Phelps’ feats overshadow any angler’s
This week’s column really has little to do with fishing or the outdoors. I have to admit that this past week was a difficult one for me to think about or do anything but watch the Olympic Games.
We all witnessed one of the greatest moments in Olympic history when Michael Phelps and his teammates won the 4×100 medley relay ” Phelps’ eighth gold medal at the 2008 Games.
In doing so he has become arguably the greatest Olympic athlete of all time. Yes folks, swimmers are incredible athletes. It takes a tremendous amount of talent, dedication and drive to achieve what he has done in these Olympic Games. It is rare that those qualities come together in a package such as Phelps’.
Swimmers seldom get the credit they deserve as athletes because they are often overshadowed by other more popular sports such as football, basketball and baseball in our society. Anyone who has swam competitively, or knows someone who has, knows the hard work that goes into the sport. They are lonely hours because usually only teammates and the coaches are watching.
In an interview with Bob Costas this past Sunday night, Phelps told a story of being teased by other kids while growing up. Because it is not a mainstream sport, such as the previously mentioned ones, other kids do not consider them athletes.
The Olympic Games typically raises the awareness for the swimming community every fours years. There is the corresponding affect on the enrollment of local swim clubs for a short period as children get into the sport as a result of their country’s success.
This surge is typically short-lived, as kids and their parents discover what a commitment it is to be on a swim team. It can be physically and mentally grueling, and as one progresses in the sport, the parents need to be committed as well.
This is not a sport in which parents can sit on the sidelines. Having raised a pair of swimmers, I can attest to the demands of the difficult training schedule and the parental commitment.
I can only imagine the pressure of swimming with more than 70 million people watching. Seven world records and eight gold medals are a testament to Phelps’ and his teammates’ training and resolve.
It is refreshing to see a genuinely nice kid succeed. Perhaps with his title as the greatest Olympic athlete, he can focus more attention on this underappreciated sport.
It was pretty obvious that the world was taking notice when the likes of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and others from the men’s basketball team were in the stands cheering on Phelps in his quest for the eight Olympic gold medals. The world now realizes how great an athlete Phelps has become when superstars from other sports take notice.
He says he will be back in London in four years and at 27 could add to his impressive medal count. Can anyone doubt him?
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.