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The Greatest Olympian Of All Time?

I begin this blog with the admission that I am not a sports fan. Much to my wife’s delight, I don’t spend my weekends watching sports on television (unless somehow Wii fitness counts). And while I think that the concept of the Olympics is a great thing, I don’t watch them, track them, or really know anything about them. But as a sometimes fine American I do feel an obligation to have an Olympic-themed entry, and accordingly I was pleased when guest blogger Ray Link (a guy who does spend his weekends watching sports) sent the following:

Ray’s Analysis of Track Versus Swimming At The Olympics:

Please don’t take this wrong. I am a purist when it comes to the Olympics. I think Michael Phelps is fantastic, a credit to the United States, well deserving of the fame and riches that will be bestowed upon him. But he is not the greatest Olympian of all time.

Why do I say this? Simple – there are just too darn many swimming events that a swimmer can compete in compared to a track athlete. At last count, there are 15 swimming events a “sprinter”swimmer can compete in, versus just 8 for a track sprinter, and that includes 2 hurdle events and the long jump. I have defined sprints as any individual or team event 400 meters or less. Plus, the swimmers have a 50 meter event while the track athlete has the 100 meters as the shortest event.

Swimmers have a decided advantage, as they have the freestyle, the backstroke, the breaststroke and the butterfly. While last I saw, the track athlete has just the “run as fast as you can in any one style of your choice”. They do not have the run backwards, the hopping, skipping and other variations of style where each event gets medals.

In my view, the greatest Olympian is still Jesse Owens, as he won 4 track gold medals, all in world record times in the 1936 Berlin games. Remember he did this as an amateur, without the aid of extensive free training, and he was under immense pressure, in front of an extremely hostile crowd. If he could have entered more events, he most likely would have won many more medals.

About the Author: Ray Link is a CPA and holds an MBA from Wharton. He is EVP/CFO of FEI Company (NASDAQ: FEIC), a world leader in tools for nanotechnology including the Titan, the world’s most powerful electron microscope. He is on the Portland State University Business Advisory Council and on the Board of Directors and Audit Committee for Cascade Microtech (NASDAQ: CSCD) He also watches a lot of sports. Baseball, basketball, swimming……. I’ve even seen Ray spend hours watching billiards!

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