Skip to comments.Michael Phelps not best Olympian ever? So says chief of London Olympics (Lord Sebastian Coe)
Posted on 08/02/2012 7:57:47 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Lord Sebastian Coe, two-time British Olympic gold medalist, revered British Olympic long-distance runner, and chief of the London Olympic organizing committee, has said the unthinkable.
Michael Phelps, in his estimation, is not the greatest Olympian of all time.
Later today, American officials are expected to announce the termination of all diplomatic relations with Great Britain, withdraw embassy staff from London, and issue a new deck of "most wanted" playing cards with Lord Coe as the joker.
For the record, his exact words, as reported by the Associated Press, were: "He is certainly the most successful. That goes without saying.... But whether he is the greatest? In my opinion, probably not."
How could Coe possibly say this? How do you argue with 19 medals especially when three more are certainly are not out of the realm of possibility here in London. On the all-time Olympic medal table, Phelps is threatening to lap the field.
Well, the argument goes something like this:
Imagine you are the best triathlete the world has ever seen. You win gold in every Olympics you enter, and you do it emphatically. You run faster, you cycle faster, and you swim faster than everyone else in the field. You compete, the world gasps, and your competitors are left to suck the fumes of your greatness.
In the end, you will win, what three gold medals, at the very most? On one very important level, you are equal with Phelps: You are the greatest athlete in the history of your sport. In the great medal argument, however, you are not even a bug on Phelps's windshield.
Coe, it would seem, would be particularly open to this argument as a runner in the 1500 meters not an event that allows athletes to pile up the Olympic hardware.
(Excerpt) Read more at csmonitor.com ...
I’ve gotta agree with him. Same goes for speed skaters in winter.
Totally ignorant a-hole, BUT media loves this stuff.
Anytbing critical of America or American values. Anything and anyone who wishes to go negative gets a megaphone.
He has a little bit of a point, actually. Both Phelps and Trey Hardee train here at UT, and if Phelps claimed he was a better athlete than Hardee, there would be a lot of raised eyebrows. But he hasn’t, so there is no need to try and take anything away from his amazing success.
Is it most medals? Is it by how much you beat your competitors? Is it the personal obstacles you overcame to become a champion?
I am sure there's other definitions out there, I just threw a few out there as a devils advocate.
Having said that.... Lord Coe is quite the doosh. Which, I don't believe, needs further defining.
He's right about swimmers having much greater opportunity to run up the medal count. Of course, he wouldn't bring it up if Phelps were a Brit.
Best Olympian is WAY too open to interpretation. Sheer number of medals may not be the best criterion. Nadia Comeneche (sp?) may not have won the most medals, but she was the first to score a perfect 10.0. That means a lot. Or, you can maintain margin of victory is important. Or breaking world records in categories that involve speed (track, swimming) or weight (weight-lifting).
I would also maintain that a pile of medals for swimming wouldn’t mean as much as a handful of medals for sports that require a variety of abilities such as a decathalon.
Finally, sports change over time, and we can’t really compare eras in some of these sports. I think it is foolish to ask who the greatest Olympian is/was. It is like asking who the greatest U.S. pro athlete was: Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan or Secretariat?
“Greatest” SWIMMER- Yes. Athlete, NO. Decathlon winners are the best ATHLETES. Bob Mathias won 2 at age 17 and 21
He’s right of course, some sports lend themselves easily to more gold medals, when one is at the top of their sport and their sport has a multitude of competitions they are going to win more overall medals. However, does that make the winner of the most medals the greated olympian ever? Certainly doesn’t have to.
I have to agree with him. If you have many variations of your main sport, you are bound to win more medals.
Swimmers, sprinters, distance-runners, etc... are specialists.
The decathlon winner is the best athlete at the Olympics (imho).
Jim Thorpe won the Decathlon (10 events) AND the Pentathlon (5 events). You can make a pretty strong argument that Thorpe was the greatest Olympic athlete ever.
this LORD SEBASTIAN COE is the rotten side of the David Allen Coe family.
