Monday, August 18, 2014

Michael Phelps Ties Mark Spitz Olympic Record Medal Count

On August 16, 2008, U.S. Olympics Michael Phelps ties Mark Spitz Olympic record medal count in remarkable fashion.

Without a doubt, the biggest storyline of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was that of American swimmer Michael Phelps, who was vying to win a record eight gold medals. At the previous Olympics, he had finished with six gold and two bronze, and now that he had perfected his training regiment and was a little bit older, experts believed it was his year. His expectations were not modest, as anything but a perfect eight-for-eight would be deemed a failure.

In his seventh event, Phelps competed in the 100-meter butterfly. If he won, he would tie fellow American Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics in 1972. 50 meters into the race, Phelps' quest for perfection was in enormous trouble, as he was in seventh place as they swam to the finish. But Phelps made up an enormous deficit and was neck-and-neck with Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic as they neared the finish.

With just a few feet to go, Cavic was clearly ahead of Phelps; but he tried to glide to the wall, while Phelps made the crucial decision to attempt a half-stroke. Phelps' maneuver worked and allowed him to close the gap. 

In an unbelievably close finish, both men placed their hands on the wall sensor at almost exactly the same time. 

When both men emerged from the water, they stared at the scoreboard in anticipation, as neither knew who would come away with the gold. The results finally emerged, and the Americans in the crowd cheered ecstatically: Phelps, with a record time of 50.58 seconds, had beaten Cavic by 0.01 seconds.

''I'm really at a loss for words,'' he told reporters. ''I'm excited. I just don't know what to say.''

Serbian swimming officials immediately filed a protest, but they dropped their appeal after seeing the footage of the race. The race was so close that even still pictures of it appeared inconclusive. 

But Olympic officials looked over the material and confirmed that after several reviews, Phelps had indeed won the race.

Cavic described the loss as "devastating," but he tried to assure that he was satisfied in defeat. ''I'm stoked with what happened," he said.

"I'm very, very happy. I don't want to fight this. It is a gold medal at stake. It's a difficult thing to lose, but you have to understand I came into this competition with the goal to win a bronze medal. I went my best time and did better than bronze. I got silver and almost got gold.''

The next day, Phelps completed his mission by winning his eighth gold medal of the Beijing Olympics -- an amazing feat considering that in his second-to-last event, he was just a few hundredths of a second from losing.