Olympic Icons: Katie Ledecky, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps

Katie Ledecky Usain Bolt Michael Bolt

Excellence isn’t uncommon. Sustained excellence is an entirely different story.

During the first 10 days of the Olympics, we’ve seen repeated examples of this: athletes in their second, third and fourth games doing the incredible, repeating their gold medal victories of years past. Being a champion is one thing. Being a champion multiple times across four, eight and sixteen year spans is iconic.

For many Olympians, time is the great equalizer. But it’s not so for a chosen few. If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that we should appreciate greatness when we see it because soon it will be gone. Yes, there will be other gold medalists, but there will never be another Katie Ledecky. There will never be another Usain Bolt. And there will never be another Michael Phelps.

KATIE LEDECKY (SWIMMING)

She waited. And waited. It may have seemed like a lifetime, but it was only 11.38 seconds. In swimming, it’s the same thing. And it showed just how dominant Ledecky is in winning her final event – the 800-meter freestyle – of this year’s Olympics in championship form.

Ledecky could be to women’s swimming what Michael Phelps has been to men’s swimming. She’s only 19 and she has been to two games, winning her first gold in the 800-meter freestyle in London in 2012. This summer, she’s added four golds and one silver to those totals.

She currently holds world records in the women’s 1,500-meter, 800-meter and 400-meter freestyle.

With Ledecky, there is an expectation that the best is yet to come. And while she could cash in on her fame, she has opted instead to head to Stanford in just a few weeks to start her freshman year.

Like those who excel at any level, Ledecky will continue to strive to get better. Russell Mark, a consultant with USA Swimming, was recently quoted that she is “still looking to get better,” training alongside the top male swimmers because they push her to excel beyond her limits. If Ledecky continues on her path, we’re all in for something special at Tokyo in 2020.

USAIN BOLT (TRACK & FIELD)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the one of the Jamaican sprinter looking back at his competition with a grin a mile-wide during the semifinal heat of the 100 epitomizes the magic of Usain Bolt.

He’s the fastest man in the world and he is having fun in the process. Ever the showman, Bolt plays to the crowd, a modern-day Muhammad Ali of track and field. But it’s more than a show. His third successive gold in the 100-meter dash on Sunday is proof that Bolt has been consistently great ever since Beijing when he first took the world by storm. Then came London. And now Rio.

It’s poetic that a man named Bolt has become the best at the shortest race in all of sports. Joe Posnanski summed up Bolt’s appeal perfectly in this piece, writing that, “Yes, all Usain Bolt does is run. But when you watch a person do something better than it’s ever been done before, it stops being just that thing. Somehow, it morphs into magic.”

MICHAEL PHELPS (SWIMMING)

In many respects, Posnanski could have been writing about Michael Phelps.

He said he was done in London. Four years later, he came out of retirement winning five gold medals and one silver in Rio. With 23 golds and 28 total medals, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. TIME recently posted an article that listed 62 countries that have fewer gold medals than the 31-year-old Phelps.

He has been so dominant for so long – his first gold medal came during the Sydney Olympics in 2000 at the age of 15 – it’s hard to imagine the sport without him. During that time, he has faltered personally, but in the pool he has been nothing short of excellent even with a bullseye firmly planted on his back. He could have walked away from the sport, resting on his past successes. But he didn’t. He kept working. And he kept winning.

Isn’t that what icons do?

If there’s any brand of sunglasses that parallel the sustained excellence of Ledecky, Bolt and Phelps, it’s Ray-Ban. From aviators to wayfarers, the company has set the bar against which other sunglasses are judged. Their history dates back to the 1930s and since then they have maintained a level of greatness despite a growing list of competitors and advancements in technology. Yet, Ray-Ban continues to do what it does best: manufacture stylishly cool sunglasses that withstand the test of time. You can learn more about the company here and you can see our entire line of Ray-Bans here.

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