Posted by: crustynomad | August 14, 2008

Olympics – day 5

Day five of the 2008 Olympics belonged to one man alone. Michael Phelps.

This day will go down as the one where he could rightly claim to be the greatest Olympian ever by being the first person to ever take 10 Gold medals. What’s more he went on to get is eleventh too, both with world records with still another three events to come. His two successes came in the 200m butterfly and as part of the US 4x200m freestyle team.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics/swimming/7557675.stm

While Phelps is justified in being able to make the claim as being the best ever you have to weigh up his achievements against the sports, era, competition and career longevity of others. How do you compare Steve Redgrave who won Gold in five consecutive Olympics in team sports against Daley Thompson who won two alone in multi-disciplined events.

Can you compare Jesse Owens, who won four Golds at his one and only Olympics in front of Hitler in Berlin, and Carl Lewis who won four consecutive long jump titles and five sprint titles over a 12 year period? You very much have to look at each on their merits but not compare but it’s a very hard thing to do.

Michael Phelps is aiming to overtake Mark Spitz‘s record of seven Golds, all in world records, at the Munich games of 1972. Apart from the obvious similarities you can argue that Phelps has had it easier in some ways. The wider pool means there’s less affect of waves to slow you down and the new slippery swimming suit that helps the water glide past the body much more freely. Having said that Spitz didn’t have the long qualification process so the whole argument is pretty pointless but great fun to speculate on in the pub!

So on to the Brits. According to the BBC website day five was going to be a barren day in terms of medals for the British team which could only mean one thing. We would get ‘yadda’. As it turned out we got a Silver when Emma Pooley came in second in the Cycling individual time trial. Kristin Armstrong of the USA took the Gold in a time of 34:51:72 with Emma 24 seconds further back.

This was a great performance and was another example of what belief and steely determination can do. One thing is for sure is that the GB women are having a fantastic games, by far out numbering the men on the rostrum. It hasn’t always been like that so it is wonderful to see the focus switched for a change.

One of the few positives mentioned as a medal hope before competition started was Caitlin McClatchey in the women’s 200m freestyle swimming final. She ultimately came in sixth but the race was probably more notable for Pellegrini‘s win and Katie Hoff‘s second failure to win a medal. Hoff was targeting six Golds in Beijing but her performance as been relatively modest. A dream for most, her Silver and Bronze in four races was surely a big disappointment to her personally.

This was the first night I didn’t sit up until after 2:00am to watch some random minority sport but headed to bed before midnight. The long nights have been beginning to take their toll. During the breakfast TV coverage during Adrian Chiles‘ slot, a mention was made of an Australian who said that the Brits were only good a sports where they were sitting down.

My first reaction to this was outrage but it’s actually very true. Cycling, horse riding, rowing and sailing are just four that spring to mind but hey, we gotta take what we can get! Saturday in particular shaping up to be a medal fest with as many as a dozen up for grabs over the weekend as a whole. All those sports mentioned have good medal prospects so let’s hope that that Aussie knows what he’s talking about!

No medal table again today unfortunately but normal service will resume from tomorrow. For the record, Britain were in ninth place in the standings.

To read my other daily reports. please go to my Olympic index page.

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