps mentioned alongside to him to qualify him (Bolt) as greatness. Yet, the obviously American-bias NBC commentator cannot discuss Bolt as greatness by itself. And when not injecting in Phelps, Costas will inject in other US Olmpian like Carl Lewis. Lewis was a great sprinter, but Lewis did not come anywhere close to dominating the sprinting events 100 and 200 in the same fashion as Bolt.

Winning gold in the 100m and 200m in 3 consecutive Olympics is just unreal. Too bad there isn't like 4 different running strokes in combination with a load of individual medleys and team relays for runners to win. NBC loves to equate the number of medals won by Phelps to "greatness". Sorry but medals in swimming are cheapen by a boatload of events it has. Seriously, is there any other sport that shower its athletes with medals like swimming? And when it comes to athleticism, running matters more then swimming (just like running is perceive as more athletic than cycling).. because I just think there is something primal about the ability to sprint fast.

That's my take. Curious what others out there see it.
 

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It seems to me that some gold medals are won more easily than others of course. Running 100 meters for a gold equivalent to running a marathon for gold? Git outta here. Swimming 50 meters for a gold medal versus winning one for the decathalon? No comparison imho.

Of course if you're watching the U.S. coverage you're going to see a U.S. bias.
 

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As a track and field guy, I do think that swimming does offer a top stud the chance to win more medals, I don't think that's hard to argue, but Phelps has been doing this now for 4 Olympics. Even if he only had 8 golds (the 2 events he's won 4 times!) he still qualifies as an all time great. As for Bolt, to 3-peat in the the sprint events is unreal. To be the best for 8 years (wins the World Champs in the off years too) in an event that typically only has a 2 or 3 year peak makes him an all time great as well.

At this point, I believe both are more than just generational greats and our grandchildren will be talking about their achievements and I'm glad I got to witness both.

btw nooky, there are more ways to define hard than just which is more grueling. No doubt that the marathon is more grueling than the 100m dash or 50m freestyle, but that training and focus needed to be the best (along with the natural ability needed from birth) is no different.
 

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Apples & Oranges here.

Bolt is the best sprinter for sure. Is he the best "runner" or track athlete? Carl Lewis did not dominate the 100 & 200 like Bolt, but he did win them as well as holding the long jump world record, thus a more diverse athlete.

Phelps proved himself to be a very diverse swimmer being competent to dominant in every stroke.

If they were cyclists, Bolt is specialized like Cavendish and Phelps is more like Sagan who can do a bit of everything.
 

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Possessing the athletic ability to win at different strokes does set Phelps off just a bit. Yes, the result of that is it opens up more medal opportunities, but it also takes great talent to win while swimming 4 different strokes in a medley event. You have to be decent at those 4 strokes and they are all different enough that many swimmers are complete specialists and only swim one stroke well. Phelps has competed and mostly dominated at 200 freestyle, 100 & 200 butterfly, plus 200 & 400 individual medley, as well as being good enough to qualify for the 200 backstroke, in 4 olympics, plus he qualified for and competed in the 2000 Olympics at age 15. 16 years of Olympic competing.

Bolt is great on another level based on sheer athletic prowess to dominate at the 100 and 200. It's certainly true that in order to compete at this level you cannot do other running or track and field events, the athlete needs to be a specialist.


And to dominate thru 3 Olympics makes him the greatest ever at that event, just as Phelps is at his many events.
 

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I don't see what a comparison of totally different sports achieves... But it's harmless fun so here's my take.

Both 'immortals'.
Phelps has the greater medal count but I don't see it as merely a numbers thing. Both athletes have been equally dominant in their disciplines. Both are physical freaks with natural advantages over their rivals, both are superb competitors who can deliver their best when it matters. Both have managed to stay at the top for longer than most in their respective events. Actually I've been more impressed with Phelps than Bolt at this Olympics, how he manages to keep age at bay when he really should have retired is truly amazing. Bolt, on the other hand, may be just past his best. No world records this time and perhaps not more than a couple more years left at the very pinnacle of the sport. He was way off his prediction for a world best time in the 200m. Sprinting is cruel, once you lose that edge and the doubts appear and your opponents see your weakness, it's almost always the end. He's not there yet but next year's World Championships could tell us more.
Perhaps unfairly for Phelps he's never going to have the same global acclaim as Bolt. Being a phenomenal swimmer just doesn't carry the same bragging rights as being the 'fastest man on earth', and let's be honest, the humble penguin puts even Phelps to shame when it comes to aquatic grace and ability. Humans just don't look that impressive in water. Bolt struts his stuff in the 'blue riband' event at the Olympics, the equivalent of being heavyweight boxing champ, people tend to respect that exulted position, whoever occupies it.
Bolt has a certain amount of charisma and likeability that I don't see in Phelps, so yeah, if that's important to you then it's Bolt all the way. Bolt will fill a stadium just about anywhere he races, outside of the Olympics and WC's who watches a swim meet?

