BEIJING — Swimmer Michael Phelps is the eighth wonder of the sports world.
But is he the greatest Olympic athlete of all time?
Phelps will never catch Jesse Owens, the American sprinter who won four gold medals at the Summer Games 72 years ago in Adolph Hitler’s Germany.
“Everything was accomplished. What else can I do?” said Phelps, who could not stop smiling or crying after pocketing his eighth first-place medal of these Games. He won the 4×100 meter medley relay on a Sunday morning in China to complete an impossible Olympic dream that Phelps had written down on a piece of paper as his own private goal.
If you measure sports achievement strictly by a stopwatch or count greatness in units of gold, then Phelps makes a strong candidate for the title of greatest Olympian of all time, at least on the 70 percent of the earth covered by water.
“He’s just a normal person, although he may be from a different planet. A planet from another galaxy,” Russian swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov said.