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Who is the Most Dominant Athlete in the World? -- August 31, 2009

Column by John Lohn

CRANBURY, New Jersey, August 31. THERE is no undisputed answer to the question, for there isn't one way to assess the query. Yet, it's a topic frequently tossed about, usually against the backdrop of a major performance or accomplishment. Who is the most dominant athlete in the world?

A major distinction must be immediately made. When broaching this topic, there is often confusion about what is actually meant. We're not here to determine the greatest athlete in the world. Making that determination is nearly impossible and would bring forth too many suggestions to successfully present a final argument.


Rather, we're discussing which athlete is the most dominant in his sport, an individual who has more power and control over his competition than anyone else. We're discussing an individual whose impact in his sport is greater than the rest. We're discussing an individual whose talent is so overwhelming that he has changed his sport.

Because Usain Bolt was downright amazing at the recent World Track and Field Championships, this topic came to mind. Like he did at the Beijing Olympics, Bolt obliterated his rivals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes on the blue track in Berlin. Actually, he was better in Berlin than he was in Beijing, as he broke each of his world records with times that are almost hard to comprehend. Sound like someone in the pool?

The truth is, there are probably only four individuals who deserve to be considered for the Most Dominant Athlete title: Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. All reign at the top of their sports, their careers defined by never-before-seen achievements or bodies of work. But which one dominates with a little more gusto than the other members of this illustrious group. We're not expecting a consensus in any way, but here's one man's opinion.

Of our four nominees, we have to place Roger Federer in the No. 4 slot. That's not a shot at the tennis great, a man who has won the career grand slam and has more major titles than any male who has picked up a racket. That's just where we think he belongs in this group of excellence.

The argument on Federer's behalf is that he has shown unique versatility en route to his standing as, perhaps, the finest male tennis player in history. When he captured the French Open earlier this year, Federer completed the career slam and had proven his worth on each of the surfaces on which a major is played. That's something the legendary Pete Sampras could not do.

However, the detracting point for Federer is the fact that, even if for a short while, he was surpassed by Rafael Nadal as the best player in the world. While the rivalry is great for the sport, and will continue to be, someone vying for Most Dominant Athlete must have 100 percent ownership of his specific sport.

Falling into the No. 3 position is the man who is probably the best known athlete on the planet, a guy who manipulates a golf ball like no one ever has. Before he's done his golfing career, Tiger Woods will be regarded as the finest player in his sport's history. He might already own that moniker, although Jack Nicklaus still has plenty of support for his record 18 major championships.

The argument on Woods' behalf is that in this age of depth on the PGA Tour, he maintains a scary aura and prevails at a rate (roughly 33 percent) that is ridiculous for a sport like golf. One day, he'll be the all-time leader in grand slam crowns and will have more victories than any other player. Fair or not, however, Woods goes through stretches where he doesn't win. A little harsh? Yes, and especially because a man can't win every tournament he plays, no matter how much flair he brings to the table. But to be considered the most dominant, a player needs to win at least a major each year, and Woods failed in that quest for 2009.

Moving on, Jamaica's Bolt occupies the No. 2 hole in this analysis, which means you know who sits on top. No sprinter in history has produced anything close to what Bolt has over the past two years. Before Bolt came along, the world record in the 100 was 9.74. It is now 9.58, almost unfathomable. More, Bolt has run 19.19 in the 200, and in Beijing last year took down the previously untouchable record of Michael Johnson.

Bolt almost assuredly will continue to dazzle the track world, but the reason he is ranked second here is because his prowess on the international stage is only two years old. Sure, he was a world junior champ before emerging on the big platform, but there's more room in terms of longevity. Meanwhile, Bolt's success in Olympic and World Champs competition has centered around the sprints. If there is a positive in his pursuit of greater things, it's his recent declaration that he will begin to dabble in the long jump.

So, that leaves us with Michael Phelps at the top, regarded here as the Most Dominant Athlete in the world. Not really surprising, huh? To measure Phelps against the aforementioned stars is somewhat comparing apples and oranges. Then again, some comparisons are legitimate. For one, like Federer, Phelps has proven the ability to win in different events. While Federer has won on hardcourt, grass and clay, Phelps has been magical in the freestyle, butterfly, backstroke and individual medley, the medley proving his talent in breaststroke as well.

Like Woods, Phelps rises to the occasion, loving the pressure that comes with big-meet atmospheres. Look no further than his head-to-head showdown with Milorad Cavic at the recent World Champs in Rome. It was a defining moment for Phelps, who answered the bell. True, Phelps does drop a race here and there, like Woods loses a tournament. The frequency, however, is far less and it typically involves Phelps either racing in a tuneup meet and not in peak form, in an event that is still a world in progress (i.e. 100 free) or when he's wearing an inferior piece of equipment. (Note: To make it clear, I do believe Paul Biedermann is one heck of a swimmer).

