This is an interesting article by some guy who thinks about these things from time to time. It questions whether Michael Phelps, who won seven swimming gold medals in the Olympics, is even close to being "the world's greatest athlete," as many have billed him. The article makes interesting points like:
a. Penn State's starting safety actually beat Phelps in races several times when they were young, but quit swimming to pursue football, because, well, football is football and swimming is, well, unless you're in the Olympics...
b. Lance Armstrong admits he sucks at football
c. Most swimmers admit to being like fish out of water in other sports
d. Aside from the gymnastics, swimming is like the only sport in which you have an opportunity to win eight medals...
None of this is to deny that Phelps is a great swimmer, but it gets down to the definition of athlete. Should a truly great athlete be able to accel in multiple sports or just be super great at one? I'm predisposed to the multiple-sport view, which is what I think helped Jim Thorpe gain such fame as the "world's greatest athlete" in the first half of the century-even though he had a pretty mediocre career as a major league baseball player.
Just some chowder to swish around in your head.