“Michael Phelps single-handedly saved the Olympics,” said Pat Forde at ESPN.com. Before the Beijing Games started, the prevailing sentiment was that doping and politics had dampened the Olympic spirit. But Phelps awed the world by swimming to a record eight gold medals, and his humility made him “everyone’s Olympic ideal.”

Phelps did even more for his sport, said Dave Marcus in Newsday. Swimming is one of those pursuits that disappear from view for four years after Olympic fever subsides. But now that swimmers have their own superstar to match Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, competitive swimming is the hottest sport around.

It wasn't just that Phelps broke "the grandest of Olympic records," said the AP on FoxSports.com. It was the way he did it. When Mark Spitz won his seven swimming golds in 1972, he came off as "aloof and even arrogant." But Phelps exuded an endearing warmth and "got along with all his teammates, even though they all knew he was in a league of his own."

Watching Phelps’ record run was a tonic for everyone, said Michael Goodwin in the New York Daily News. “There is enough bad news right now in this country, sometimes trying to drown us all.” But for one week, Phelps carried us in his wake and reminded us of what we can accomplish when we dream.