Finally, there's the comparison to Bolt. For now, Phelps gets the nod because of his range, which is wider than that of Bolt. Put it all together and Phelps is the Most Dominant Athlete in the world. He has the total package - versatility, flair, longevity. It's tough to argue, though there's no doubt some will have another opinion.


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August 31, 2009

Provocative post. Thanks!

If swimming started offering $8 million tournament purses on a weekly bases (as they do for golf), you'd find many more athletes drawn to the sport, and significantly more competition for the top prizes. The result: less likelihood of a one-man Phelps-like domination. But, alas, that's not the case. My point: you're mixing apples and oranges when it comes to golf and swimming.

[Also, Tiger Woods has a way to go before surpassing Nicklaus as "Greatest Golfer Ever." I feel that golf was more competitive in the 1960s and 70s. Each week, Nicklaus had to deal with consistent winners such as Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Gary, and Tom Watson. Tiger has to deal with . . . Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh?]

Submitted by: SilverMedalMel
August 31, 2009 Interesting, and I happen to agree with you, though I'm not sure that our opinions are unbiased.

If Bolt does go after the 400 meter WR next year as he said he is going to, I don't think the answer will be as clear. The nature of running is different from the nature of swimming in that it's harder to be accomplished at a wide range of events. Go to any world championship in track and field and it will immediately be apparent what event someone competes in just by looking at him, i.e., you'd never mistake a sprinter with a distance runner or even with a middle distance runner. You can usually even tell the 100 meter guys from the 400 meter guys. That's not the case in swimming, which is why we've had any number of guys whose excellence has ranged over a number of strokes and distances.
Submitted by: halfbreed
August 31, 2009 Guess my first question is: "Does longevity play as a factor" or are we talking about who is the most dominant "right now"? If we are talking right now, then I think Federer should be ahead of Woods actually. Roger has been much more impressive in the last 2 years than Tiger for the 3rd and 4th spots.
Last year at this time, I agree with you 100% on the 1 and 2 spots.
Now a year later, while I would like to put MP in the top spot, with him losing the 200 Free, losing the 200IM world records and not being able to transfer to the sprints the way he was hoping for (added his losing the 100m AR), he is down to 3 events he really does dominate, with the 200 Fly really being the one he has dominated for so long (remember it is just recently he broke the 100 Fly WR -- Crocker has been the dominator in record holding in that event (not wins) for 8 years). Seems everyone always likes to forget the greatest 100 Flyer in recent memory who went 50.4 in an old FS-II. Please remember folks that MP doesn't beat that WR without a LZR on. Period. So domination of the 100 Fly is not really a good argument.
So for 2009, I would have to put Bolt ahead of MP. Hate to do it, but that 19.19 was just off the hinge! While I was casual about picking up replays of the swimming World Champs (thanks suits for making me not care as much) I was definitely tuned in live to watch Bolt's 200 blitkrieg of the record. So were about a billion other people by the way. Phelps definitely didn't get that kind of live audience at his worlds.
And, as halfbreed says, if Bolt really does go after the 400 next year and breaks it ( I personally think he will) then he will be even harder to beat. Remember, he says he trains for the 400 to run the 100, so it might already be there.
Last year, Phelps, hands down and I would have been miffed that Bolt was in the picture. But this year, MP has lost a bit of a step and Bolt has simply been brilliant.
Maybe we call it a push and see what sort of longevity Mr. Bolt has in his sport. That does matter.
Guess it depends on the time frame you are considering for being 'dominant'.
Submitted by: rcoach
August 31, 2009 Rcoach -- You make a good point. "Most dominant" is a somewhat different quality than "greatest ever", and I was thinking in terms of the latter. For 2009 the most dominant has to be Bolt. The greatest ever is unquestionably Phelps, by virtually any measure: longevity, Olympic golds, versatility, and number of WRs (even taking into account the difference between the nature of track and the nature of swimming).

BTW, Mr. Lohn, I'm glad you made that point about Tiger Woods. I get tired of hearing people talk about him as the greatest athlete ever when he hasn't even won the same number of majors as Nicklaus, meaning he may not even be the greatest golfer ever. (So far he's the best "age grouper" ever.)
Submitted by:
August 31, 2009 I should have checked the banner at the top of the page and I would have been able to guess who your top pick is. Michael Phelps? wasn't he beaten a few months ago? But I guess in swimming you can overlook that important piece of info but you can't for Golf.

