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Who is the greatest Olympian? Clue: it’s not Michael Phelps

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Phelps with his third Beijing goldMichael Phelps is a phenomenal swimmer, possibly the best in history, and if he achieves his target of eight gold medals in Beijing, for an overall tally of 14 (10 of them individual) there is no doubt that he deserves his place in the pantheon.

But the greatest-ever Olympian? That is a big call.

There is no denying that it is tough to win an Olympic swimming gold but, once you reach that standard, there are plenty to harvest. Many of the top swimmers seem capable of racing over 100 metres, 200, 400, often in a variety of strokes, plus the medley, and also seemingly have relays for just about every distance.

In athletics it is extremely rare for a 100 metres runner to go as high as 400 and even if they could, the qualification rounds would be too draining to have any hope of adding the 200 as well.  

To get on a par with swimming the Games would have to introduce the track races over 50, 150, and 250 metres (plus relays of course). They would have to get creative to match the medley, perhaps 50 metres of sprinting, 50 of hurdling and 50 of running backwards — and get three friends together and there’s another medal to shoot for.

Phelps three in three, joins Olympic elite

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PhelpsThere was never any doubt about this one. Michael Phelps won the 200m freestyle, secured his third gold medal of these Games — his third world record, too — and become only the fifth athlete to win nine gold medals at the Summer Olympics.

He joins fellow Americans Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis, Finnish athlete Paavo Nurmi and Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina at the top of the all-time list of gold medal winners.

Day three at the Olympics

It’s a case of two down, six to go for Michael Phelps after the American swimmer got by with a little help from his friends in the 4x100m freestyle on Monday.

Watching Jason Lezak come from half a length behind on the final leg to seal victory for the U.S. was astonishing, as he kept Phelps in with a shout of his record-breaking haul of eight golds. That was a truly memorable Olympic moment.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Michael Phelps

Gary Hershorn writes: With Michael Phelps being arguably the biggest story of the Olympics his celebration jumped off the screen after the U.S won an amazingly close race by a fraction of a second over France.

The US had been losing throughout but pulled off victory in the last inch of the race. Phelps’s bid for eight gold medals was saved and his celebration looked completely real.

Beijing podcast — day three

I’m joined today by Mitch Phillips, Julian Linden and Padraic Halpin for a chat about Michael Phelps and the rest of the action on a fantastic morning in Beijing. Please forgive the long and winding intro…

Click here for day two’s podcast.

Michael Phelps — one down, seven to go

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Phelps winsMichael Phelps shattered his own world record to win the 400m individual swimming medley in four minutes 03.84 seconds and claim the first of what could be a record-breaking haul of eight gold medals.

The American swimmer, who won six golds at the last Olympics in Athens, has his sights on beating the record of seven golds bagged by Mark Spitz in 1972. The secondary target is four golds to take him ahead of Spitz, Carl Lewis, Finnish middle and long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi and Larysa Latynina, the former Soviet gymnast, in the list of athletes with the most gold medals at the Olympics (currently nine).

China unveils new swimsuit – but at $118K, don’t swim in it!

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chinese-cossie.jpgAs a revolutionary bodysuit divides Olympics swimmers into the haves and have-nots ahead of the Games, a Chinese designer has unveiled another new swimsuit – but this one won’t be worn in the Olympic pool, or any pool for that matter. The costume was described as possibly the most expensive ever made, valued at 800,000 yuan ($117,647), according to a report in The China Daily.

 The sparkling suit was unveiled by top Chinese model Mo Wandan on behalf of Hong Kong swimsuit brand Hosa, which the newspaper said was a sponsor of the Beijing National Aquatics Centre or “Water Cube” complex where the Olympic swimming will be held. Designer Huang Yinyun said it took more than a month to create the costume which has Swarovski crystals glued into shining “Water Cube” patterns. 

Britta talks candidly

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“Go ahead – ask me anything you want,” said German swimmer Britta Steffen at the start of a recent interview in Berlin. I had spent the last two hours watching her swim further (and three times faster) than I had swum in the last two months and was planning to ask her, among other things, a few questions about the doping innuendos that hit her in mid 2006 right after she broke the world record in the 100 metres freestyle. But I didn’t expect Steffen, who is regularly tested and never suspected of any wrongdoing, to so openly tackle the issue.

“Really, go ahead and ask,” she said again. So I jumped right in without even any warmup and started asking about those who have doubts on her world record time at the European championships in Budapest (53.30) in 2006 that was nearly a full second faster than her previous best (and lowered Australia’s Libby Lenton’s record of 53.42). What she would say those find such steep improvements hard to believe. “I’d be sceptical too,” she said. “I can totally understand that. If it weren’t me, I’d also have doubts. But the coaches took the pressure off my shoulder by pointing out that a Libby Lenton and other world record holders had also made improvements of a full-second before getting their world records.”

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