The greatest legend in American Olympic history will always be Jesse Owens, who defeated Hitler’s Aryan nightmare, with four gold medals in Berlin 1936. For United States Olympic pride, Owens is followed by the 1980 Winter Olympic hockey team’s defeat of the Soviet Union in the Miracle on Ice. However, you have to think that Michael Phelps dominance in the pool for three Olympics earns him a place near the top in the minds of U.S. Olympic fans.
Michael Phelps will leave the Olympic spotlight with 22 medals. His 18 gold medals leave him with twice as many as any other Olympic athlete. The list of Olympic athletes with nine include: Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz and track and field competitors Paavo Nurmi from Finland and Carl Lewis from the United State. Latynina has the second most medals all time with 18, which Phelps tied with gold medals alone.
His eight gold medals at Beijing is unfathomable and his World Championship gold’s just add to the mystique. His final line from London included gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley, the four by 100-meter medley relay and the four by 200-meter freestyle relay. His two silvers came in the 200-meter butterfly and the four by 100-meter freestyle relay.
For Phelps, he silenced critics on his own team who said he was not working hard. While only 27 years old, he took a hiatus from the sport after the 2008 Beijing games. However, he brought himself back to form and once again was the best swimmer in the Olympics, leaving assumed rival and teammate Ryan Lochte behind a trail of bubbles. Lochte finished with two gold and is a year older than Phelps
In his interview after setting the world record in the one hundred meter butterfly, Phelps talked briefly about his legacy. He said he wanted to help promote the game and elevate team U.S. for years to come. With 17-year-old Missy Franklin leaving London with four gold medals and a bronze and 15-year-old Katie Ledecky winning the 800-meter freestyle gold medal, it appears that he has already passed the Olympic torch. Those two young women were 7 and 5 when he swam one event in Sydney in 2000.
American’s like being the best. We often are disappointed with the silver and bronze medal. American dominance is the only thing that makes the U.S. basketball team watchable as they clobber countries that don’t have a chance. Michael Phelps represented us well and never did disappoint on the promise he made to deliver in the pool. If he decides down the road that at 31-years-old, he’d like to give the 2016 Rio games a try, than he has the United States support. He is, after all, the man that got us back in the water.