Monday, August 11, 2008

Stars Aligning for Phelps

I still think it will be a monumental challenge for Michael Phelps to win eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics but I also think the stars are beginning to align for him in his quest to break Mark Spitz’s record.

If Jason Lezak didn’t pull off the impossible, anchoring the 4x100-meter freestyle relay to a win over the favored French team, Phelps could only hope for equaling Spitz’s record.

But now it looks as if fate is lending Phelps a hand. The toughest obstacles are behind him and maybe, just maybe, he will pull it off.

I do not recall cheering as lustily for a sporting event as I did at what I was seeing on TV last night. Was it comparable to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” in the Lake Placid Winter Olympics game when a ragtag bunch of American hockey amateurs beat the mighty Soviet Union 4-3? Who can say but the ancient and powerful joy one feels in seeing the impossible occur in front of one's very own eyes is unforgettable.

Everyone is buzzing about Lezak, and rightly so, but we should not forget the performance of Cullen Jones who swam the third leg of the relay. This African-American swimmer not only helped smash a world record and keep Phelps’s dream alive, he also smashed stereotypes.

About those eight potential golds by Phelps, we hold our breath and hope for the best but I will make a fearless prediction: By the time he is done with the Beijing Olympics, Phelps will have won more Olympic gold medals than anyone in history. His haul will exceed nine, currently held by the quartet of Paavo Nurmi (Finland – Track & Field), Larissa Latynina (Ukraine - Gymnastics), Mark Spitz (U.S. - Swimming) and Carl Lewis (U.S. - Track & Field).

N.B. The funniest and most intelligent ad I have seen so far during NBC’s Olympics telecast shows LeBron James as a defense attorney. The story line is hilarious. Too many ads are pretentious, pompous or just plain silly. The LeBron ad should open eyes.

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