Phelps going swimmingly

Michael Phelps is a phenomenal athlete, a truly astonishing swimmer. Regardless of whether he wins 8 golds at the Beijing Olympics, he is already in the history books thanks to having won 9 golds across two Olympic Games. However, there is a caveat to his greatness, at least in terms of describing him as the greatest ever Olympian. Swimming is the only sport in which it is possible to win so many medals.

With four disciplines - front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly - and 100m, 200m and 400m events in each, 12 opportunities for medals are available. Then there are the medleys, not to mention the relays (and the swimmers don't even have to pass a baton to each other). All in all, an awful lot of swimming medals are there to be won, and if you're gifted in the way Phelps is, you can rack up an amazing total.

By way of contrast, the opportunities for athletics golds are extremely limited. Carl Lewis was able to win the 100m, 200m and long jump in the 1984 Los Angeles games, and was also part of the winning 4x100m relay team. 4 golds in the same games, however, is pretty much as far as any athlete can go. It is extraordinarily unlikely, for example. that anyone will ever win three individual track races (e.g. 100m, 200m, 400m). As such, to even things out, I have some proposals for new athletics events:

100m and 200m hop
100m, 200m, 400m running backwards
100m, 200m, 400m skip
4x100m individual medley (100m running backwards, 100m hop, 100m skip, 100m sprint)
4x100m medley relay (1 person runs 100m backwards, another hops for 100m, another skips for 100m, another sprints 100m)

These would enable a more even balance of gold medals to be awarded between swimming and athletics. They would also put an end to the posturing of sprinters, as the sight of Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt hopping and skipping would be too hilarious for anyone to take them very seriously subsequently.