Michael Phelps- Just swimming, well now, everyone who thinks so, jump into an Olympic swim pool, do one 50m lap as fast as you can and then tell me its just swimming. Michael has participated in the Olympics not once, not twice but three times now, 2004, 2008, 2012 that is twelve years of hard work. Age 15 to age 27. He likes it and gives 110%. Some of the others mentioned did one Olympic game. He will be retiring this games He deserves the title of the greatest, if for nothing else the time he has put into it! Plus 15 GOLD MEDALS, FIFTEEN! and the four others. I guess next you'll be asking for blood!
To those commenters suggesting that all swimming events are the same distance and just variations of the same event - uh, no. Phelps has won at 100, 200 and 400 meters. Multiple times. In multiple strokes. In track, that would be the equivalent of winning the 400, the 800, and the 1500. Throw in the decathlon on top of it, because Phelps has medley golds as well - swimming's version of all-around mastery. Anybody achieve that even once in the modern era? Didn't think so. And to those who say track and field doesn't offer the same opportunities for multiple medals, and that the swimming schedule is somehow contrived by comparison - what about hurdles, high hurdles, steeplechase, long jump and triple jump, all cousins? Phelps it is, if you want to have some objective metric to measure against. Otherwise, propose different metrics, but pure subjectivity doesn't cut it.
Bob Mathias won 2 golds in decathalon (100 m, 400 m, 110 hurdles, javelin, discus, shot-put, long jump, pole vault, high jump, 1500m), the first to win 2 consecutive. He was only 21, (arguably before his prime for this event) when he won his second gold by a record margin, in 1952. He never lost a decathlon and played for Stanford in the Rose Bowl (obviously, not an olympic event). Best all-around!
my pick is marty glickman ans sam stoller who were not allowed to run in the 36 olympics because the were jews
Phelps is by far the greatest swimmer, no one can deny that. Maybe even the greatest summer olympian. But he is not the greatest athlete. In my opinion, athlete is defined by being able to do multiple sports well. Clara Hughes is that person. She is the only person to have multiple medals in both summer (cycling) and winter (speed skating) olympics.
Phelps the greatest? Not even close, Dr. Pothead.
Great Olympians should embody the spirit of sport and the Olympics. His drug usage (which he admitted to) proves him to be just an average guy. He'll never possess the mettle or mindset of a true Olympian. The US Olympic Team should have kicked him off the team, but instead was more interested in the medal count. I'll vote for anyone else on that list.
It is not Phelps. He is great, but not the greatest - not even close. There is much more to greatness than winning a bunch of medals in essentially the same race. Had he won his medals after overcoming polio, or some other life-threatening illness, then we can mention his name and true greatness in the same breath. Had life sternly pointed its finger at him and told him he hadn't a chance, and yet in defiance of that seeming limitation he won a single medal, then he would be truly great - perhaps the greatest.
Surely they are amongst the greatest of them all because they showed us how to stare back at the adversity of life and not flinch.
Phelps is just a really good swimmer. That's it.
My vote went to Jesse Owens. I think of the times he competed, what the world, specially Europe, was going through, and because he was a Negro competing against the German Superior Race, he deserves the vote.
Michael Phelps, are you kidding? Swimming medal totals are inflated. Free style, breast stroke, butter fly and back stoke all over the same distance. In track you get a medal for being the fastest to run a set distance. Imagine if they gave track medals for running, skipping, running backwards, or side stepping for 100 meters.
I think the greastest Olympic acheivement was Emil Zatopek winning the 5K, 10K and marathon at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. He also set Olympic records in all three events.
How do you define "greatest"? These comparisons are apples and oranges. Why make them? Why respond to them? How do you compare a swimmer to a runner to a gymnast to a table tennis player to a soccer player? Different body types, different physical requirements for success, different skills...
Credit should be given where credit is due, yes there are many great athletes but come on give the record breaker the props he deserves. He did not break the record of olympic medals by chance, he broke it because he had a goal to do so and worked hard at something that he is phenomenal at , so don't h hate the amazing athlete and as for his experimenting come on he is human and just because he is an amazing olympic record breaker doesn't change the fact that he is indeed human. I bet anyone that has criticism for the fact that swimming offers more chances for individual metals than other sports, couldn't swim the length of a regular sized pool two times much less an olympic size pool once, come on don't hate a man because he has a god given talent that has made him a record breaker........ Go Phelps!
Phelps is a fine athlete - in the water. Jim Thorpe did the Decathalon and the Pentathon and won both without the modern techniques for training. So for the greatest all-around athlete - my vote is on Jim Thorpe.
In Olympics, medals won are the gauge so Phelps has to be at the top. Why even have the conversation?
Phelps is clearly number one. I had to seriously give a nod though to Jim Thorpe especially from an all around talent perspective. If Jim Thorpe had an agent, a lawyer and the associated support teams our modern day athletes have, his stature would be astronomical. Instead he was ultimately caught in the prejudices of the day, and was not exonerated until long after his death. A truly amazing olympian who is really overlooked.
Winning 1 medal in an olympic event is in itself an amazing achievement. The hours, days, weeks , months and years of blood, sweat and tears is beyond a common mans imagination. We are not even worthy of commenting on these great folks- every one of them from Jesse Owens, to Sergie Bubka to Nadia C to Car Lewis to Jackie Joyner etc.
If you then decide how to evaluate their efforts , it could be done quantitatively or not. And one of the only quantifiable ways is the number of medals, no of gold medals etc. By that standard, Phelps stands out head over shoulders. There is no point trying to minimize his achievements - its cruel rather- to talk of imaginary events like 101 yards dash
Hats off to Phelps
I vote Chuck Norris greatest all time..
Phelps is an amazing athlete, he was born to swim and I am so glad to have the privilege to watch him do what he is amazing at. Rock on MP!!!!
Sergey Bubka is my favorite. Michael Phelps one of the greatest, no doubt about that, but it mast be taken in considerations that not all sports have different types like swimming or gymnastics have, that gives possibility for one athlete to take several medals in same field.
Please! 4:20 Smoke Break Phelps is far from the greatest Olympic athlete.
In fact, even attempting to place 1 athlete above the many talented who have competed (and aren't on the list) seems silly...
Very good guy 1 love man
There are too many similar events in swimming, so of course swimmers get the most total medals. What if there were medals for the 100 yd dash, the 101 yard dash, the 102 yard dash, etc? Then a runner would have the most total medals. Medal count means nothing.
WIDTAP and Lewis Vaughn both have it right. The Decathalon athletes of any nation have to be considered the best athletes of both sexes
Why no Jim Thorpe?
Anyone who can medal at the Olympics against the top athletes from around the world, is truly great. Shallow nationalistic thinking should not be part of it.