Best Olympian: Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt or Gabby Douglas? [Poll]

Writers from around Tribune Co. debate who has been the real star of the London Olympics -- U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, Jamaican track star Usain Bolt or U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas. Check back throughout the day for their opinions and join the conversations by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.

Stacy St. Clair, Chicago Tribune

The Brits would say none of the above, given the constant canonizing of their medalists and the most recent delirium over Andy Murray’s and Jessica Ennis’ wins. The rest of the world might pick Oscar Pistorius for justifiably sentimental reasons.


However, if given a multiple choice among Bolt, Phelps and Douglas, my vote goes to Douglas. We’ve seen Phelps and Bolt dominate previous Games, to the point where they had earned their place in the pantheon of Olympic champions long before the London cauldron was lighted.

But the United States hadn’t seen anything like Gabby Douglas.

In addition to becoming the first African American individual champion, she’s the first U.S. woman to win both the team and all-around gold. Her achievement stands to inspire an entirely new segment of the country’s population, encouraging young black girls to try a sport traditionally dominated by white suburbanites.

Gabby Douglas, quite literally, could change the face of her sport with her performance here. That fact alone makes her star shine brighter.

Ron Fritz, Baltimore Sun

It’s hard not to pick the hometown hero, Michael Phelps, because he accomplished what no swimmer has ever done before — again. Although it will be debated for Olympics to come, he’s the greatest Olympic athlete ever, and he put a stamp on that title with his six-medal performance in London.

Usain Bolt thrilled as usual. I can only imagine the electricity in the stadium Sunday night when he flew to 100-meters gold. He came from nowhere to blow past the field. He’ll probably win the 200, too.

But Gabby Douglas is the real star of these Olympics because she did the unexpected. Without any Olympic experience — and not even considered the best gymnast on the American team — she rose to new heights and took her sport with her. In becoming the first African American to win the individual all-around, she will elevate gymnastics, just like Phelps did swimming after 2008.

[Updated at 9:18 a.m.:

Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times

It hurts to say this because I’ve been with Gabrielle Douglas from her emergence at the U.S. nationals as a sparkling star, through her turn at the Olympics trials where she brushed off a fall as if it were an annoying fly, then to watching her lead the U.S. women’s gymnastics team to its second gold medal in history, before finally going out and winning her own all-around gold medal.

The 16-year-old from Virginia Beach, Va., has been forthright and upright, two of the best qualities about a star gymnast and she has the story of struggle (little girl moves away from home at age 14 and creates a supportive “host” family in Iowa but stays endearingly close to her mother, Natalie Hawkins) and triumph that is a winner.

But for creating an “Oh my gosh moment,” for creating the memory that will be talked about, debated over and most of all remembered from these 2012 Olympics, that would be Usain Bolt and his insane 100-meter win Sunday. It’s the one I want to see again (well, and Serena Williams and Andy Murray winning golds. Still haven’t seen them).]

[Updated at 1:33 p.m.:

Mike Anthony, Hartford Courant

This wasn’t the Olympics in which Michael Phelps proved he was the best swimmer in history. He took care of that four years ago in Beijing. And Gabby Douglas, who introduced herself to the world and became the first African American to win the gymnastics all-around, is a feel-good story that doesn’t necessarily have global appeal.

Usain Bolt is an international star, not only for what he has done but for what he is doing in London -- reclaiming his title as the best sprinter in the world, perhaps the best sprinter ever, as even those fascinated by him began to doubt him.

The nine-plus seconds in which he won the 100-meter race? The most exciting in the Games to this point.

Bolt and Carl Lewis are the only sprinters to win the 100 in consecutive Olympics. And whether Bolt goes on to another medal in the 200, which he likely will, is irrelevant. He’s the star of London, the marquee name in the marquee event, a colorful, charismatic athlete whom more people stop to watch than any other.]


U.S. women advance in 100 hurdles

London Olympics: What to watch for on Monday

U.S. women advance in 1,500, but men’s discus throwers are out