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THESIS STATEMENT: Although Michael Phelps broke the record for the most gold medals won in an Olympic games, his performances do not match up to Usain Bolt's accomplishments based upon scientific facts, biomechanical analysis and the history of both respected sports.
"Water Cube" is considered to be the fastest pool ever constructed.
The pool was advanced due to the depth of the pool and the number of lanes. The Water Cube pool has 10 lanes instead of eight.
Waves churned up during races don't bounce back into the swimming lanes. Waves that reach the sides are siphoned off by perforated gutters.
Rowdey Gaines, and Olympic NBC commentator explains, "It's a perfect depth because if it's too deep, you lose your sense of vision and where you're at in the pool. But it's just deep enough to where the waves dissipate (and) the turbulence dissipates down to the bottom."
The Water Cube pool is close to 10 feet deep. That's 3 feet deeper than the pools of the past. An indoor setting also helps, along with temperature, humidity and lighting control. Wide decks with seats sharply cascading back give swimmers an un-crowded sense of space.
With all of these changes and advances in the pool, swimmers in these Olympics had an advantage over swimmers in previous Olympics.
Usain Bolt did not have any advantage like Michael Phelps did when it comes to track surfaces. The last major change in a track surface was back in 1968 when the first all-weather track was introduced in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
This year’s Olympics also saw new advances in swimming led to faster times and more records being broken.
In Beijing, Michael Phelps wore the new Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer swimming suit. This suit is supposedly the fastest suit ever invented. Design News reported on the suit, listing one of the improvements that aids swimmers is the use of a new low drag, water repelant polyurethane membrane .
-Speedo used NASA to help design the suit.
-Lots tests in water fumes to test passive drag (10% better than the Fastskin FSII - 2004's fast Speedo swimsuit - and 5% better than then the FS-PRO, the fastest Speedo suit from 2007. )
-Tests to show where the most drag occurs on a swimmers body led to a suit designed to minimize drag in those areas.
-Body scanning of 400 elite athletes to help develop an efficient suit pattern for construction.
-Bonded seams, so no stitches to cause drag.
-A hidden zipper - again, less drag.
-LZR polyurethane panels drag in some areas of the swimsuit by as much as 24% compared to other Speedo suits.
-5% less effort to go the same speed - a swimmer can use less energy to go a given speed, so they ought to have more energy to go faster or hold that speed longer.
Speedo claims the suit gives swimmers 4% faster starts, turns and sprints. It also gives 5% better oxygen efficiency.
Fastskin LZR is almost only available to American swimmers. This is an area where Phelps has a clear advantage over Bolt.
Track suits worn by sprinters are not even as closely advanced as swimming suits are. Nor do they reduce the amount of drag like swimming suits do. The only advances in sprinting over the last couple of decades have been changes in sprinting spikes, but even then can the changes only go so far.
Usain Bolt had no advantage over the sprinters he competed with in the Beijing games nor sprinters in years previous. He broke records and dominated the fields he competed in on an equal basis.
Because Olympic events in track are competed outdoors, track athletes have to deal with weather variables that swimmers never have to worry about. Usain Bolt set the 100 meter world record at the Olympics with a close to one meter per second head wind
New technology and recent advances have led to more world records in swimming.
Every major championship in swimming has a world record broken
Bolt broke the 100m world record that has only been broken 4 times in the last 10 years.
Bolt broke 200m world record that was last set in 1996 and before that was last set in 1979. Michael Johnson held the previous record before Bolt broke it. Many considered Johnson’s record to be unbeatable.
More than half of Phelp’s 6 world records set at Olympics were less than a year old.
Livingston, Bill. "Let the debate begin: Is Phelps the greatest Olympian? Not to this observer." Cleveland.com . 12 Aug.2008.19Apr.2009<http://www.cleveland.com/livingston/index.ssf/2008/08/let_the_debate_begin_is_phelps.html>.
Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer - The Fastest Swim Suit in the World for 2008! About.com. 19 Oct. 2008 <http://swimming.about.com/od/swimsuits/qt/speedo_lzr_race.htm>."Track and Field.“
Plastic division . American Chemistry. 19 Apr. 2009 <http://www.americanchemistry.com/s_plastics/sec_learning.asp?cid=1456&did=5296>.
"Bolt vs. Phelps, whos been more impressive? “The Generals Orders." The Generals Orders . 22 Oct. 2008 <http://maximus03.wordpress.com/2008/08/22/bolt-vs-phelps-whos-been-more-impressive/>.
Hersh, Phillip. "Michael Phelps is not the greatest olympic athlete in history." LA Times 15 Aug. 2008. 22 Oct. 2008 <http://articles.latimes.com/2008/aug/15/sports/sp-olygreatest15>.
Miller, David . "Michael Phelps is great, but not the greatest Olympian." Telegraph 15 Aug. 2008. 22 Oct. 2008 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/olympics/2560409/Michael>.
"Phelps best Olympic athlete ever? Someday maybe, but not today." Chicago Tribune 22 Oct. 2008. 22 Oct. 2008 <http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/olympics/chi-080814-olympics>.