Tokyo 2020: Spitz insists Phelps medals record is not unbeatable

By Sports Desk July 20, 2021

Olympics great Marc Spitz believes Michael Phelps' record of 23 gold medals will be broken by a future swimming sensation.

For the first time since 2000, the Games will happen without Phelps as a factor in the pool, and it will be the likes of Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel who draw much of the global focus.

Phelps landed six golds at the Athens 2004 Games, then a record eight in Beijing four years later, surpassing Spitz's all-time best haul of seven in a single Olympics, which dated back to Munich in 1972.

Another four gold medals followed at London 2012, before Phelps signed off from the Olympics with five triumphs in 2016 at Rio.

"Records are made to be broken, a point in case being Michael breaking my record that took over 30 years to do. Stories will still continue to be written about athletes that will challenge those that came before them," Spitz said.

Spitz described Phelps' contribution as "overwhelming".

"I don't want to diminish the value of any one of Michael's medals, but the young swimmers are looking at that as a benchmark," Spitz said, speaking courtesy of Laureus.

"They shouldn't consider themselves a failure because they can't quite stay on a career for as long as he did. But someday, someone will break that record unless they change the sport of swimming where some of those events aren't competed in and they make the programme so it has less events.

"Michael took what I had done and concentrated on how he could make and create his own journey. That became the gold standard then.

"The reason people think maybe my seven gold medals were so great were that somebody actually challenged it and then broke that record. Michael’s record will go down in the same way and somebody else will be inspired by what he’s done."

 

According to Spitz, Tokyo 2020 is unlikely to see such feats achieved, but he highlighted freestyle and butterfly maestro Dressel as a swimmer capable of great things at the Aquatics Centre.

Dressel won two relay gold medals five years ago in Rio but topped the podium six times at the 2019 World Championships, including four individual wins.

Spitz also earmarked Ledecky, already a five-time Olympic champion, as another American swimmer who could enjoy a golden Games.

"From a swimming point of view, there's some outstanding names," Spitz told Stats Perform.

"Katie Ledecky comes to mind in women's swimming. She's going to go down as one of the greatest swimmers of all time. The margins of her victories are enormous, it's incredible, it's epic in some of these performances.

"She was there during the Michael Phelps era, and there's also Caeleb Dressel who is ... I don't want to say a replacement for Michael Phelps. He's his own man and rightfully so he should be.

"He's dominated the distances and the strokes he's participated in over the last number of years. There's other people from around the world that will give those two athletes certainly a run for their money.

"The point is that I think we won’t be void in the sport of swimming with names and stories to tell."

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