Michael Phelps, not bad for an old man

Published 7:01 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Someone asked, “Did you see Michael Phelps last night?” “No,” I deadpanned, “He’s in Rio de Janeiro.”

I knew what they were asking. They wanted to know if I had seen the world’s greatest swimmer and the United States’ most decorated Olympian ever on television.

After I got my Rio joke out of the way, I had another one. “Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian swimmer since Johnny Weissmuller.” That joke went right over their head. I need some new material or at least I should begin using names of people in the current century!

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I’m sure many who read this column will recognize the Weissmuller name. He is the most popular man to play Tarzan in the movies. He was also an American Olympian and a five-time gold medal winner himself.

Here is an interesting factoid about Johnny Weissmuller’s Olympic experience. The 1928 Summer Olympics were held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Weissmuller’s winning time in the 100 meters freestyle, which is just jumping in and swimming like crazy, was 58.6 seconds. That was an Olympic Record.

This year’s event for the same race was won by Kyle Chalmers of the USA and his time was 47.58. That is eleven seconds faster than Tarzan’s swim. Of course, there was no Jane to rescue for Johnny Weissmuller in Amsterdam.

Back to Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer in American history. If you have been watching the coverage of the Olympics on NBC, I’ll pray for you. I haven’t kept count, but I think you have seen probably 14 events and 14,000 commercials!

You would also have heard that, in his career as an Olympic swimmer, Mr. Phelps has won a total of 28 metals, 23 of which have been gold. You also might have been told that Phelps made his first USA Olympic swimming team in 2000 as a 15 year old teenager. Now, 16 years later, he’s an old man so far as competition swimming goes.

One thing that you didn’t hear was that just a few years before he made the Olympic team in 2000, Phelps had pitched a fit when his mother made him take off his bright yellow floaties.

I’m not a good swimmer, but I try and it doesn’t matter because the Olympics have yet to include my favorite stroke, the dog-paddle, in its selection of various events. When I would swim, though, I always like to wear flippers. Those are things one puts on feet to make the feet look like frog feet. I learned from reading about Phelps that his size 14 feet serve him well as built-in flippers.

Plus, he’s so tall and thin. He is 6’4” and weighs only 194 pounds. Shoot, all he has to do is dive in, stretch out, do one of those fancy turns and he’s already finished his event. No wonder he gets such fast times.

But, Michael Phelps is not perfect. He’s had his “wild hairs.” He was arrested for DUI in 2009 and 2014. Plus, there was the infamous picture of him at a party in South Carolina taking a hit off a bong (marijuana apparatus). Those are the kinds of things that can either make you or break you.

I think it is clear from his 2016 performance in these Rio Olympics, Phelps has overcome those controversies. He has married and fathered a child, not necessarily in that order.

On the Today Show a few mornings ago, Phelps announced his retirement from competition swimming. He’s an amazing athlete, but what I really want to know is “Can he yell like Tarzan?”