Offer 8Million Prize and more people would be interested??? Whaaaaaat? I guess you choose a sport based on how large the jackpot or grand prize is? Unreal!

Bolt is the most dominant (right now) he hasn't lost are race in almost 2 years! Check it out before asking this question again ... please. He is the lowest paid Athlete out of all others mentioned. He means more to his sport than all others ... if he fails anytime soon so will Athletics.

Swimmers!!!!
Submitted by: Not Suprised
August 31, 2009 bolt is also working better to maintain his popularity world wise than michael phelps wise: bolt after his finals will stop at every tv in the mixed zone even just to say answer one or two questions: michael phelps will stop at the us tv and one or two tv. the other tv have to count on the press conference that they will never show . i live in france and the only interviews of michael phelps i have seen are on you tube . we see live swimming on french national tv since the 2003 world in barcelona , they have tried to get a small interview of mike in the mixe zone since then . they have no problem have small interview of aaron peirsol , nathalie couglin and other members of the us swim team . i think that why bolt was considered better than phelps in some list of the world best athletes is that people around the world have better acces to bolt than phelps .
Submitted by: maly
August 31, 2009 Bolt and Phelps are indeed on another playing field, but Manny Pacquiao is in my mind the best athlete out there.

The training requires longer hours than both track and swimming. On top of that, the body is actually taking a punishment. Any sport can argue how hard it takes to train for that sport. Swimming takes a little more commitment as the athlete is deprived from 02 the majority of practice. But boxers are actually taking a beating.

Look at Mannys record and his last fight was unbelieveable.
Submitted by: Ghost6rider
August 31, 2009
Not Surprised: "I guess you choose a sport based on how large the jackpot or grand prize is? Unreal! "

My point (in the first comment of this post) is that the greater the financial incentives a sport has, the more likely undecided younger athletes will be to take it up and develop into champions.

Look at the US National Soccer Team: imagine how good it would be if soccer in the US had the same ultimate financial incentives as football (NFL) and basketball.(NBA). But soccer doesn't, and the best athletes compete in these other sports.

If swimming produced 20 people who made $2 million (or more) a year (this won't happen in my lifetime), more people would be attracted to swimming and there'd be a lot more competition at the highest levels (and less domination by a single individual).

Submitted by: SilverMedalMel
August 31, 2009
Not Surprised: "I guess you choose a sport based on how large the jackpot or grand prize is? Unreal! "

My point (in the first comment of this post) is that the greater the financial incentives a sport has, the more likely undecided younger athletes will be to take it up and develop into champions.

Look at the US National Soccer Team: imagine how good it would be if soccer in the US had the same ultimate financial incentives as football (NFL) and basketball.(NBA). But soccer doesn't, and the best athletes compete in these other sports.

If swimming produced 20 people who made $2 million (or more) a year (this won't happen in my lifetime), more people would be attracted to swimming and there'd be a lot more competition at the highest levels (and less domination by a single individual).

