Both Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are great world champions and deserve every gold medal and honor they've earned. However, if I were forced to choose between the two, I'd give U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps an edge over Jamaican runner Usain Bolt.
If which athlete has earned the most Olympic medals is the measure of choosing the best in 2012, Phelps is the winner. He has racked up 22 Olympic medals, including 18 gold, while competing in three Olympics. This is more than any other athlete in modern Olympic history. Bolt has won six Olympic gold medals in three Olympics, many of them with world record-breaking times.
If showmanship and emotional demonstrations were factored into the vote, Bolt would take the prize. While Phelps has done his share of victory salutes, the Jamaican star ends every winning race with dramatic crowd-pleasing shouts, flag-waving and emotional gestures.
I was on my high school swim and track teams, and can relate to the training and event efforts required by both sports. In my opinion, swimming is more demanding, because it involves just about every muscle in the body.
Unlike non-water sports, where hard muscles are a plus, the swimmer must keep arm and leg muscles flexible, so they're better able to fight their way against the constant pressures of the water.
Swimmers also must have more control of their breathing than runners, because their heads are usually under water for at least half of every swim event. While track races are a constant effort in one direction along with normal breathing, swimming requires a stop every 50 yards for a turn, and then to push off to regain momentum.
Bolt doesn't participate in distance events. Most of his track runs are for less than a minute, where he mostly depends on his superior leg muscles. His arms and the rest of his body must be in excellent condition and synchronization to help in his record-breaking efforts, but basically, the ability to propel his long legs in an almost straight line is what makes him a world champion.
Of course, choosing the best athlete in the London 2012 Summer Olympics is merely personal opinion. Additionally, narrowing down the 2012 Olympics best to just two competitors certainly shouldn't take anything away from other gold medal winners and all the rest of the world-class athletes. They came to London to represent their nations, gave it the best they had, and returned home with well-deserved honors and pride in their accomplishments.
Olympic and sports fan Freddy Sherman grew up in Philadelphia and went to school with two Olympic medal winners, Kim Gallagher and David Wharton. Watching their skill and determination inspired him. You can follow Freddy on Twitter: @thefredsherman.
More from this contributor:
- Sports & Recreation
- Athletics, Track & Field
- Michael Phelps
- Usain Bolt