US hails Phelps as new Olympic hero

From extensive interviews with his mother, to exhaustive analyses of his gargantuan diet, the United States can't get enough of its newest sporting superstar, Michael Phelps, dpa reported.

Phelps became the most successful Olympian in history after winning two more gold medals Wednesday to bring his career gold medal count to 11 - two more than former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, Finnish athlete Paavo Nurmi, US swimmer Mark Spitz and US athlete Carl Lewis.

NBC said that Phelps' success was a key factor in making the current games the most watched in US history, averaging 34 million viewers a night, compare to 24 million in 2004.

"We know that the ratings spike when Michael appears," said Alan Wurtzel, chief researcher for broadcaster NBC. "There's no question that Michael is an extraordinarily important driver. People may come to see Michael Phelps, but they stay to see lots of other Olympic content."

The New York Post revealed that apart from a rigorous training regime, the man who is often called "the human dolphin" had another secret to success: he eats a staggering 12,000 calories a day. The headline, however, was less than flattering: "Phelps' pig secret: He's Boy Gorge."

But elsewhere in the paper, sportswriter Mike Vaccaro gave Phelps his due.

"Phelps not only attained history, he transcended it. And he isn't finished yet," wrote Vaccaro, who dismissed suggestions that Phelps owed his success to the deeper pool being used at these Olympics or the drag-reducing body suits.

"Phelps simply exists on a different level than everyone else now, a different plane. Something tells you that he could swim as fast as he needed to if he were wearing an old flannel baseball uniform in the Hackensack River."

Everywhere else, sports writers were competing for ways to adequately describe a man who according to the record books at least was officially the world's greatest modern Olympian.

"It's hard to figure what's the most impressive part of all this," admitted Joe Posnanski in the Kansas City Star. "It's all so mind- boggling. He's obviously the fastest swimmer, the best-conditioned swimmer, he makes the best turns, he uses the most powerful strokes, he's the most competitive son-of-a-gun on the blocks."

Newspapers around his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, were jubilant.

"Phelps is now without peer," said the Washington Post, which pointed out that from now on he could only be judged by his own standards.

The Baltimore Sun proclaimed: "Phelps stands alone in Olympic history."

The Chicago Sun-Times attempted to move beyond crowing and put Phelps' achievement into context.

"In a time when evolution and technology make it almost impossible to dominate any slice of life, Michael Phelps is obliterating his," the paper noted. "To watch Phelps is to comprehend the biggest of life pictures. Much like Jordan, Woods, Ali and precious few others, we're watching sport at its apex."

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