He has enough gold to lure Pizarro, but that isn’t what makes Michael Phelps great.
He has enough fame to satisfy a Kardashian, but that isn’t what makes Michael Phelps great.
He has records and moments and money and everything else you use to measure greatness. And it still doesn’t capture all of it.
If you want to know what makes Phelps great, time after time, it can be found in the death stare that is dominating social media these days. It is a laser glare, a locked-in attempt to melt anyone who would dare to get between him and victory line. And, in a lifetime of great athletes, it is what has led to a filled trophy case.
Everything you will tell people about Phelps is in that stare: the competitiveness, the hunger, the dissatisfaction. He has accomplished more than anyone, and to him, it does not seem to be —enough. Don’t you love him for that?
I watched Phelps grow up. I watched him find a way to win the close races, and the ones where he left everyone a half a pool away. I never saw an Olympian dominate like him. He was sensational in China, and far better than I expected in London, and better still so far this year. And I’m convinced of this: Phelps will leave when he wants. No one will chase him from the pool.
Let’s be honest. Phelps could have walked away from the pool long ago and been considered the finest swimmer — and perhaps the finest Olympian – of all time. He has 25 medals, 21 of them gold. He won four gold and two silvers in London – and wasn’t happy with his performance.
But medals can deceive you. Consider this: You can be the most dominating boxer of all time, and you get one medal. Same for basketball.
On the other hand, other swimmers aren’t winning medals by the dozen, are they? After what we have seen, can there be any doubt that Phelps is up there with Michael Jordan and Carol Lewis and FloJo and Tom Brady?
He is 31 now, and you get the feeling that every minute of these Olympics are special to him. He has grown up in that pool, from a gangly teenager to a father, and we have seen it.
Maybe it’s me.
I can’t stop staring, either.