Unless you were living under a rock this weekend, I'm sure you saw or heard that Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic Champion of all time. NBC's already hawking products with his new title. Its almost as tempting as a late-night infomercial to order one, and I can't even figure out if it is going to be a video or book. Though I'm thinking that whatever it is it will be in DVD format. No one likes to read, right? So in honor of Phelps's eight gold medals in one Olympics, I decided he's worthy of his very own post instead of being lumped in with the rest of the weekend's adventures. Aside from the nail-biting races, here's what I thought was cool:
-- Phelps surviving all the exhaustion of swimming and hype to put up with Bob Costas interviewing him like 12 times. Once by the pool, one with Mark Spitz (more on that later), once with his coach, once with his mom. That's a lot of Costas for anyone and Phelps just graciously sat through it all. The best part of all was watching his face when he saw the frame-for-frame official photography of his 100M butterfly. He knew it was close, but his jaw was nearly on the floor when he saw it. Love those honest reactions.
-- Debbie Phelps nearly passing out when her son won the aforementioned 100M butterfly. She'd been holding up two fingers because she thought he came in second and then had to sit down when she saw he won. Thank god for that sensitive touch screen technology, because otherwise this one would have been debated forever.
-- Michael looking all perplexed when he was given some sort of special award on the podium after the final relay. It wasn't well explained, but I guess it was because he broke the Spitz record and the Olympics gave it to him as an MVP-typed award. He just looked kind of awkward about how to hold it and where to put it. Which made me laugh.
-- The Bob Costas interview with Phelps by the pool wearing strange earphones and Mark Spitz in Detroit, which took place post-Phelps's 7th gold. Awkward! I thought it would be amazing and have me welling up at the passing of the torch, but mostly it seemed like they couldn't really hear each other and weren't answering the questions that were asked. Both Olympians were very gracious and seemed to have a genuine mutual affection for each other -- Phelps seemed glad for Spitz's support, and Spitz seemed happy to be relevant again, but there was kind of a forced "together" vibe that may have seemed less forced if they were actually in the same room and not across the globe from each other.
-- Many people, like myself, take criticism hard. When someone tells us that we're not doing a good job, we start questioning if we're good at what we do and whether we've made bad choices along the way. But apparently if you want to be a crazy Olympic athlete like Phelps, you've got to use that to fuel your fire. He took comments about how it would be good for the sport if he lost and turned it into more reason to win (as if he didn't have enough pressure).
Just in general, I love to watch Debbie Phelps, who apparently had to leave Beijing to go back to work. I'm going to miss seeing her and her adoration for her son. Not that Michael Phelps's feat wasn't amazing, but her support, and his constant, obvious scan of the stands for her really gave this story some heart and made it more than just a chase for the medals. I hope he enjoys his well-deserved break... which I'm sure will occur sometime after Bob Costas interviews him for the 50th time in a week.
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