Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt?
Sports Illustrated released their “Sportsman of the Year” issue and as expected, the second-most decorated Olympic athlete ever — Michael Phelps — was their choice. But was it the right one? Look, there’s no arguing about what Phelps accomplished in Beijing. Eight gold medals is an incredible feat and deserves to be acknowledged.
But were Phelps’ Olympics any more spectacular than Usain Bolt’s, a sprinter who electrified the entire sports-watching world every time he took the starting blocks? Granted, Phelps has more medals, but isn’t that a result of the various swimming styles used in the Olympics? Is it Bolt’s fault there wasn’t a variation of the 100-meter dash requiring the racers to run backwards?
During his impressive domination of the swimming cube, Phelps swam in three different relay races. As for Bolt, he only ran in one. It was another incredible performance, to be sure, but the sprinter only had the 4×100 as an option. Sure, Bolt could’ve ran the 4×400, but were there three other Jamaican runners capable of keeping up with the US 4×4 team?
I don’t think the officials would’ve allowed Usain to run all four legs of the 1600-meter relay.
No, to me, what Phelps’ haul comes down to, besides his considerable talent in the swimming pool, was opportunity. Bolt participated in three races and Phelps was in eight. Ignoring one incredible Olympic performance because another athlete had five more chances at greatness seems to be a little short-sighted.
Again, my argument is not being made to diminish the Phelps run of domination, something his Wiki page does a great job of capturing with a simple HTML table:
Instead, my position is to celebrate another athlete who deserved just as much consideration as Michael Phelps — the magnificent Usain Bolt:
Now, I’m not sure of the voting tallies or if there was even a vote to begin with. Nevertheless, if we are talking about dominant performances and the part they played in SI’s designation, Bolt deserves to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Phelps. Furthermore, Bolt never hung up on Dan Le Batard. That alone deserves an additional nod.