Bob Costas, and very intelligently, also posed that comparing swimming to other Olympic Sports is like comparing apples to oranges. Sure, I don't think there is any question to Phelps' dominance of swimming, but of the whole Olympic spectrum, a different issue.
What we do know is that Michael has more Gold Medals than anyone else in history, but luckily for him, his sport allows for multiple medal opportunities. When you go across sports it seems less certain who is the greatest. I find myself comparing Phelps to the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. What a moment, and in that Olympics they had one shot to win a Gold Medal...not eight. How about a Figure Skater like Katarina Witt who managed to win two Olympic Gold's in a sport, where again, there aren't multiple times to win a medal at a single games. She had one shot at each Olympics and she got it done both times...that has to count for something, right?
So I guess here's the question that need be answered...Which is a truer gauge of Olympic Greatness...amassing multiple medals or answering the moment at a single medal shot?
Or perhaps this is all silly and each of us can have our own Olympic Great! For many, I'm certain Phelps fits the bill. For others, it may be the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team, or Katarina Witt, Carl Lewis, Muhamad Ali, 1992 U.S. Basketball Team, 1996 U.S. Gymnastics Team, Ian Thorpe, Michael Johnson, Dick Button, Yao Ming, 1988 Jamaican Bobsled Team, I could go on forever!
Here is the answer for me...every Olympian is the greatest ever. To simply be an Olympian I think is to reach a pinnacle that few will experience. It isn't always the winners that I feel is great, sometimes it the losers that inspire the most. Success is self measured and if an athlete works hard and makes their dream of being an Olympian, despite the outcome, I think that's the greatest!