It makes no sense to compare two athletes who compete in two different sports, especially when one sport is in water and the other is on land. We can, however, look at who means more to their sport and is more dominant in their respective sports. Where the Olympics are concerned, we can definitely look at who is the greatest Olympian regardless of the specific sport.
Both Phelps and Bolt among the greatest Olympians all time. Both athletes are pretty much unbeatable in their respective sport.
Phelps has competed in more Olympic events and as a result won more Olympic medals. Medals are what Olympians are judged on, so if someone wanted to crown Phelps over Bolt, they would definitely have something to hand their hat on.
On the other hand, there is no sport that defines an athlete or is as excited as the 100m sprint in track field. This is an event that Bolt has dominated in the pass two Olympics and he looks forward to dominate again in Brazil. In fact, the only even that comes close to the 100m sprint, is the 200m sprint and that too is dominated by Usain Bolt.
In Beijing, Bolt not only won three gold medals, he did so by breaking three world records in the process. Bolt’s sparkling 9.63 in the 100-meter final in London actually beat his time in Beijing, posting another Olympic record, a historic time bested only by his uncanny world-record time of 9.58 in 2009.
Bolt is the reigning world-record holder in the 200-meter as well, breaking the record in Beijing before also besting that time in 2009. Bolt could have broken another 200-meter Olympic record in London if he didn’t coast to the finish with just under 15 meters to go so he could soak in the moment on his way across the line.
Jamaica won the 4×100-meter relay even without injured star Asafa Powell, giving Bolt six gold medals in six Olympic finals. He is the first man to ever—in the history of the modern Games—sweep the 100 and 200 in back-to-back Olympics. Not to mention the addition of back-to-back relay golds.
Michael Phelps has captured 22 Olympic medals, 18 of which were gold. This makes him no doubt, the greatest swimmer in the history of the Olympics. But even as Phelps’ 18 gold medals are twice as much as Bolt’s 9, Usain Bolt is still ahead for the history behind his medals.
Usain Bolt is the greatest Olympian at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and he is quite possible the greatest Olympian of all time.