(Finally, as a Brit with a Jamaican father and the fastest kid in my school over 100 and 200, well naturally I get a little more pleasure seeing Bolt trounce the Yanks than I do when Phelps beats an Aussie. Sorry.)

BUT,
My personal all-time favourite athlete is American 400m hurdler Edwin Moses. In the event they call the 'man killer' he was unbeaten in 122 races over a ten year period. I recall watching him eat up the ground and his opponents with those even 13 strides between each hurdle. All other athletes had to change their stride pattern two/thirds into a race. Had 4 world records. Won Olympic gold in 1976 and 1984 and a bronze in 1988. He surely would have won gold in Moscow 1980 if not for the boycott.

What makes Moses special though, are the efforts he made to make it financially feasible for world class athletes to access funds to train and support themselves and be eligible for the Olympics, effectively getting rid of 'shamateurism' once and for all. He also developed the first out-of- competition random drug testing program for athletes back in 1988. He put more back into his sport than he took out. He helped give athletes a chance to compete and was concerned that those competitions were clean and fair. No histrionics, no showboating, just a relentless will to win and the talent to make it look easy. 10 years unbeaten on the track, mindboggling.
 
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I dunno but I'd sure like to be their agent lining up endorsements, movies, books, personal appearances, made-4-TV specials, speaking engagements, video games, and once four year Olympic broadcast commentators.
 

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NBC likes to talk about Bolt (because the Bolt global phenomenon is too great to ignore), but their stupid commentator (Bob Costas) always inject the name Michael Phelps in when mentioning Bolt. Excuse me? Usain Bolt does not need the name Phelps mentioned alongside to him to qualify him (Bolt) as greatness. Yet, the obviously American-bias NBC commentator cannot discuss Bolt as greatness by itself. And when not injecting in Phelps, Costas will inject in other US Olmpian like Carl Lewis. Lewis was a great sprinter, but Lewis did not come anywhere close to dominating the sprinting events 100 and 200 in the same fashion as Bolt.

Winning gold in the 100m and 200m in 3 consecutive Olympics is just unreal. Too bad there isn't like 4 different running strokes in combination with a load of individual medleys and team relays for runners to win. NBC loves to equate the number of medals won by Phelps to "greatness". Sorry but medals in swimming are cheapen by a boatload of events it has. Seriously, is there any other sport that shower its athletes with medals like swimming? And when it comes to athleticism, running matters more then swimming (just like running is perceive as more athletic than cycling).. because I just think there is something primal about the ability to sprint fast.

That's my take. Curious what others out there see it.
swimming medals are easy to win, eh?

how many do you have again?
 

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swimming medals are easy to win, eh?

how many do you have again?
I actually have 3 or 4. I used to compete at Masters open water swims and was good for my age. Took 3rd and 2nd a few times in ocean mile swims. It was fun, then I got old. I used to swim with a guy who was 90 and had a bunch of world records. He would then chuckle and comment that there were was only one other competitor.
 

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...
BUT,
My personal all-time favourite athlete is American 400m hurdler Edwin Moses. In the event they call the 'man killer' he was unbeaten in 122 races over a ten year period. I recall watching him eat up the ground and his opponents with those even 13 strides between each hurdle. All other athletes had to change their stride pattern two/thirds into a race. Had 4 world records. Won Olympic gold in 1976 and 1984 and a bronze in 1988. He surely would have won gold in Moscow 1980 if not for the boycott.

What makes Moses special though, are the efforts he made to make it financially feasible for world class athletes to access funds to train and support themselves and be eligible for the Olympics, effectively getting rid of 'shamateurism' once and for all. He also developed the first out-of- competition random drug testing program for athletes back in 1988. He put more back into his sport than he took out. He helped give athletes a chance to compete and was concerned that those competitions were clean and fair. No histrionics, no showboating, just a relentless will to win and the talent to make it look easy. 10 years unbeaten on the track, mindboggling.
Thanks for the reminder about Moses--and I didn't know about the development program. Very cool when people give back.