Yes, but then again, how many people actually compete for the decathlon? I think sports with very few competitors—skeet, badminton, etc.—are eliminated just on that score.
If we’re talking about best athletes, it may well be that LeBron James is the best all-around athlete in the Olympics (but I wouldn’t credit him with being a best Olympian).
I think you might want to look for a combination of strength/speed/skill, with lots of competitors, that wins his/her competition running away, if you will.
I am a total non-sports person but you would seem to make a great point.
Carl Lewis competed in the long jump and numerous sprinting events. He has a pile of gold and world records over a long career.
Al Orter won 4 golds in the discus in the 4 summer Olympics he competed in. No athlete has ever won 4 golds in consecutive events. Also (something I know from experience), the sport is known to rip up a person's body from both form training (weight, speed, and form) and competing.
If you are making a list of best Olympians ever, Aleksandr Karelin has to be on that list. That guy was simply untouchable in Greco when at his peak. Even out of his prime he only lost the gold medal match in 2000 to Rulon Gardner based on a new and unpopular rule that was done away with shortly after the Sydney Olympics.
Lotsa fish go faster than Phelps.
Lotsa animals go faster than any human runner.
So why should I give a smelly Obama about either?
Ha! That’s what I always think when men on FR dismiss women as inferior athletes. Within their God-given physical form, women can compete just as avidly as men—and horses are easily stronger and faster than men anyway.
Sport is an effective distraction just because it is inherently unimportant.
(But I’d say the lessons learned on playing fields are very important. Better we go back to valuing teamwork there and let students study and perform as individuals, rather than with the current fad of group work.)
He probably isn’t. The problem with trying to rate Olympians is all the sports are so different, not just in athleticism but also opportunity. There’s a million swimming events, including team and individual competitions, so a very good swimmer can get a ton of medals. There’s only a handful of distance running events, a guy could be the best ever in that field and come out with only a few medals. Really if you want to do any judging you need to look at percentages, what percentage of the possible medals did the guy win. Of course even then you have to deal with the different disciplines. I could make a case that the best athlete on the planet today plays water polo, I don’t know who it would be because I don’t follow the sport, but I understand the incredible demands the sport places on a body, just think about treading water for 2 hours, now think about doing other stuff WHILE treading water for 2 hours. So the best Olympian ever was probably in the that sport, and nobody’s heard of them, and they’re probably an accountant now.
*group academic work*
No mention of Mark Spitz? Spitz won 7 gold medals, one for each of the seven events he entered in 1972 games. While Phelps won eight medals in the 2008 games,Spitz set a world record of each of the seven events he won, a feat which still stands unbroken to this day. To me, this counts for more than the 19 medal total Phelps has or for the other athletes mentioned here.
Coe did make one less controversial statement.
This is the global pub game, he said. Who is the greatest Olympian of all time? I could go around this whole room, wed all come up with different interpretations on that."
I can agree with him on this. To me, the word "Olympian" carries more than just athleticism, but also contributions to the games. I'd have to cast a ballot for Larisa Latynina, who, after winning 18 medals, went on to coach the Soviet gymnastics team, establishing it as the dominant team for at least two decades. YMMV...
Weren’t Moses and Lewis caught up in steroids scandals?
Great! So in Lord Coe’s opinion what is the greatest guitar solo of all time? How about the greatest chase scene in the movies? The great thing about opinions is that everybody has them and his are intrinsically no better than anyone else’s.
I'll add in Rafer Johnson...for winning the decathalon in 1960, getting to the top of the steep stairs in 1984 to light the cauldron at age 49, and for looking real good today at the age of 76 :o)
Phelps is also a pompous drug abuser. He was banned from competing after the last Olympics, when photos came out, costing him an endorsement deal?
