By Nick Craddock
The London 2012 Olympics are already in their second weekend and with the Games at their midpoint, here are some pressing questions you might be asking yourself.
1. Is Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian ever?
Of all the questions posited here, this one is clearly a rhetorical question with absolutely no debate whatsoever. Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever. Period. With 22 medals, 18 of them gold, Phelps has dominated the pool across a variety of stroke disciplines and distances.
Frankly, to think that Phelps winning four gold medals and two silver medals at a single Olympics can be considered a relatively so-so performance given his previous accomplishments, speaks volumes as to how accustomed we’ve become to his near perfection in the water.
A week ago, Phelps seemed out of sorts after a disappointing 400-meter individual medley race, but ever since he set the record for the most medals won by an Olympian midweek, his grin has seemed to grow larger each day and, more importantly, enjoying himself and his races.
Enjoy the well-deserved rest, Mr. Phelps. Your career will certainly be remembered as the best the Olympics has seen to date.
2. Could Missy Franklin become a female version of Phelps?
At the tender age of 17, the Centennial, Colo., native Missy Franklin happens to already be a five-time Olympic medalist with a bubbly personality and unforgettable smile. If she continues at the torrid pace she has set at such a young age, Franklin may be able to get close to Phelps’ all-time medal record. Going so far as to say Franklin could eclipse Phelps’ record seems too bold of a statement to make right now, yet having witnessed the era of Phelps’ dominance, Franklin definitely realizes what the glory is like when the ceiling is reached.
Phelps’ breakout performance came at the 2004 games, where he won eight medals at the age of 19. Conceivably, Phelps could have won more medals at one more Games if he had the desire to continue his career until the age of 31.
Assuming Franklin races at three more Olympic Games, putting her at age 29, and wins an average of five medals per games, she’ll finish with 20 career medals. That would have beaten the old record for most medals won (18).
Again, projecting Olympic performances is difficult because there are so many variables to account for in the four years between Games. Maybe Franklin will lose her will to train for 12 years; maybe she’ll get injured; maybe her teammates will let her down in relay events—all very real possibilities. Still, it’s crazy to think this young lady has started her career in such a way that allows for conjecture about such projections.
3. Is China’s athletic supremacy expanding?
Not only has China become a world power in economics and education, but the Chinese now boast world-class athletes. Some events, like gymnastics and diving, are traditionally dominated by the Chinese, but at these Games the Chinese seem to be performing at new heights in unfamiliar events (See Sun Yang putting together four medal-winning races in the pool, including a world record time in the 1,500-meter freestyle).
Most people, myself included, expected China to be near the top of the medal standings at these Olympics, but the Chinese have given the United States a dog fight for top spot among the medal count. At the end of Day 8, China’s 53 medals are second to the U.S., by only one medal. With 164 events yet to be decided, a first-place finish by the United States is by no means a guarantee.
The difference will probably be track and field, where China still seems to lack genuine firepower, particularly compared to the United States’ multitude of talented athletes in the track and field events.
4. Can anyone stop the U.S. men’s basketball team in London?
The United States men’s basketball team has been tested in a variety of ways at this Games, from an 83-point shellacking of Nigeria to a hard-fought five-point win over Lithuania thanks to nine points in the final four minutes from LeBron James.
By either winning big or winning small, the United States seem to be on a collision course with gold medal, as expected.
Coming into these Games on the heels of some iffy exhibition performances, the likes of Spain, Argentina and Brazil were thought to be the teams that could mount a challenge to the United States, but more noteworthy than the United States gelling as a team to meet expectations thus far, has been the underwhelming play of the other supposed contenders (For example, Spain barely eking a win against Great Britain is no way to set the tone for a potential game against the United States).
If any team is going to challenge the States, an undefeated Russian team behind a resurgent Andrei Kirilenko seems the most poised to do so.
5. Canada vs. United States soccer showdown: Who will win?
I’m a little biased here, but I will be sporting red and white on Monday for the women’s soccer semifinal as my beloved Canadian women’s soccer team, which includes four players from my hometown and is comprised of overall inherent awesomeness from top to bottom.
Canada was a third-place finisher in the preliminary stages, but scored an impressive victory over hosts Great Britain in the quarterfinal to set up a rematch with the World Cup runner-ups, the United States. Interesting to note that American Alex Morgan took a hard knock on her knee in the quarterfinals, so if she’s not at 100 percent, that will affect the Americans attack.
Other notable showdowns between the two countries include the 2002 men’s ice hockey final at the Salt Lake City Olympics (which Canada won), the 2010 men’s ice hockey final at the Vancouver Olympics (which Canada won) and the War of 1812 (which again resulted in a win for the Canucks, as Canada—albeit a British controlled Canada—successfully defended against an American takeover).
Here’s to history repeating itself. Go Canada.
6. Who was the biggest disappointment of the week?
Hard to say that a winner of five medals at these Games is a disappointment, but Ryan Lochte, who started Day 1 of the Olympics on such a high by obliterating the competition in the 400-meter individual medley, including his arch nemesis Phelps, Lochte didn’t really steal the headlines at these Games like he boldly announced that he would, striking gold just one more time in a relay event.
Individually, Lochte was second best to Phelps and, in hindsight, it would have behooved Lochte to keep quiet and stick to racing, rather than proclaiming his greatness before he had achieved said greatness. Lochte’s face, meet egg.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.