Don’t take Phelps for granted

Manouk Akopyan

Did you know Michael Phelps scarfed down 12,000 calories a day during his record-setting Olympic run? Did you know he wears two swim caps while he teases fellow competition by letting them think they could win? Did you know ‘Lil’ Weezy’ was bumping through his iPod from Baltimore to Beijing? Did you know that he’s the fastest swimmer in the world, won eight gold medals, seven via world-record, and etched his name to the Ruthian level in sports lore? ‘

For one unforgettable week, it was Michael, Michael, Michael. But what could be lost in the midst of the media frenzy attempting to familiarize the globe with the face of this year’s summer games is pinpointing the 23-year-old’s accolades and realizing what the world witnessed at sports’ largest stage was something unmatched, something never seen before.

During his historic run earlier this month, Phelps washed away the Games’ record for most gold medals in a single Olympics (8), most career-gold medals by a single athlete (14), and ‘- if he were a country ‘- he would have placed in the medal-count’s top 25. He got ahead of swimming legend and predecessor Mark Spitz, track ‘amp; field superstar Carl Lewis and any other athletes that may be imbedded in our minds from prior years. Just as it took Phelps 36 years to break Spitz’ mark for most medals in a single Games, it might take that much more to surpass what he accomplished ‘- given he doesn’t compete again in 2012 in London and crushes his own record.

He first splashed into the Olympic scene during the 2000 games at the tender age of 15, placing fifth in his only race. Four years later in Athens, he won six gold and two bronze medals, setting up his ultimate run to Olympic glory. Then, in just over a week this month, Phelps got to the top of the mountain of magnificence. He didn’t climb. He swam up there.

Phelps even overshadowed more ‘popular’ events such as the world’s No. 1 sport’s competition ‘- soccer ‘- and also the run to redemption of the USA men’s basketball team, which featured a sea of NBA talent. Even those multimillionaire ballers, as well as the rest of the American participants, didn’t mind playing second fiddle to Phelps. Instead, they cheered him on from the stands. It was a showing of camaraderie, patriotism and recognition from his fellow athletes.

Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, members of the national basketball team, were just some of those who rallied behind Phelps the entire way through. Anthony compared him to a ‘shark,’ and Wade said that he lives and sleeps underwater like fish in an aquarium. Others players paid homage by masking themselves with goggles.

‘He’s got 14 gold medals. I still need one,’ Anthony joked before Team USA went on to win the gold.

So when you grab that box of cereal at your nearest supermarket in the upcoming days, he will don the cover of Corn and Frosted Flakes. And when you unload your matutinal meal onto your bowl, think of the ‘Gr-r-r-eight’ memories you witnessed, read or heard about Phelps and put it in perspective with some of the other greatest feats ever accomplished in sports history. ‘