Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Confessions of a Doubting Thomas

Right now at Beijing's Watercube history's being made. Michael Phelps has swum five of his eight events and won five gold medals setting five world records in the process. He has two more hurdles to overcome given a gold and new world record in the 4x100 medley relay is a virtual lock. The first will be the 200 IM in the form of Ryan Lochte and Laszlo Cseh, and the second in the 100 fly where he has to deal with Ian Crocker. Yes, it may be true Ian Thorpe didn’t believe Phelps had a chance at winning eight golds, but he had plenty of company. Count me among the doubters and I’m a huge fan of Phelps. It just didn’t seem feasible. Michael’s schedule has him swimming seventeen races and that, even with his amazing and well documented ability to recover, is a huge obstacle to overcome. Monday at practice we were divided into relay teams and assigned many of the individual events to allocate between ourselves – all in fact excepting the two distance and the 400 IM and 200 fly events. With a very broad range of swimming ability on our relay I ended up doing the 400 free, the 100 fly, and the 200 back. Five minutes after putting in a less than stellar 400 I was again swimming 100 fly. Not my best event for sure (OK, other than the aforementioned 400 IM and 200 fly it’s my worst) and still tired I ran out of gas midway, limping home more than twenty seconds over my best time. How Phelps can race Olympic finals less than an hour apart and set world records in both is completely beyond me. There’s also all the pressure to perform he has to deal with, pressures most people sitting on their couch aren’t able to comprehend. It has laid low some of the best swimmers in the world. People such as Lochte, Hoff, and Manaudou have all felt its bite these Games. Yet Phelps has cruised through so smoothly I wonder if the rumors he went through U.S. Olympic Trials only partially tapered are true. I’ve often said I’m in considerably more awe of the great track stars than swimming’s best but Michael Phelps is rapidly climbing my sports pantheon. And I hear the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has been receiving complaints they’re showing too much Michael Phelps on their Olympic programing. Are the viewers mad?

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