My sports heroes, then and now
By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
I HAVE only admired a few athletes ever since sports became my life.
I have a very high regard and respect for American swimmer Michael Phelps although swimming is not one of my five favorite sports. Phelps to my mind is the greatest Olympian of all time having won a total of 28 medals (23 gold, three silver and two bronze) in his four stints in the Olympics (2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and 2016 Rio). He broke some world and Olympic records especially at the 2008 Beijing Games where he collected eight gold, and broke the seven gold record of his compatriot Mark Spitz in the 1972 Munich Olympics. I consider him a super-athlete and an icon in sports and I think it will take 10 Olympic Games or more to surpass or equal his Olympic feat in any discipline. Although I believe in the adage that says “records were made to be broken,” the person destined to break Phelps accomplishment is not yet on the horizon. Although he unabashedly announced his retirement right after the Rio Games at the young age of 31, he honestly knows that he’s still capable of wining a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Games at 35. However, despite coaxing from his coach and friends to give it one more try for Team U.S.A., he firmly declined and fervently said “goodbye” to his chosen sport.
I hope he’ll not eat his words this time. He also said ‘goodbye’ after the 2012 London but changed his mind and made a productive comeback in the 2016 Rio.
American boxers Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano, Filipino pugilists Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Manny Pacquiao, Donnie Nietes and Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez are my boxing heroes. Ali, because he’s the only undisputed and legitimate heavyweight champion in the world to win the title three times. Marciano, because he’s the only undefeated heavyweight world champion toting 49 fights, 46 of them via knockouts and only three via decisions.
Elorde, because he reigned as the longest (seven years and three months) junior lightweight titleholder in the world. Pacquiao, because he’s the lone world champion who captured eight world titles in different divisions. Nietes, because he was undefeated world champion for eight years and eight months surpassing Elorde’s time of reign. And Juan Manuel Marquez, because for scoring a sensational and devastating knockout victory over Filipino icon Pacquiao.
Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx, Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault and Spanish Miguel Indurain are my supermen in cycling. Unlike American Lance Armstrong who won the 21-day Tour de France a record of seven consecutive times but was eventually stripped of his wins due to doping Merckx, Anquetil, Hinault and Indurain won the Tour de France five times cleanly and convincingly. They were adjudged the four cycling legends of the world. But Merckx earned higher accolade for winning three other world prestigious bicycle races: the 21-day Tour of Italy five times, one-time king in the 21-day Tour of Spain, three-time world road race champion, among others, which the three did not achieve. European cycling enthusiasts call him “the greatest cyclist of all time” and his countrymen call him “the greatest sports hero of Belgium.” He’s also the world’s winningest cyclist for conquering major races in the world during his era, a feat that no cyclist had ever achieved up to this time.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me. Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” MATTHEW 4: 9-10