"I wanna be like Mike".
That's what the kids in those commercials were saying about Michael Jordan not so long ago. But move over M.J., there's a new Michael taking over the world stage in sports.
#23 has to make way for 23 year old Michael Phelps, the best thing to hit the swimming pool since.....since.....well there's really nothing to compare him to.
Michael has won more gold medals than anyone in the history of the modern Olympic games. He won 2 more on Tuesday giving him a total of 11 for his career. That shatters the old record of 9 held by Americans Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis and two others. More about Spitz in a moment.
Michael has not only won 5 gold medals in Beijing. He's won them all in record setting fashion. And while swimming may be the ultimate individual sport, 2 of those gold medals were in relay races.
Michael had to rely on his fellow American swimmers and they didn't let him down. Jason Lezak turned an historic performance in the final leg of the 4x100 Freestyle relay to pass a French swimmer in the final 10 meters to get the gold. Then Tuesday in the 4x200 Freestyle relay, Phelps got his team off to a great start, and his teammates extended the advantage at each leg on the way to another world record.
There's only one thing left for Michael to accomplish: to become the first person to win 8 gold medals in one Olympiad. Three more golds and he surpasses the record of 7 set by Mark Spitz in the 1972 Olympics. Speaking of Spitz, he's on record as being disapponted that he wasn't invited to Beijing to see Phelps break his record. At first blush, I thought he was whining for a free vacation. But after all he did to promote the Olympic games, Spitz deserves to be there to witness the changing of the Olympic gold standard.
Michael's story is something right out of Hollywood. He was raised by a single mom. To keep him occupied , his mother entered an eleven year Michael in a program at a local aquatic center in Baltimore. He took to swimming like the proverbial fish. His coach recognized and nurtured Michael's talent, and his Mother made sacrifices to allow him to pursue his dream of Olympic glory.
Will Michael reach his goal of 8 gold medals? Probably. Is this Phelps Phenomenon the biggest thing to ever to hit the Olympics? Well, as another Michael might say, that's a slam dunk!
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