Submitted by: SilverMedalMel
August 31, 2009 Ok SilverMedal ... I misquoted you! You did say more athletes would be drawn to the sport. Don't get your pants all wet ... because of my comment. Never mind you're a swimmer ... you can't avoid getting your pants wet!
Submitted by: Not Suprised
August 31, 2009 ghost6rider....nice call!!!!
At the present time, I completely agree with you on your Manny Pacquiao pick and you have some good reasons there.
The only thing I would say might not get him the #1 spot is that he has lost a couple fights in the last few years.....but all these guys have lost races/tournaments in the same time frame.
Just goes to show that if we really look at athletics across the spectrum, we tend to miss a few deserving athletes. The female Romanian (I think) high jumper (sorry-forgot her name) should be close on some list somewhere, the Russian female pole vaulter as well (although she just lost at Worlds but broke her WR again the following week). These are BIG stars in the rest of the world, and just because the U.S. viewing market doesn't know them doesn't mean they aren't known world wide.
But Manny is an excellent pick and we should have great respect for the training he goes through to make him, pound for pound, the most dominant boxer in the world right now. And he's from a country of a billion people, with another few hundred million knowing his name instantly.
I still don't put him in the top 2 (sorry) but he would now definitely go into my top 4, bumping Tiger off my list.
And I am using 'dominant now' not most dominant of all time as my criteria for this.
Good call!!
Submitted by: rcoach
August 31, 2009 No question about it, Usain Bolt. He doesn't lose and has character! Phelps displayed poor sportmanship when losing to Paul Biederman in the 200Free. It was Phelps deceision to stay with the LZR and should have faced up to the results and walked on. But Bowman and Phelps sounded like a bunch of "sore loser". "Michael is not going to race anymore until the hi tech suit are banned"! My choice, Bolt!
Submitted by: blue.water
August 31, 2009 No question about it, Usain Bolt. He doesn't lose and has character! Phelps displayed poor sportmanship when losing to Paul Biederman in the 200Free. It was Phelps deceision to stay with the LZR and should have faced up to the results and walked on. But Bowman and Phelps sounded like a bunch of "sore loser". "Michael is not going to race anymore until the hi tech suit are banned"! My choice, Bolt!
Submitted by: blue.water
August 31, 2009 Bolt. the rest are amazing and I would pay to see any of them compete. But I'll drop anything to see what Bolt does next.
Submitted by: cgkkpk
August 31, 2009 Bolt. the rest are amazing and I would pay to see any of them compete. But I'll drop anything to see what Bolt does next.
Submitted by: cgkkpk
August 31, 2009 Lebron
Submitted by: ucswim
August 31, 2009 Hmmm, pretty limited criteria – implicit in Lohn's definition of "most dominant" is an omission of any athlete who participates in a team sport, wherein individual dominance is much, much harder to measure. That's a glaring oversight, considering a substantial number of professional athletes (and the vast majority of well-known athletes) compete in team sports and, for that matter, that team sports are significantly more popular, therefore attracting higher levels of talent. Sure, you can argue that Phelps and, say, Woods have "more power and control over their competition than anyone else," but that distinction – in addition to lacking nuance – is more a comment on the nature of swimming and golf than on the greatness of those athletes. If you essentially disqualify basketball, soccer, football, hockey and rugby players from consideration, the title of "Most Dominant Athlete" is pretty empty. (Oh, and even if we do discount team sports, how is it that Serena Williams and Floyd Mayweather are not considered in this argument?)
Submitted by: cyndee77
August 31, 2009 blue.water, it's easy to be nice and show sportmanship when you always win. Let's see Bolt reaction when he looses. Then you will be able to say for sure whether he has character or not.
And by the way, Phelps did say he was beaten by the swimmer not by the suit.
And about the question, in 2009 i would say it's Bolt, with Phelps very close to him.
Submitted by: Lizzie
August 31, 2009 If Bolt can add the 400 meters and the long jump and pretty consistently win at all 4 events over 7-8 years and a couple of Olympiads, then you could put him in the same category as Phelps.
Submitted by: liquidassets
August 31, 2009 Well, guess I'll be the one to bring it up, but if we are not going just in the past year or so and go back several years for being a criteria for dominance in sports they do, then there is no one on this list that stands up to the challenge of Lance.
Let's leave the doping slanders out of this, because as we in the swimming community have done for a long time, even though we may feel there is something going on, without a positive test to prove it, we are pretty civil about not crying guilty prematurely.
And Lance never failed a test and for 7 years won a race that was a month long and which the training for is (god I hate saying this) more grueling than what Phelps went through and which the race itself is ridiculously grueling. Basically you have to train the whole year for that race and even the Olympics are usually treated as 2nd in line to the Tour in importance.
Even his third this year at his age is most impressive and could be considered as a fairly dominant return (broken collarbone and all).
So my vote for this past year being dominant -- easy for Bolt. His win in the 200 equates to MP needing to win the 200 Fly by about 25 meters to compare.
If you go past that into previous years through the last decade, apologies to MP, but he is 2nd again in my voting to Lance (and remember Lance started his athletic career as a competitive swimmer so it's kind of like voting for swimming in 1st and 2nd right?)

Submitted by: rcoach
August 31, 2009 I think there is alot more to this debate than is mentioned here, and alot more athletes in contention. Manny is definitely a candidate and so is Lance. But how about Floyd Mayweather Jr!!

I think it is also very important when discussing a great athlete that you look at how developed they are across all 7 biomotor abilities. Is this not a true indication of an athlete?

It is an endless debate and one touched on in other places post Beijing.

