Even with high-school sports about to kick off, Major League Baseball races entering the home stretch and the NFL schedule looming, most sports fans are keeping a close eye on the Olympics in Brazil.
As well they should.
With less than a week to go in the Summer Games, Americans have had plenty to applaud — from the incredible successes of the “Final Five” women’s gymnastics team, the women’s beach volleyball team, the American men’s and women’s basketball teams and more.
But it would hard to debate against the story of this Olympics being Michael Phelps.
Aside from his DUI arrest and subsequent time spent in rehab, how can anyone worth their American flag not root for the U.S. Olympic swimmer?
Phelps has remade himself, embraced longevity and gotten comfortable rewriting history — and now he’s eclipsing it too.
Historians would have to go back around 2,160 years, give a week or two, to find an athlete who could challenge the imperious record held by the “Baltimore Bullet.”
The U.S. star claimed the 22nd Olympic gold of his Olympic career Thursday after powering past the opposition in the final of the 200-meter individual medley.
That victory, the 13th individual triumph of his Olympics career, meant he surpassed the greatest athlete of ancient Greece and indeed of the Games — Leonidas of Rhodes.
Phelps, who took his tally to four gold medals at Rio by winning the event for the fourth consecutive Games, moved ahead of Leonidas after edging out Japan’s Kosuke Hagino and China’s Wang Shun.
Who exactly is Leonidas? The achievements of Leonidas, a runner who competed between 164 and 152 BC, were recorded by Philostratus the Athenian and Pausanias who told of his 12 triumphs, according to the official Olympics website.
Perhaps in another 2,000 years the stories of Phelps and his exploits will be shared around kitchen tables during debates of the Olympics’ greatest athletes of all-time, given his astonishing record.
The most decorated Olympian of all-time with 28 medals made a mockery of suggestions that he would struggle to cope with teammate Ryan Lochte and Japan’s Hagino.
Phelps didn’t just win — he smashed it. Then he jumped out of the pool to receive his medal before heading back in to qualify for Friday’s 100-meter butterfly final, where he swam to silver.
The 31-year-old, who is set to retire after the Games, ended up with five gold medals by the end of the competition. And his teammates are still hoping to see Phelps at the next Games in Tokyo four years from now.
Phelps says no, and if that is indeed true, then the 2016 Games will be remembered not only as Phelps’ finale, but his Games as well.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)