The Greatest Athlete of His Generation?

Phelps' sport is underappreciated
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2008 9:29 AM CDT
United States' Michael Phelps climbs the starting block for the men's 200-meter butterfly final, Aug. 13, 2008. Phelps won gold and set a new world record.    (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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(Newser) – With his 10th and 11th gold medals making him the most decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps is also arguably the greatest American athlete of his generation, writes Alan Abrahamson of NBC. And despite the Olympic hype, he’s underappreciated. That's because his sport is not, say, golf, but swimming, which surfaces only every four years. And he makes it look easy.

“I hope people realize just how difficult what he's doing is,” say a US Olympic executive. “We will never see anything like it again.” Phelps manages such feats because of his phyiscal gifts, sheer exhuberance for swimming, ruthless competitiveness, and eerie focus; Abrahamson notes that Phelps hits the times he predicts with astonishing accuracy. “When I'm focused, there is not one single thing, person, anything that can stand in my way,” Phelps says. “Never has been.”