For a good read look at charles poliquin's article on who was the best athlete at the Beijing Olympics. Its on his website.
Submitted by: ozcoach
August 31, 2009 Think you were ignorant not mentioning bekele !!!???
Dominent in their sport ??
Unusual in that case no-one from an obscure sport was mentioned. Sure there are some strange sports with more dominence.
Bolt ?? could be classified as best sportsman in the world... but dominent ?? Isnt dominenet winning for a long period of time ?? barely 12-18months he has been at the top. Then again he is dominent by winning by such large margins... Even if Gay was absent in the 200m
Swimmers V Runners ?? Please, 3/4 or greater of the world that have competed in an athletics event have never swam in a 50m pool.
Its like comparing the depth in 1500m running V Pole Vault !
Keep an eye out for Bolt in the long jump next yr.. and perhaps the 400m !
Submitted by: cdb007
September 1, 2009 rcoach, your right. Lance Armstrong was dominate for 7 years. This year after being out of the Tour de France for 3 years, he still placed 3rd at an age of 37 and so far, no failed drug test this year or any other time in the pass. It kind of proves he has been clean all those years. If Lance had won this year, he'd be my pick.
Bolt is dominating and has personality where as Phelps personality is a zero. At the IAAF World Championships, I watch Bolt giving interviews to everyone and even with the controversial Arab station Al-Jezzera. My other picks would be Kobi Bryant, Lebon James and Tiger Woods. Really Phelps isn't even in the top 10 or 50 when talking sport with some one outside of the swimming world. But the writer of this article intended Phelps to be the most dominating. A little on the bias side.
Swimming is just a sport that never generates much interest, except for the LZR and polyureathne swimsuits controversey. Now without those sport, swimming will generate few headlines. Even in our area with 1.5 million people, every school year there will be 7 or so articles on high school / college / world swimming and 1000 on baseball, football, golf, basketball......swimming is just a dull sport.
Submitted by: blue.water
September 1, 2009 rcoach, your right. Lance Armstrong was dominate for 7 years. This year after being out of the Tour de France for 3 years, he still placed 3rd at an age of 37 and so far, no failed drug test this year or any other time in the pass. It kind of proves he has been clean all those years. If Lance had won this year, he'd be my pick.
Bolt is dominating and has personality where as Phelps personality is a zero. At the IAAF World Championships, I watch Bolt giving interviews to everyone and even with the controversial Arab station Al-Jezzera. My other picks would be Kobi Bryant, Lebon James and Tiger Woods. Really Phelps isn't even in the top 10 or 50 when talking sport with some one outside of the swimming world. But the writer of this article intended Phelps to be the most dominating. A little on the bias side.
Swimming is just a sport that never generates much interest, except for the LZR and polyureathne swimsuits controversey. Now without those sport, swimming will generate few headlines. Even in our area with 1.5 million people, every school year there will be 7 or so articles on high school / college / world swimming and 1000 on baseball, football, golf, basketball......swimming is just a dull sport.
Submitted by: blue.water
September 1, 2009 blue.water, if you hate swimming and swimmers, why do you bother to read the article of this website? It is a swim website after all.

Swimming is a very good sport. All swimmers are in good shape. They don't look like baseball or football players who have a big fat stomachs. Swimmers can survive on both land and water, baseball payers, football players, runners, golfers, if a nature disaster happen, water flood on the earth, they will drown, simple is that.

Swimmers need technical skills (the wall, the flip turn, breathing, diving, strokes, etc), they need to use their brain to train, they need to use both their arms and legs to move fast and balance, otherwise you end up circling in the pool. They need to train harder in the water than athletes train on land. Think about how many people can run a marathon, how many people can swim a marathon? Runners don't need more technical skills than swimmers, they only need two fast legs without arms.

I like watching swimming because I can't do it, I find swimming to be very fascinating and interesting. I don't watch running because I can run!

Submitted by: Xue
September 1, 2009 Fedor Emelianenko
Submitted by: gwd
September 1, 2009 Phelps is not even the fastest swimmer, and he is the most dominant?

Remind when Michael Johnson was claiming he was the fastest man over Bailey.
Submitted by: zhaoleban
September 1, 2009 Bolt can claim he is the fastest man on earth, can Phelps claim he is the fastest in the pool?
Submitted by: zhaoleban
September 1, 2009 Phelps is the best swimmer in the world. Give one swimmer's name who won 9 individual gold metals in the Olympic history. Phelps is the most dominant, period!
Submitted by: Xue
September 1, 2009 It sounds phony when the "best" is not the fastest, right? Is Phelps in synchro-swimming?
Submitted by: zhaoleban
September 1, 2009 Bolt can claim he is the fastest man in two events on land. Phelps can claim he is the fastest man in four events in the pool without Hi-Tech suit.
Submitted by: Xue
September 1, 2009 Bolt can claim fastest man on earth? As of 5 minutes ago he doesn't hold the World Record for the 50m (or the 60m for that matter) in track (indoor since outdoor doesn't have it). That title (as recognized by IAAF) goes to Donovan Bailey of Canada (5.56(A), with the 'A' signaling it was above 1,000m altitude). I'm not saying Bolt wouldn't be able to break that (I fully believe he can), I don't think he can claim fastest until he owns the shortest World Record.

