In the Olympic Games that took place in 164BC, 160BC, 156BC and 152BC, there was one undisputed star: Leonidas of Rhodes, winner of 12 individual titles and supreme runner. But he must be turning in his grave now.
Because Michael Phelps, who is the most celebrated Olympian of all time with 22 gold medals, won his 13th individual title by winning the 200m medley and broke an insane 2000-year record.
ICYMI, Leonidas won the stadion, diaulos, and hoplite race at the 164-160-156-152 BC Ancient Olympic Games. 4 consecutive in 3 diff events— Bill Mallon (@bambam1729) August 10, 2016
Leonidas wasn’t as good as Phelps when it came to the sheer number of events he dominated – he was, however, a tripler – someone who wins in three different events. Phelps meanwhile, has won his individual title in five different events.
But Leonidas won all these three different events in four Olympic Games back-to-back. The last of his appearances came when he was 36.
Phelps is 31.
Leonidas did it in the nude.
Phelps almost, in a swimsuit.
Leonidas on foot.
Phelps in water.
Consider this – if it took so long to beat Leonidas’ record, how long would it take to beat Phelps’? It’s an absolutely insane achievement for the American, who started building his legacy since the age of 15, when he made his first Olympics appearance.
But what his achievement has done is also bring back Leonidas into mainstream media – the man was an absolute lion and has a statue in Rhodes which is marked with the words: “He had the speed of a God.”
The BBC describes says the three events in which “he triumphed were the stadion, a sprint of roughly 200m; the diaulos, which was twice the distance of the stadion; and the longer hoplitodromos, or race in armour.”
That last one is quite eye-catching: a race in armour?
The Washington Post gives more detail on this. The armour needed a walker to “wear a helmet, leg armor and carry a shield. With 50 pounds of added weight, it was a test of strength as much as speed or endurance.”
So while Phelps is no doubt a modern day great, Leonidas is also worth celebrating as an unbelievable sportsman.