Michael Phelps, the Male Katie Ledecky, Just Made Olympic History


Michael Phelps won his 21st Olympic gold medal Tuesday night, his 12th individual Olympic title. 

Fellow American swimmer Katie Ledecky also added a new gold medal to her growing collection, placing first in the 200-meter freestyle.

Ledecky's impressive performance in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Games has led some people to refer to the up-and-coming Olympian as the "female Michael Phelps." 

To be fair, the comparison is meant as a compliment: Phelps is widely considered the greatest swimmer of all time. Yet one can't help but wonder, in the midst of an Olympics that has been tainted by commentators using sexist language to describe female athletes: What if it's not that Ledecky is the female Phelps?

What if Phelps is the male Ledecky?

Exhibit A: He swims like a woman. 

An Olympic commentator recently said Ledecky "swims like a man." But this commenter is wrong. Ledecky doesn't "swim like a man" (whatever the hell that means) — rather, Phelps swims like a woman. 

Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Just look at that woman swimming, in such a dainty, womanly fashion. Would you like some tea and crumpets when you get out of the pool, ma'am? 

Exhibit B: Phelps, like Ledecky, has beaten men. 

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Phelps' teammate Conor Dwyer described what it was like to swim alongside Ledecky: "She'd just start beating me every single 100, and slowly but surely you get broken — and your morale goes down quickly when you get broken by a female in practice."

One wonders whether Dwyer feels the same way swimming alongside Phelps, a man who has presumably also beaten him many times during practice. 

Exhibit C: They both do that thing with their arms.

See below for a side-by-side comparison of the two swimmers. Notice how they're both doing what Olympic commentator Bob Costas has referred to as "you know, that thing they do with their arms." 

Getty Images

So it's settled: Michael Phelps is indeed the male Katie Ledecky. Now let's stop using male athletes as a reference for describing female ones and maybe get back to arguing over why the hell the diving pool was green in the first place.