As for you Xue, "Phelps can claim he is the fastest man in four events in the pool without Hi-Tech suit." What 4 are we talking about? Obviously 100, 200 fly. 400IM? While he does hold the World Record still (showing that a one point in time he WAS the fastest man), but he changed his training and focus and it would be interesting to see if he really would have been able to win this year. And for the 4th and final event, I am guessing you are claiming the 200 free, hence the suit comment. While I don't know if Biedermann would have broken Phelps' record in a LZR, I do believe he would have been very competitive in and likely still won the 200 free at Worlds.

I just want everyone to know that I am, until I discover evidence to the contrary, the most dominant athlete in the world as I can claim "fastest man in an unlimited number of events in the pool WITH a parka, shoes, white jeans, one glove and half a snorkel".
Submitted by: InTheKnow
September 1, 2009 Zhaoleban, that is really silly, first of all because he IS the fastest and second of all since when did fastest = best? I consider El Gerrouj to be the greatest mid distance runner ever and Gebrselassie or Bekele to be the greatest long distance runners ever... but not like any of them could stand a chance against Bolt in even the 400...

Besides, is Tiger the fastest golfer? Is Federer the fastest tennis player? Was Michael Jordan the fastest basketball player? You see how silly this is.
Submitted by: Sphere
September 1, 2009 In Berlin, Bolt ran 6.31 for the first 60 m, 1.61 for next 20m which is his fastest 20m. So 6.31 - 1.61/2 = 5.505. He would beat Bailey by a lot in 50m.
Submitted by: zhaoleban
September 1, 2009 Sphere, go back and doublecheck your own logic.

Submitted by: zhaoleban
September 1, 2009 5.47s.

http://speedendurance.com/2009/08/19/usain-bolt-10-meter-splits-fastest-top-speed-2008-vs-2009/
Submitted by: zhaoleban
September 1, 2009 Be drug tested more often? What would that prove? That he uses a substance that is NOT BANNED outside of competitions? Think he is really so reckless as to "hit the bong" just before or during a competition?
Submitted by: InTheKnow
September 1, 2009 Fedor Fedor Feeedor
Submitted by: gwd
September 1, 2009 Phelps can win medals in 3 strokes and IM.Phelps's international titles and record breaking performances have earned him the World Swimmer of the Year Award in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008 and 2009
Submitted by: 815
September 1, 2009 @Xue, "Phelps can claim he is the fastest man in four events in the pool without Hi-Tech suit."

Actually, he can't. Not to hate on him, or anthing--I have enormous respect for his work ethic and talent--but he broke all of those records with a Hi-Tech suit: the LZR. In my mind, Ian Crocker is still the greatest 100 butterflyer of all time for his 50.40 record. Phelps couldn't come anywhere close to that without a LZR.

@Lizzie: Phelps did say that he lost to the swimmer and not the suit. But that was hours after the race when he had to play nice to the press. How he reacted immediately after the race was his real reaction, and it showed poor sportsmanship indeed. There's a quote that says, "How a man wins shows some of his character, but how a man loses shows all of it." I think that Phelps has a lot to work on, character-wise, if he wants to really thrive in the public eye.
Submitted by: Lindsey
September 1, 2009 Phelps can win medals in 3 strokes and IM.Phelps's international titles and record breaking performances have earned him the World Swimmer of the Year Award in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008 and 2009(absolutely),can anyone else do that?

Bolt can claim he is the fastest man in two events on land.But,Bekele dominates long distance.he's also the fastest man. Can bolt run 400 meters or set long jump record?Carl Lewis did,Jesse Owens did.

There are 16 golds in men's swimming in a single Games.Phelps got 8 golds.He is the most dominant athlete.
Submitted by: 815
September 1, 2009 Ian Crocker is still the greatest 100 butterflyer of all time for his 50.40 record. Phelps couldn't come anywhere close to that without a LZR.
-----------
Ok,everyone had a different opinion.I think he can break the record 50.40 again without speedo LZR.

Phelps set 6 records in 2007 Melbourne Championships without Hi-tech suit and earned 7 golds.

And,he set 23 records before the year of 2008.


