A lot of things.
A winner. A champ. A man 100% dedicated to his craft, and his goals.
Yet, there’s something more specific that you observe: A machine. A purpose-built machine. A body that is built for getting through water.
Like we build boats and submarines, Phelps has crafted his body for optimally powering through water.
You see the same with other top athletes in the Games.
None of them look “normal.” Their bodies are sculpted for their unique purpose.
Think about a cyclist. Lanky frame. Rake-thin arms. Flat chest. HUGE legs. A body that is built for pushing a bicycle, fast.
A pole vaulter has built her body for launching and slithering over the pole. A shot putter has built a mass for pushing a heavy ball far from the body. A gymnast, well, is there a more beautifully crafted human machine?
Think about that for a moment.
What does it take to build the world’s greatest machine for competing at this highest level?
Of course it takes absolute dedication, but it also takes something more.
It takes knowing how you must craft the machine if you are to be standing in the center podium with gold slung around your neck.
That’s not only true in the Olympics, but in every career.
If you’re a banker, no client cares about the size of your pecs, but your skillfulness in getting deals done is highly valued.
If you’re a lawyer, it’s irrelevant how far you can push a heavy ball, but that machine must push and push for its clients.
If you’re a consultant, you’re not valued for your ability to jump high, but to provide unique and valuable insights.
While few people will train themselves to be the equivalent of an Olympic-level consultant or lawyer or banker, a master of his or her craft is constantly tuning the machine.
They don’t do this just to win, but to compete.
They don’t do this because it’s their “job,” but because of how it feels to show up as your best.