It’s no secret that I like Michael Phelps. In fact, I think he’s awesome. It’s not just that he’s a good swimmer (he is a good swimmer). It’s not just that he’s a good guy (he is a good guy). It’s a confluence of factors both objective and personal. Here’s what they are:
I might as well come right out and say it, otherwise you’ll be reading through the rest of the post thinking “yeah, yeah, yeah, but what about the medals”. Yes, with 23 gold medals and 28 overall, Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever.
There’s no two ways about it Michael Phelps is a swimmer of legendary proportions. Time and time again he’s been able to break world records and then eventually his own records. In a sport where many participants push the boundaries of the human body in water, he manages to push the boundaries even more. Yes. He’s had a lot of medals. Yes he’s a great swimmer. But he’s also so much more.
Phelps doesn’t just have good technique. He also has a good physiology for swimming. Our bodies naturally adapt to the demands that we place on them at a consistent rate over time. That’s why people who have to climb up mountains might have shorter legs and swimmers generally have wingspans that are sometimes longer than their body height.
Michael Phelps has been swimming since he was 7. He Broke his first world record for his age group when he was 10. He has a long history of training his body to adapt to swim and it shows. But a lot of swimmers have these sorts of physiological adaptations, what they don’t have is the physical durability that Phelps does. Whereas Lochte has suffered rom a number of injuries, Phelps has been able to power on lap after lap, mile after mile at a minimal cost to his body.
He’s a Good Guy
Unlike some members of the USA Swimming Team, Phelps has exemplified good character both in and out of the water.
In the water, Michael Phelps has played by the books. When reporters started talking about how Phelps’ performance was too good to be true, he made a point to sign up with the anti-doping Project Believe. He passed all 9 tests that were given to him.
Outside of the water, Phelps has used his money for a number of philanthropic endeavors. After the 2008 Olympics he established the Michael Phelps Foundation to grow access to swimming and healthier lifestyles in general. The foundation works on a number of projects, including partnerships with Boys and Girls Clubs, giving autographed swim caps to organizations for fundraising purposes, and providing grants to swimmers who are in financial need.
Then there’s what other people have to say about him:
“I’m really proud of him not just because he won eight golds. Rather, it’s how much he has grown up and matured into a great human being. Never in my life have I been so happy to have been proved wrong.”
-Australian Olympian Ian Thorpe, after Phelps won 8 gold medals in Beijing
Here’s a sentimental story shared by Phelps’ Coach, Bob Bowman:
We Both Have a North Carolina Connection
I’m currently a student at Queens University in Charlotte North Carolina. Michael Phelps has raced in North Carolina several times and he raced alongside NC State University Ryan Held in securing the gold for the 4×100-meter freestyle relay in Rio.
We Have Similar Taste in Music
Like many of the Spotify/Napster/torrent generation, I’ve been exposed to and therefore can listen to pretty much any kind of music. Still, in my heart of hearts there are some favorites…and they are the same favorites as M. Phelps. In an interview with NBC, Michael Phelps disclosed that he listens to Eminem, Skrillex, Steve Aoki, Young Jeezy and Eric Church before getting into the water. For practically his whole career he’s been listening to music as a way to focus before a race.
We both like Michael Jordan
While one of his favorite swimmers is Ian Thorpe, Phelps has said that his favorite athlete is Michael Jordan. Admittedly we probably are coming at Jordan from two different perspectives. Phelps probably grew up watching Jordan kick some serious A with the Bulls, while I was still too young to pay attention to sports. Then came the great equalizer, Space Jam. With the Space Jam’s arrival, everyone I knew picked up a Michael Jordan fascination. I was no different.
Over the years, I’ve come to know Michael Jordan as more than just an awesome basketball player who helped Bugs Bunny defeat evil space aliens. I’ve come to see Michael Jordan as a person who is dedicated to his craft and who has exemplified good character on and off the court. It’s little surprise that Michael Phelps shares these similar qualities. Seriously, I’m telling you right now that someone should really make a book that compares the two. It would sell millions.
Like the Olympics? Here’s a look at the US Swimming Teams six best gold medal years.
Thanks for reading!