Local Olympic swimmers in awe of Phelps' accomplishment

Brent Berk
Brent Berk
Chris Woo
Chris Woo

By Stephen Florino - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Everyone knows what Michael Phelps did at the 2008 Summer Games was amazing. But the only ones who can really appreciate the accomplishment are former olympians.

"He's a fantastic swimmer, and what he did is totally unbelievable," said Brent Berk, Punahou grad and 1968 U.S. Olympian in swimming.

Before the games, Berk didn't buy into the Phelps hype. Berk was teammates with Mark Spitz, and was offended that a Sports Illustrated article three weeks ago crowned phelps the best ever. Berk even wrote a letter to the magazine.

"Let's just not say it's actually over, until it's over," said Berk. "And it's over and he did it. And it's terrific. No doubt about it, it's terrific."

Phelps won medals, and set world records in the pool, but what's more impressive is everything he's done outside the water.

"The thing that's hard about swimming is maintaining your mental edge and to maintain it over a 7 or 8 day period," said Berk. "Especially with all the press."

"The whole thing is focused on Michael Phelps," said Chris Woo, Punahou grad and 1976 U.S. Olympian in swimming. "He's just an awesome swimmer."

"It's good because he is able to put in the work that's necessary, and to show the world, show the kids this is what i'm reaping from all the work that i did," said Woo.

Hard work, and a little luck.

"Maybe everybody has a fate," said Berk. "That was his fate perhaps, but I don't know. But it doesn't matter. He got it done. I mean that's all that matters. he got it done."

Both swimmers say the sport today is very different than it was back in 1972, mainly in technology and financial support. So the fact that Spitz set the record at that time, and the fact that it stood this long, shows how truly remarkable it was.