Phelps has been tagged the greatest Olympian of all time. I am not a swimmer but I do understand that what he accomplished is next to impossible by a single person in a single Olympic games. I appreciate what Phelps has done and it may never be repeated. One of the reasons 8 golds in one Olympics may never be repeated is because 99% of athletes cannot qualify for more than 2 or 3 events in a single Olympics. A fencer cannot win 8 golds unless they qualify in multiple sports. A track and field athlete could win the 100m, 200m, long jump, and the 4X100m relay in a single Olympics = 4 golds. It is just not feasible for someone to win the 100m and the 800m which limits the amount of events a track and field athlete can qualify for, which limits the number of medals they can win. I just don’t see how hardly any other sports would even allow someone to have a shot at 8 different events/gold medals. Swimming allows that.
So what makes the greatest Olympian? If it is sheer medal count then the swimmers will always be the greatest Olympians. But the Olympics are more than swimming. There are many other great athletes in many other sports that have no possibility of qualifying for 8 events in one games.
Who is the greatest Olympian? How about Jesse Owens and what he accomplished athletically, politically, and racially at the 1936 games in Berlin?
Who do you think is the greatest Olympian of all time?