Submitted by: 815
September 2, 2009 Lindsey: Phelps set four individual world records (200 Free, 200 Fly, 200 IM, 400 IM) in 2007 Melbourne World Championships, that is before Hi-Tech suit came out! Since then, no one has broken these four world records without Hi-Tech suit. Got it!
Submitted by: Xue
September 3, 2009 XUE, the USA Remale 4x200Relay took down the East German's WR in 2004 wearing with one wearing a bodysuit. No one complained then! Why ban bodysuit after they've in the water for better part of 8 years? And, Phelps has been in many bodysuits for many years. Its only when he gets beat that he cried "foul". He had the opportunity to put on one of the polyureathne suits at Worlds and chose not too. Speedo was saying no problem, but behind close doors, Speedo was saying "no way". This quote comes directly from some I knew swimming at Rome. How can Phelps be the most dominating when he was wearing a hi tech suit which most have said is "cheating". Bolt is no question the most dominating in an individual sport events over the last 18 months. Now when Phelps wins 8 Golds in Jammers, he can be the most dominating but that won't again!
Submitted by: blue.water
September 3, 2009 The most dominant venue: The Olympics; thus the most dominant athlete: Phelps. Just take a look at the last Winter Olypmics and one by one athletes that were supposed to be so dominant in their sport and supposed to win gold could not. Phelps had pressure this past Olympics, and still performed. That solidifies his place for all time.
Submitted by: deepender
September 6, 2009 Usain Bolt
Submitted by: speedboat
September 7, 2009 Are any of you considering the fact that swimmers have quite an easier time winning 8 golds in one Olympics than track athletes? Or tennis players? Especially when they hail from the USA and have great relays?

Not putting Phelps down, with 5 individual golds he is the greatest swimmer ever, just saying...
Submitted by: JakedBadForYou
September 8, 2009 At the moment, Usain Bolt. He transcends sport by being approachable AND dominant. Watch his competitors before their race. Once upon a time they were stone faced showing little or no emotion but now, they copy the way Bolt plays to the crowd just BEFORE the race. When your competitors begin copying you, then you are dominant.
Submitted by: paddles
September 13, 2009 Universal Sports being advertised on this website shows Usain Bolt running in their ad, not Phelps. So I agreed with Universal Sports. Bolt is the Man!
Submitted by: blue.water
September 18, 2009 Right, you lot are all crazy. i Happen to agree with a lot of you when you say Bolt is an incredible athlete and i have been amazed at his performances recently.

HOWEVER, for what possible reason can you slate the greatest olympian in history. He got 8 golds in the Olympics last year. The year before at the Worlds he got 7 golds (which would have been 8 had Crocker not done a flyer). He has proved himself in the LZR and also in non performance enhancing suits. And the bit of abuse saying is he still the best in events like the 200IM. Well, maybe, maybe lochte could squeeze it. The point is that phelps dominated events for such a long time he was looking for new greater challenges. Is the sign of a great champion someone who stays in their comfort zone or someone who is willing to diverse and conquer fields not done before?

A major fact everyone has seemed to ignore is the manner in which he has done everything too. To win 8 golds phelps had to do heats, (semis), and finals. He can race up to 17 times during a competition which is an accomplishment in itself when you do events like 200fly and 400IM. But the fact is that he is beating the best in the world like Cavic who is fully rested and tailored to one event speaks for itself. It seems like people on here are voting for the worlds most popular athlete.

I personally would like to see Bolt try long jump and 400m. In fact why the hell cant he do triple jump with the speed he possesses? If he conquers those in the fashion he has done so far then maybe i would consider him a much better contender.
Submitted by: hercules
September 18, 2009 hercules, you're still ignoring the fact that swimmers and gymnasts have a considerably easier task winning multiple medals than track
Submitted by: JakedBadForYou
September 18, 2009 It may be easier in swimming to win multiple medals than in some sports, but no one can deny that when the pressure was on the favored Winter Olympians 4 years ago that were so touted to win gold in their sports, one by one was beaten down in the downhill, the figure skating, etc etc, Phelps had all the pressure and won all the medals anyway. And to the reader who is judging by Bolt currently being promoted over Phelps on Universal Sports: sadly, Universal sports knows, we all wear SHOES, and since track sells shoes, Universal sports channel will promote who they think will bring in the most in the corporate $$. Has nothing to do with the greatest ever! It's Phelps.
Submitted by: deepender
September 18, 2009 It may be easier in swimming to win multiple medals than in some sports, but no one can deny that when the pressure was on the favored Winter Olympians 4 years ago that were so touted to win gold in their sports, one by one was beaten down in the downhill, the figure skating, etc etc, Phelps had all the pressure and won all the medals anyway. And to the reader who is judging by Bolt currently being promoted over Phelps on Universal Sports: sadly, Universal sports knows, we all wear SHOES, and since track sells shoes, Universal sports channel will promote who they think will bring in the most in the corporate $$. Has nothing to do with the greatest ever! It's Phelps.
Submitted by: deepender
September 18, 2009 'jakedbadforyou', i take your comment, and i can see what you mean if you refer to sprint events where it is often the case that a 50 freestyler can have a good stab at a 50 fly, 100free, even 50 breast in the case of Roland Schoeman and Amaury Leveaux.

