Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Will there ever be another Michael Phelps?

History has been made.  Michael Phelps has gotten 8 Gold Metals in the 2008 Summer Olympics.  Something that no other person in Olympics History has ever done before. 

But here is the real question, will this ever happen again?  Is there anybody out there that can match the feat of 8 Gold Metals in a single Olympics?  I have been hearing that what Michael Phelps has done may never happen again.  I have also heard that it WILL NEVER happen again.  But how can they be so sure?  Even though it has been 36 years since Mark Spitz received 7 Gold Metals in a single Olympics, it was finally surpassed by Michael Phelps.  Many thought that Mark Spitz's record could not be broken.  Obviously that is not the case.  So can another swimmer match the accomplishment of Michael Phelps?  Sure.  I mean, why not?

On May 6th, 1954, Roger Bannister did what the "experts" said could not be done.  Bannister ran a mile in under 4 minutes.  For years the "experts" said that this could not be done.  Many had tried and many had come only seconds short, but none had succeeded in breaking the 4 minute mile.  Because no one was able to do it, people just assumed that it was impossible. 

Even more incredible than that was that just 46 days after Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, another man by the name of John Landy, of Australia, broke Bannisters record.

On August 7, at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, B.C., Bannister competed against Landy for the first time in a race billed as "The Miracle Mile". They were the only two men in the world to have broken the 4-minute barrier, with Landy still holding the world record. Landy led for most of the race, building a lead of 10 yards in the third lap (of four), but was overtaken on the last bend, and Bannister won in 3 min 58.8 s, with Landy 0.8 s behind in 3 min 59.6 s. Bannister and Landy have both pointed out that the crucial moment of the race was that at the moment when Bannister decided to try to pass Landy, Landy looked over his left shoulder to gauge Bannister's position and Bannister burst past him on the right, never relinquishing the lead.

As more and more people knew it was possible to break the 4 minute mile, more and more people trained to break it and break the records of Landy and Bannister.  Within 10 years after Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, 336 other people had broken the 4 minute mile as well.  If you look at today's runners, more and more of them are breaking the 4 minute mile as well.  Most runners who run a mile in the Olympics as fast as they can are able to break the 4 minute mile.  The difference is not dramatic between runners, but the fastest person to ever run the mile was Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco in 1999 at a time of 3:43.13.

My point is simple.  People can match what Michael Phelps has done with a pure determination to do so.  All it takes is a little bit of effort.  Michael Phelps had the determination to get 8 Gold Metals in a single Olympics and surpass Mark Spitz and he did.  If there is another swimmer out there with as much determination or even more determination than Michael Phelps, then the impossible becomes possible.

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