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Ripples #50
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Ripples #50

Compiled and Written by Lenny Giteck

Now that the 2012 Olympics have come to an end, a few final Ripples items on the event…

Michael Phelps: The Greatest
Olympian Since Sliced Bread?

An opinion piece in the Kansas City Star — which also appeared on the newspaper’s Web site, — caught Ripples’ eye: “Michael Phelps is great, but is he the greatest?” the headline read. Basically, the writer was asking whether Phelps is the best athlete ever to compete in the Olympic Games.

The article was penned by Sam Mellinger, a sports columnist for the paper, and although he seems to pose a simple yes-or-no question, he waffles back and forth in arriving at an answer. Or to be more precise, a non-answer.

Mellinger quotes David Wallechinsky, “an author and historian and perhaps the world’s leading expert on all things Olympics” (and son of the late writer Irving Wallace), who offers a definitive response, “Not at all.”

Mellinger continues in that vein: “The hole in the case for Phelps as the best Olympian ever comes down to mathematics. It comes down to opportunity. Both are so overwhelmingly in Phelps’ favor that it requires a complete reevaluation of the ‘22 medals is the only argument I need’ point.”

Both Mellinger and Wallechinsky argue that because “more than a third of all Americans — and half the world’s population — can’t swim,” Phelps competes in a greatly reduced talent…uh…pool. Or to put it another way, he is — as the saying goes — a big fish in a small pond. Or to put it a third way, he is a better swimmer than only 3.5 billion of his fellow earthlings.

After all, posits Mellinger, “Nearly everyone has run…and nearly everyone has raced a friend at some point.” That insight underlies Mellinger’s subsequent rumination that perhaps either Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis is the greatest Olympic champion. (“It’s meant as no disrespect to call Phelps one of the five greatest Olympians of all-time. This is quite an accomplishment,” Mellinger says with admirable magnanimity.)

Mellinger does take off his hat to Phelps for raking in the big advertising and endorsement bucks. And he concludes by writing:

What makes Phelps’ stature even more special is that he became a global icon in a niche sport based solely upon his own accomplishments, talent and training, not his personality. In an era when flamboyance and heartache are top sellers, what he did away from the pool rarely made headlines. [Ripples note: Of course, there was the infamous “bong” incident.] In this realm — because of what he’s done in the pool — Phelps is a pioneer in the modern sports world. And in this realm, he really could be the greatest ever.

Ripples, for his part, thinks the whole debate is silly — like comparing apples to oranges to cumquats. Here is one athletic competition we’d like to see: Phelps pitted against Mellinger (who is a pretty young guy according to his online photos) in a running race.

Wanna bet who would win?

To read Sam Mellinger’s article in its entirety, click here.

Olympic Swimmers:
The 10 Best for the U.S.

Whether Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete ever may be up for debate, but an article on confidently names the swimmers it claims are the 10 best to have competed in the Olympic Games for the United States.

Ripples will give you one freebie: Johnny Weissmuller (a.k.a. Tarzan), who represented America in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics.

How many of the other nine can you name without sneaking a peek? If you get all nine, you win a much-coveted Ripples Swimming Trivia Gold Medal… symbolically, of course.

To learn the names of the 10 greatest U.S. Olympic swimmers according to, click here.

Is Synchronized Swimming
Getting Respect at Last?

Traditionally, synchronized swimming has been the Rodney Dangerfield of Olympic events (“I don’t get no respect!”). That may be changing, however: Time magazine’s Web site published a photo slideshow of synchronized swimmers at the London Games.

True, the feature was titled “The Strange but Beautiful Art of Synchronized Swimming,” and the images were introduced thusly: “From eerie fairytale-inspired routines to over-the-top outfits and makeup, TIME presents the best pictures of the glamorous yet misunderstood sport of synchronized swimming at the 2012 London Olympics.”

Personally, Ripples doesn’t think synchronized swimming is all that strange — not when compared to the “sport” of curling at the Winter Olympics. That’s the event where grown men and women frantically sweep the ice with brooms ahead of 42-pound polished stones sliding toward a bull’s-eye. Now, that’s some bizarre stuff.

Keeping in mind that strangeness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, click here to see the slideshow of Olympic synchronized swimmers in London.

Sadly, Rodney Dangerfield is deceased, so we’ll never know if his luck in the respect department ever improved.

‘Bad Boy’ of American Swimming
Admits to Urinating in Olympics Pool

Longtime readers of this column know that Ripples is not one to shy away from discussing the 800-pound golden gorilla in the swimming pools of America – which is to say, Americans’ penchant for urinating while splashing about.

You may recall, for example, the Ripples item in the April 27, 2011 issue of this newsletter, entitled “Urine Nation: To Pee or Not to Pee?” Among other things, the report revealed that according to research, fully 20% of Americans confess to relieving themselves while swimming. (That story was an expression of Ripples’ unique take on the much-maligned stream of reportage known as yellow journalism.)

All of this is to explain why Ripples was so fascinated to read recently that Ryan Lochte, the “bad boy” of American swimming, revealed to radio host Ryan Seacrest (“On Air with Ryan Seacrest”) that he did in fact urinate while in the London Olympics training pool.

According to a report on the Web site, Lochte told Seacrest in a classic TMI moment, “I think there’s just something about getting into chlorine water that you just automatically go.” (The chlorine made him do it!) He claimed that while he did not relieve himself during actual races, he “sure did in warm-up.

Lochte confided this to Seacrest and the entire world after losing to Michael Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley. Earlier, he told the “Today” show that his perfect race would be one in which he “crushes Phelps.” He said, “In the middle lane is [sic] me and Michael. I look over at Phelps and we have a little stare-off, look who wants it more. We step on the blocks and take your marks, boom. I take off. I’m hitting the water like a rocket and I’m not looking back.

Sadly, that particular fantasy of Lochte’s is unlikely ever to happen. By all accounts, Michael Phelps intends to retire from competitive swimming after the 2012 London Games. As for Lochte, he undoubtedly will be back in 2016 — peeing to his bladder’s content.

And, interestingly, Lochte also told Seacrest that his “real dream” is to market a line of clothing he designs. Who knew?

Post script: Ripples would be remiss if this item did not report that following Lochte’s on-air confession, Phelps, too, revealed that he urinated in the Olympics pool.

Google’s Wet Doodles
Celebrate Aquatic Sports

Finally, in case you didn’t know (and Ripples did not before doing some research for this piece), Doodles is the name given to those creative, often-whimsical illustrations that appear on the Google homepage. During the London Games, Google ran an entire series of Doodles on various Olympic events — three of which were related to aquatic sports. In case you missed them…

Click here for the Doodle about synchronized swimming.

Click here for the Doodle about diving.

Click here for the Doodle about canoe slalom (an event Ripples didn’t even know existed). Be sure to click the button inside this Doodle.

And with that, Ripples once again says…
Until next time, happy watershaping to you!

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