Roger Federer and Michael Phelps ranked as greatest in history of their sport

There are two in London, one with 18 gold medals now, another with 17 Grand Slams who are two of the great stars and winners in the history of sports. That means Phelps and Federer.

Use any marker or comparison you care to use on two athletes from amazingly different sports who have dominated the world stage the way they have over the past 10 years. Compare them to Babe Ruth, or Willie Mays, Ali or Pele or Michael Jordan. But know they belong in that conversation, both of them, now more than ever.

At a time when athletes from all sports are declared instant immortals for winning once, both Michael Phelps and Roger Federer have refused to stop, refused to grow old, have continued to find the best in themselves.

Oh, you know Phelps was supposed to be too old, you heard it as recently as last Saturday night, written off because he finished fourth to Ryan Lochte in his first big race in London. And then Phelps got back in the water and showed everybody differently, reminded everybody in London and everybody watching around the world just exactly who it was they were watching.

And the other night he touched the wall first and had his third gold medal, from Athens to Beijing to London, in the 200 individual medley. One more gold, one more thing only he could do.

"It's cool," he said when it was over, "to add it to your resume, hear that you're the first guy to do it."

He first made the Olympics in 2000, Sydney, best finish fifth in the 200-meter butterfly. He was 15. The next year, a tennis teenager from Switzerland named Federer made the quarters of the French Open and then upset Pete Sampras to make the quarters at Wimbledon. That was the beginning for Federer, the beginning of the most graceful and spectacular career any man has ever had in tennis.

He passed Sampras for most major championships, the way Phelps has passed everybody in medals now at the Olympics. Rafael Nadal came after him hard and Novak Djokovic came along to have one of the best years of all time, and all of a sudden.

Federer, even after being the champion he had been, was supposed to be too old for them the way Phelps was supposed to be too old to beat Lochte, who was treated like a kid in the moment last weekend even though Lochte was actually the older man.

Federer was supposed to be too old to be No. 1 in the world again, but became No. 1 in the world when he beat Djokovic in the Wimbledon semis and then Murray in the Wimbledon final. And there was Federer on Friday, back on Centre Court, getting a 19-17 third set off Juan Martin del Potro in the semis lasted 4 hours and 26 minutes to advance to his gold medal. Then he won the Olympic silver medal after that marathon match with Del Potro.

"For me, it's been a great month. I won Wimbledon, became World No. 1 again, and I got Olympic silver medal. Don't feel too bad for me," said Federer.

He's back on top again, all this time after the world first knew his name on Centre Court when he was 19 and had much longer hair than he does now.

Phelps, who is 27, says that this is it for him in London, that he won't be showing up in Rio for the Summer Games of 2016 even as his mom, Dorothy, already seems to be giving him a gentle shove in that direction. Maybe she's right. And there's plenty of time for Phelps to change his mind. After all, he will only be 31 in Rio. It means as young as Roger Federer is right now.

Date: 6th August 2012, Source: NY Daily News


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