I guess we know who wants a date with Phelps, just look at those who attack Coe. /s
Crap. The man was one of the greatest athletes of the 1980’s, an Olympic and World champion. Probably the greatest 800 and 1500m runner of all time.
To call him an a-hole is childish. All he did was give his honest opinion. If he had been antiamerican as you say, he wouldnt have had any US in his top five. He was right to argue that Redgrave and Thompson should be at least considered in any top 5 Olympians.
Redgrave and esp Thompson were fantastic athletes. Daley Thompson is the greatest modern decathlete. A giant of world athletics from the mid 70’s to the late 80’s.
BTW, if Coe was American, you bet that NO non-American would have been in his top 5. American sports media and experts are the most insular/parochial there are.
And would I be here whining about Coe the American being ‘anti-British’?. No.
No one does better sour grapes than the Brits, lol!
An American list, no matter who made it, wouldnt have any Brits and probably no non-Americans. American sports fans, the media and experts are the most insular and parochial there are. Sorry if thats harsh, but its true.
Coe did put Owens on his list. And I have no doubt his top 10 and 20 would have Lewis, Johnson and many other Americans.
Me?. I’d have Ali, Thorpe, Lewis, Johnson all in my top 10. A third of my top 20 would be US.
Coe is quite right to celebrate British olympians. We have produced some of the greatest athletes of all time.
Frankly I still beleive that Jim Thorpe may be the greatest Olympian ever. His feats at the 1912 Olympics still boggle the mind.
Coe was made a Lord, in respect of his great athletic career and his work for charity.
See my other posts for what I have to say, as a Brit, about his comments.
The question is silly and unanswerable. It’s similar to, “Who is the greatest guitarist?”
How do you compare Andres Segovia and Jeff Beck?
You don’t. There is greatness, and simply identifying that is sufficient.
Hows an honest opinion sour grapes?.
He dosent think Phelps is the greatest.
So what?. Nor do I.
I dont even think he’s the greatest American olympian either (Owens, Lewis, Johnson, Thorpe for me).
WRT Steve Redgrave, as others have pointed out, there are other members of the animal kingdom who will always outrun, outswim or outlift the best human beings. Where animals cannot compete with humans on is teamwork, so it is nonsense to say that being part of a winning team is worth less than winning as an individual. Being part of a team requires an ability to coordinate as well as having raw muscle power...
I’d have to go with Eric Heiden as the great Olympics athlete ever. I mean, the man won a gold medal at EVERY single distance in speed skating. No one has ever done it before or since. It’s like a running winning the 100-meter sprint, the mile, and the marathon in the same olympics.
But Phelps has to be in the top two or three. I know, that’s a domination of the Americans in the “best ever” categories. But the reason for that is if someone with Heiden or Phelps’ ability had been born in China or the old Soviet Union or East Germany, they would have figured out what event he was best at and had them focus on that. Those countries haven’t produced a lot of individual athletes who won a slew of golds. (Except in gymnastics, where you have to compete in everything if you want to compete at all.)
Agree with Coe that he’s the most medalled in swimming but that’s as far as it goes.
Haven’t you been watching your Animal Kingdom (or whatever)?
Plenty of animals work together, whether by pack or otherwise.
world record index = # of world records x length of time held
My vote is for Paul Elvstrom.
Agree, Thorpe has had no equal, although the Pentathlon has changed
How many medals would Mark Spitz won if they had as many swimming events back then as they do now? The criteria should be the percentage of Gold Medals per Events entered.
I would tend to agree. He was as dominant as anyone could be.
It was his use of the word “successful” that tipped me off. Brit-speak for PUSHY, AGRESSIVE AND OVER HERE.
I was merely pointing out his jingoism. It's a common trait, affecting the citizens of most nations, including the US.
American sports fans, the media and experts are the most insular and parochial there are.
Can you document this claim in any way? More so than Brazilians? Chinese? French?
I'd be interested to see your evidence for your contention.
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