Friday, August 15, 2008

How Phelps Stacks Up...As A Country

There have been a number of articles regarding Michael Phelps’ success in the 2008 Olympic, and that is an obvious understatement. The problem I have with the coverage of American athletes is that it has made the public jaded. It is simply not enough to compete at the highest level, to be great, or even to just win. In the case of Phelps it isn’t even enough to break world records or to win gold medals. The public watches Phelps and expects him to win every time, and win by a substantial margin. Not only that but to win in every single event across the board. The 2008 coverage of Beijing has built up Phelps’ run at 8 gold medals to such a height that if he were to get silver in his eighth attempt there would be disappointment with his efforts. This of course is speaking to the general American Olympic watching audience who may not be as informed or as versed in the games or in aquatic events as others. I openly admit that the only time I watch any swimming competitions is the Olympics and a rare exception when Arizona won the Swimming and Diving National Championship this year. I started thinking more and more about Phelps and how absurd the coverage and the expectations he faces are, and decided to try and break it down into quick facts that might put it into a better perspective for those of you who are indeed jaded.

Athens 2004 Olympics (If Phelps were his own country) :

  • Phelps: 6 Gold 2 Bronze
  • 74 Countries Medaled, so automatically Phelps had more medals than 124 countries that were participating considering they didn’t win a single medal.
  • As far as gold medals are concerned Phelps would have been tied for 15th with Greece.
  • With 8 total medals Phelps would have been in a five way tie for 24th overall with Thailand, Denmark, Czech Republic, and Kazakhstan.

At the time I wrote this Article (After watching Aug 15th in the U.S, I don’t do well with time changes especially when watching events that say “live” only for my roommates to come in and ruin it because they heard who won on the radio on their drive home…Thanks NBC):
2008 Beijing Olympics
  • Phelps 6 Gold
  • Currently Phelps is tied for 4th most gold medals with South Korea, Italy, and Japan.
  • His 6 total medals puts him in 14th place overall one above North Korea and one shy of the Netherlands.

I feel as though the Olympics come and go, and you may remember a certain athlete that you picked to watch for those particular games, but overall the memories of the participants fade pretty fast. As Americans we expect to win, and are utterly confused when we don’t. It is a sad state of affairs when we expect someone to set a record that hasn’t been done in over a hundred years of the Olympic Games. He already has more Golds than any other Olympic athlete, and is just four away from the most total medals of any Olympic athlete ever. I think that we are praising him more than a fair amount, but for some reason outside certain circles it sounds like we are taking him for granted. The “Call me when he gets 8” mentality. I think something needs to be done to commemorate his accomplishments, besides lucrative purses.