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Usain Bolt vs. Michael Phelps

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  • Usain Bolt vs. Michael Phelps

    If both Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps (in their prime) had to switch sports with Bolt swimming the 100 freestyle (he's lucky he didn't get the 200 butterfly) and Phelps running the 100 (he's lucky he didn't get the 200), which athlete do you think would perform better? Try to explain why you selected the athlete you did.

  • #2
    Can Bolt swim? I'll go with Phelps running closer to Bolt's time than vice versa.

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    • #3
      At what age do they switch? How many years of training do they get in the other sport? Does Bolt get regular access to top-notch US/Europe/Australia-based coaching and swimming facilities, or is he limited to the whatever he can find in Jamaica?

      If they switched sports with no training, Phelps would easily do better. Bolt might be unable to swim 100m, but every young person can run 100m unless they're disabled. And if Bolt can swim 100m, his time with no real training would be farther from Phelps' freestyle 100m time (by percentage) than vice versa for Phelps' time on the track. Phelps may be able to get within 30% of Bolt's 9.58 with no sprint training, but nobody's getting within 30% of any world class time in swimming without at least a year of serious swim training.

      However, if they both switched sports at age 21 and trained for 8 years, with both having regular access to top-notch facilities and coaching, I'd say Bolt would have a better chance of doing an Olympic qualifying time than Phelps. Bolt is better built for swimming than Phelps is for running (due to Phelps' short legs relative to height).

      But most importantly, to reach the Olympic level as a sprinter (or any running event) you have to rise to the top of a much larger heap; there are waaaay more trained runners in the world than there are trained swimmers, but both sports admit a similar number of competitors into each event at the Olympics.

      So if you have to be a 1 in 100,000 sprinter to qualify for the Olympic 100m on the track, you'd only have to be top 1 in 10,000 (maybe less) to qualify as a 100m swimmer.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by 18.99s View Post
        If they switched sports with no training, Phelps would easily do better. Bolt might be unable to swim 100m, but every young person can run 100m unless they're disabled. And if Bolt can swim 100m, his time with no real training would be farther from Phelps' freestyle 100m time (by percentage) than vice versa for Phelps' time on the track. Phelps may be able to get within 30% of Bolt's 9.58 with no sprint training, but nobody's getting within 30% of any world class time in swimming without at least a year of serious swim training.
        Certainly agree with this. I would expect over 99% of able-bodied 21 year old men to be able to run 100m in less than double Bolt's WR (i.e. 19.16) with no training. I suspect a much large proportion would be unable to swim 100m in 1:34.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Trickstat View Post
          Certainly agree with this. I would expect over 99% of able-bodied 21 year old men to be able to run 100m in less than double Bolt's WR (i.e. 19.16) with no training. I suspect a much large proportion would be unable to swim 100m in 1:34.
          A large percentage would be unable to swim 100m, period.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by 18.99s View Post
            A large percentage would be unable to swim 100m, period.
            When my Dad was 21 he ran about 50.0 for 440y, he has never learnt to swim.

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            • #7
              Bolt swimming 100m would be hilarious. Phelps running 100m would probably look very good.

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              • #8
                Bolt swimming?

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                • #9
                  Bolt has a pool at home, but this isn't exactly swimming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKjUHDLVChU

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Trickstat View Post

                    When my Dad was 21 he ran about 50.0 for 440y, he has never learnt to swim.
                    I agree with you Trickstat that swimming and track running are two completely different skills and you can't compare similar distances in both sports as being equal.
                    I ran a 4:49 mile (indoors) at age 52 but still am unable to swim a 50 m pool length without assistance of snorkel, fins, and goggles and then I must rest on lane lines once or twice to get to the end.
                    My daughter who is a master swimmer and in top ten for her age in Nationals has tried to teach me how to swim and was doing much "better" this year until Covid-19 hit and workouts have ceased for past year.
                    My daughter and I have this on going difference of opinion about which sport is "harder" swimming or running. My best answer is watch Bolt be interviewed minutes after his 100 meters and he is always out of breath with has difficulty completing a sentence without a break to breath. Phelps, on the other hand, is completely normal in his breathing like he never got in the water.

                    My idea would be to compare Bolt and Phelps to an equal time of competition in running and swimming. For example the world records for a 100 m freestyle is 46.91 secs which would mean let Phelps run a 400 meters and Bolt swim a 100 meters and see the comparable times. My granddaughter swims "age-group" for past 8 years and is in top ten in state for several of her events and she use to run cross-country an placed third in the Middle School Sectionals a few years back. She says running for 12 mins was so hard compared to swimming in a race that took 12 min like an 800-1000 meter swim race.

                    So compare Phelps 400 meter time to Bolt 100 meter time in there different sports.. I pick Bolt would get to the wall before 50 seconds than Phelps crosses finish line in 50 seconds and check their HR after each peerformance.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 18.99s View Post
                      Bolt has a pool at home, but this isn't exactly swimming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKjUHDLVChU
                      Freestyle (aka Australian Crawl), despite how many of us try to do it, is a technical stroke and I'm guessing that Bolt has not mastered its nuances. Sprinting, although there are specific technical models, is natural. I've had middle school kids, on Day 1 in track, who demonstrated excellent sprint form.

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                      • #12
                        If people have athletic ability I believe it is transferable, with training, to multiple sports but we can only speculate about relative absolutes.

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                        • #13
                          I agreed with 18.99's post when I first read it and nothing posted since then has changed my mind.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by midwestfan View Post
                            My best answer is watch Bolt be interviewed minutes after his 100 meters and he is always out of breath with has difficulty completing a sentence without a break to breath. Phelps, on the other hand, is completely normal in his breathing like he never got in the water.

                            I pick Bolt would get to the wall before 50 seconds than Phelps crosses finish line in 50 seconds and check their HR after each peerformance.
                            If you think the swimmers aren't out of breath after their competitions you haven't listened to many swim interviews after races. And there is no way on God's green earth that Bolt would swim 100 metres in 50 seconds. More like 2 minutes at his best. I'm sure Phelps can run 400 metres faster than that.

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                            • #15
                              Swimming does not tax the body like running does. The water mitigates gravity.

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