Swimming: Move over Leonidas, here comes Michael Phelps

Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:17pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Leonidas of Rhodes would recognize a kindred spirit in Michael Phelps of Baltimore.

After 2,160 years of history, give or take a decade, the greatest athlete of ancient Greece is no longer alone on his pedestal.

The medal machine that is Phelps on Tuesday matched what must surely rank as the oldest record in sport when he chalked up his 12th individual Olympic swimming gold medal.

Leonidas, a runner who competed between 164 and 152 BC according to Olympic historians, is the only other athlete to have won 12 solo titles.

There is plenty of documentary evidence to attest to the dominance of Phelps, winner of a record 21 golds and 25 medals in an astonishing career spanning five Games that is far from finished.

The achievements of Leonidas rely on somewhat sketchier accounts, provided much later by Philostratus the Athenian and Pausanias who hailed the runner's 12 victories through four Olympiads.

The sentiments expressed by Phelps in the early hours of Wednesday after winning the 200m butterfly title would surely have resonated with Leonidas, even if the Greek had to compete with a shield and helmet.

"That's a lot of medals," grinned the American. "We got a lot of medals. It's just insane. It's mind-blowing."   Continued...

Michael Phelps competes.      REUTERS/Pilar Olivares