Phelps: Eight is enough?

The swimmer is gaining on the all-time gold-medal record. But he's really excited about a football jersey.

Published August 11, 2008 9:10PM (EDT)

Michael Phelps is trying to break the record for most gold medals in a lifetime, now held by a quartet of legends: Paavo Nurmi, Larissa Latynina, Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis. They won nine. The stunning comeback victory by the U.S. team in the 4-by-100 freestyle relay gave him his eighth, one shy of the record. He has six more chances in these games.

But could it be he's got enough gold medals? Our hero sounds a little jaded.

After the relay Phelps' sister tossed him a custom Baltimore Ravens jersey, Phelps' hometown and favorite team, with his name and the number 08. The entire team had autographed it for him.

Later on, after a 200-meter butterfly heat, Andrea Kremer of NBC asked Phelps what the jersey meant to him.

"I was so pumped," he said. "My sister threw it down to me. I just remember after I got my medal I walked back to the ready room where we were sitting, and everyone said, 'Let me see, let me see.' and I held up the jersey. They're like, 'No, no, the medal.' I was like, 'Well, I'm excited about the jersey.'"

Multiple gold-medal winners are different from you and me. They have more gold medals. And in at least one case, an autographed Ravens jersey.

Seriously. Hard to blame Phelps -- who said what he said good-naturedly, and shed a few tears on the stand after winning his first gold medal this time around -- for downplaying the medal thing a bit. Last time around he won six golds and because that wasn't eight, which he didn't have much of a realistic chance of winning, there was a faint whiff of disappointment among the swimming non-cognoscenti. The hype was he was going to win eight!

He'd tried to downplay the hype last time too, saying his goal was one gold, not eight. But now that he has eight, and they just keep coming, well, you're just going to want him to win more, aren't you? But lots of people win gold medals. You know anyone else with a custom, autographed Baltimore Ravens jersey?

There you go. The kid's special.

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

MORE FROM King Kaufman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------