(Oh, and Lewis was probably a doper...)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
What gets to me a bit is that when Bob Costas commented on Phelps, and this was before the track and field events started, he used names like "Ali" and "Jordan" to compare Phelps to. Then when it came Bolt's name came up, he used Phelps as a reference of comparison. Huh? First of all, I don't think Phelps is any where near the greatness of Ali and Jordan. And then for Costas to use Phelps as a reference when assessing Bolt, it's like a downgrade for Bolt. Let's be honest here, if Bolt was American... Phelps wouldn't come anywhere close to being in the same sentence.

The other factor is the dept of the competition. In track, you get people of all colors competing, meaning the talent gene pool is greater. In swimming, it's pretty much a "Western hemisphere" sport dominated by mostly Americans and Aussies, probably because it also has something to do with socioeconomic too as you need money and access to a swimming pool. I don't see swimming as having the same competitive depth as track and field.

But like someone said, this is an apples and oranges comparison. Still interesting to talk about it.
 

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BUT,
My personal all-time favourite athlete is American 400m hurdler Edwin Moses. In the event they call the 'man killer' he was unbeaten in 122 races over a ten year period. I recall watching him eat up the ground and his opponents with those even 13 strides between each hurdle. All other athletes had to change their stride pattern two/thirds into a race. Had 4 world records. Won Olympic gold in 1976 and 1984 and a bronze in 1988. He surely would have won gold in Moscow 1980 if not for the boycott.

What makes Moses special though, are the efforts he made to make it financially feasible for world class athletes to access funds to train and support themselves and be eligible for the Olympics, effectively getting rid of 'shamateurism' once and for all. He also developed the first out-of- competition random drug testing program for athletes back in 1988. He put more back into his sport than he took out. He helped give athletes a chance to compete and was concerned that those competitions were clean and fair. No histrionics, no showboating, just a relentless will to win and the talent to make it look easy. 10 years unbeaten on the track, mindboggling.
Been lurking on this thread for awhile thinking, Edwin Mosis, then see Sir Duke's post and i couldn't agree more. There are plenty of greats, including Alysson Felix, but Moses was something special. His approach to training and racing was unique. For example, he calculated that he could cover the 40 meters between each hurdle in 13 steps (instead of the customary 14) if he took strides of exactly nine feet, nine inches. At the Montreal Olympics, he executed his plan, winning a gold medal and the world record. He went on to collect another Olympic gold and three more world records. He even tried bobsledding, placing third in the two-man competition at the 1990 World Cup. Greatness is measured in both what you give and take from a sport. Moses did both, as Sir D pointed out. He was the intellectual jock, an oximoron to many in today's society.
 

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I don't care about either. Centrowitz winning the 1500 is better than all the other swimming and track medals combined.
That was a gutsy race! His dad's reaction was priceless. :D
 

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in Track there is no overlap of events, they all run linear.
Bolt isn't running 200 qualifiers / semis the same day he is running 100 finals.
What multi-event swimmers do is far more taxing and takes far more conditioning and planning
Bolt has 9 gold medals, or one more than Phelps did in one Olympics. In swimming, considering how close some finishes are, it is more impressive when an individual winds up on the winning side of that equation. Bolt is a phenom and I will not detract from his greatness but Phelps is the equivalent of being a decathlon champ and winning a few individual track events over 4 Olympics.

In his events, Bolt is more dominant as no one is really close to beating him

Phelps went 6 for 8 (2 Bronze) in 2004, 8 for 8 in 2008, 4 for 6 in 2012 (2 silver), 5 for 6
in 2016.
In 2004/2008 he swam 5 individual events, at least 3 heats per event. 15 heats, plus medal heats in 3 relays for a total of 18 heats in one week, many overlapping on the same day. Bolt Runs 6 heats in 6 days for the 100 and 200 and probably only the final in the relay, so 7 heats in a week.
 

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Freestyle and Greco Roman Wrestlers are studs as well. Tourneys take place in one day meaning you compete half a dozen times in a day
 
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Getting back to the original question, I say Bolt. Only because he won gold in all 9 events he entered. Phelps going 8 for 8 in Beijing is incredibly impressive, as is the total medal count. But 9 for 9 trumps it, imo.
 

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Winning gold in the 100m and 200m in 3 consecutive Olympics is just unreal.
Yes... unreal... kind of like winning the Tour de France seven times.
 

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My pick for greatest Olympic athlete would be Eric Heiden, greatest speed skater of all time. At the 1980 Lake Placid games he won gold in every distance from 500m to 10,000m. 5 golds in a wide range from sprint to long distance. Only one to ever do it and it will likely never be repeated. Bolt and Phelps are the best ever in their sports and their longevity is amazing but Heiden's performance is one for the ages.
 
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