But you cannot compare a 100 fly and a 400IM as similar events. Differences regarding explosive power, fast/slow twitch fibres, strength vary hugely. There has extremely rarely been a swimming able to win medals over 3 different distances in swimming, and other than Thorpe, Lochte and Phelps (Gold in each), i cant really remember any.

One is sprint swimming and the other middle-distance. If you want to compare the two as 'the same', start thinking about Bolt doing an 800m or 1500m as well.

If Bolt was to enter the 400m and break the world record, and the long jump (in which the current world long jump champion said he could train Bolt to win, purely based on his speed) then that would be 4 individual golds in events that are relatively similar. So why doesnt he? Similar events, on track, see how it can be done.

Maybe its not really that it is easier to win multiple medals in swimming, it is just that a greater and more daring superstar has entered swimming before one has entered track. Good luck to Bolt and im sure he would succeed if he wants, however he hasnt yet so it must be Phelps
Submitted by: hercules
September 18, 2009 Although swimming and track have alot in common, there are also appleas and oranges type differences. Because air is much less dense than water, it is easier for runners, especially sprinters, to approach maximum muscles contraction, than it is for swimmers, so more recovery is necessary. A 200-400 double alone is an extreme challenge for a runner. If Bolt were able to add and win 400 and longjump to the 100 and 200, that would be astounding and unprecedented and probably surpass Phelps. But currently it's a tossup, I think. Phelps wins in my book for longevity= career dominance; while Bolt wins for current dominance.
Submitted by: liquidassets
September 18, 2009 I agree with liquidassets: Bolt for the current dominance, and Phelps for longevity.
For everyone who says Phelps is MOST dominant because of his EIGHT Olympic gold medals: Do you know the motive we don´t have a eight gold medals track and field star, and will NEVER have one?Easy aswer:INJURIES!There´s a lot more ways to injury a body part(calf,knees,groin...) in a track than in the pool(training or competition).
DDias(Former 100M runner)
Note: I love swimming- my knees thanks me!

Submitted by: MrIron
September 18, 2009 snore...zzzzzz
Submitted by: fluidg
September 18, 2009 MrIron: Exactly, thanks for augmenting what I was trying to say; although right now I do have torn meniscus from breast stroke kick ;-P. But the recovery time is more for track and field to prevent those injuries, so unless we get a genetic anatomical freak like Bolt who also has freaky genes for extreme flexibility and lactic recovery, they'll never get to 8 golds, nor should they try!!
Submitted by: liquidassets
September 19, 2009 The fact that Phelps won 5 individual golds and is so dominant over so many different strokes and distances is unprecedented, but it has been approached by the likes of Caulkins, Sievinen, Manaudou, Lochte, etc etc... Look at Hoff, able to be competitive from 100 to 800 free. The level of versatility is way more possible in swimming than in track. Yes, fast twitch fibers will help you in sprint events, but you're still training high milage with slow twitch movements compared to track sprinters. It's a different ball game. You don't see it in track because... It doesn't happen. Decathletes and heptathletes might have one or two main events, but even then they're rarely world class in it. If you can dolphin kick, you're well on your way to becoming world class in three strokes.
Submitted by: JakedBadForYou
September 19, 2009 Remember, Phelps was swimming in a hi-tech suit which gave him an advantage over some Europeans in the Bejing Olympics. Like most of you says, the hi tech suit gives some an advantages and others not. Since Phelps was in a hi tech suit, I can't see how anyone who is against the hi tech suits can vote for him until he can prove it in the next World Championships or Olympics that he can win 8 gold medals in a fabric suit. All you people voting aginst the hi tech suits but favoring Phelps is a little hypocritical. I agreed with some others that over the last 9 years nothing in swimming can really count. Its like the VP of Marketing said in an interview concerning new rules, "it takes swimming back to 1996" referring to the material that will be used in the new swimsuits. Really 13 years of swimming just went down the drain! Phelps now has to prove himself that he is the dominate swimmer in fabric. I'm sure he will, but he hasn't done it in fabric.
Submitted by: blue.water
September 19, 2009 What was the material Phelps (and the others) wore at Melbourne in 2007? Was there a blend of hi-tech and fabric or straight fabric?
Submitted by: paddles
September 19, 2009 That is outrageous! To suggest that Phelps won 8 gold medals because of a suit and that it was all for nothing... There is no hope left for the world. Every single one of the medallists behind him wore comparable equipment (don't tell me Park's LZR legsuit made the difference in the 200 free)... If he had to do all over again to gain recognition, you know how ridiculous that sounds?
Submitted by: JakedBadForYou
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