ST. JOHN BARNED-SMITH OLYMPIC CORRESPONDENT I owe you all an apology. The one day I don’t file a dispatch, all the shit hits the Olympic fan. First, Phelps won his seventh gold of the ’08 Games. Damn. But what a race! This was the 100m fly, which as you may recall, is one of Phelps weaker events – in that he is best in mid-distance events. Coming off the 50m mark, Phelps was in seventh place, and even heading into the final wall, it looked like he would lose. Then he pulled some weird half-stroke super-lunge, and ended up winning by .01 seconds. This, of course put Phelps at seven medals, tied for the most ever won in a single Olympiad.
Tonight, Michael Phelps rewrote history with his bare, pruny hands. He won his eighth gold of the games, his 14th overall, making him the most storied, most feared, most amazing Olympian in modern memory, and possibly of all time. It also sets him up as the likely recipient of the claim Best Athlete to ever live. In an age where many Olympians specialize in one or two disciplines, Phelps is the swimmer who breaks records, and wins medals from all sides. Not only did he go eight for eight, he tore up the pool in Beijing a total of 17 times all told, in addition to swimming mile after mile of warm-ups, submitting to drug test after drug test, and stayed classy in interview after mind-numbing interview no matter how insipid or clueless the questioner, AND defeated the world’s best swimmers – all of who were gunning specifically to take him down. Every time someone talked smack to reporters about him, every time someone claimed said he couldn’t do it, Phelps cut out the quote, taped it to his wall, and dug in ever harder. He took people’s negativity and naysaying and threw it in the slop trough with the rest of his 12,000 calorie daily intake. In short, he turned the haters into fuel. Now THAT is an inspirational Olympic story: Don’t let the bastards get you down, eat them for breakfast, instead.
And let us not forget the phenomenon that is Michael Phelps doesn’t end with Beijing, he still has two, and maybe even three Olympics left in him if he’s careful — and keeps eating. Phelps could easily end his Olympic career with 20-plus gold medals. He also earns the privilege to claim the title of The Greatest Athlete Alive. It is entirely possible you will scoff. You have the right. Perhaps you believe in Ali, or Jordan, or Jackson. Maybe, for you, it’s Armstrong, maybe Woods. But now, whenever someone mentions “the greatest,” Phelps’ name will always come up. As it should.
Dara Torres [pictured, left] took the silver in her individual event today, continuing her 20 year string of medal-winning. With the two medals she won today, her career total is a fairly astonishing twelve medals over five Olympiads. You come a long way, baby, and you earned every inch. We salute you.
On the less “feel good” side of Olympia, there’s another story you should hear about – the incredible tantrum by Ara Abrahamian. Ara Abrahamian, a Swedish Greco-roman wrestler, flipped out after receiving the bronze medal. As he was leaving the medal podium, he laid his medal on the wrestling mat. According to this article, “Abrahamian became incensed when a disputed penalty call decided his semifinal match against Italian Andrea Minguzzi, who went on to win the gold medal in the Greco-Roman 84-kilogram division Thursday.” The judges called the action a “political demonstration,” and stripped him of the medal. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. On the one hand, Abrahamian was a giant tool who showed incredible disrespect to his fellow athletes, and the spirit of the Olympics. On the other hand, the effete weak-kneed Olympic officials won’t crack down on China, which is just shitting all over the Olympic spirit by fielding its underage gymnastics team, but will strip the title of a man who has fought and trained for years to be one of the three best wrestlers in the world. You tell me.
On a final note, tomorrow I go on vacation with my family. I will not be able to access Internet during the vacation, so my stint as your Olympic correspondent must end. Just wanted to say take this Bronze and shove it thanks for reading.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: St. John Barned-Smith first discovered the water when his mom made him take swim lessons as a toddler. He swam on competitive swim teams – sporadically – from 4th grade through his senior year in high school, before walking on the Case Western Reserve Swim team, where he got his ass handed to him on a daily basis. (Seriously, he was the slowest kid there.) Nevertheless, a swimmer for life, he’s been glued to the swimming events of the Olympic games ever since the Thorpedo (Ian Thorpe) became a phenom during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He’s sending these dispatches as a way to decompress while writing in the Chicago-based Academy for Alternative Journalism, a paid journalism fellowship which hopes to disprove Phawker’s Editor-in-Chief about the dwindling relevance of print.