This photo ia the second of three video frame grab images taken from International Olympic Committee Beijing Olympic Broadcasting pool video, shows United States swimmer Michael Phelps, above, as he swims toward the finish of the men's 100-meter butterfly, along side Serbia's Milorad Cavic in the adjacent lane. Phelps beat Cavic by a hundreth of a second setting an Olympic record in 50.58 seconds, earning his seventh gold medal and matching Mark Spitz's seven gold medals from the 1972 Munich Games.
Milorad thought that he had won. From the photo, it is amazing. He must only been a centimeter from the wall and did not get there before Phelps did the "chop" and got his hand to the wall before Milroad. They protested the race ... then they were allowed to see the video.
To the live human eye, no one knew who won the race, only that Phelps had come from seventh place at the split to deliver a heart-pound finish.
“I didn’t breathe the final eight meters,” even he declared.
When Cavic and Phelps hit the wall, all eyes, including the swimmers’, spun to the giant television screen on one wall of the Water Cube. The pool was silent for a couple of seconds, fans hanging on edge.
It declared Phelps had won.
He pumped his fist and screamed. Cavic slapped the water in disappointment. They didn’t even know how close it really was.
On television replays, it kind of looked like Cavic got in there. He had been in the lead and was “gliding” to the wall. Phelps was midstroke or “chopping,” which is normally a poor strategy.
As the replay was slowed, some thought Phelps made it first. Others thought Cavic. The Serbian media were part of the latter. Cavic’s own coach hugged him after and declared, “You won.” All over the Water Cube fans debated it, reenacted it, questioned it and basked in the fact they just witnessed what might go down as the most famous and greatest race in swimming history.
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FINA knew it needed to let the Serbs see it for themselves, even if it was against protocol.
“We did not want them to go sleeping thinking something was lost,” Ekumbo said.
So the Serbians and the FINA judges watched the replay. They watched it a few times. Watched it from both systems – one powered by cable, one by battery.
“It was very clear the Serbian swimmer touched second after Michael Phelps,” Ekumbo said.
Clear to whom? The Serbs?
Indeed, even the Serbs. As incredible as it sounds, they all agreed there was no doubt. The question wasn’t even that Phelps touched first; it was if Cavic had managed to get there at the same time and share gold. The Serbs conceded. The protest was withdrawn.
Cavic, for his part, so trusted the timing device he had declared Phelps the winner even before the protest. “I’m not fighting this.” He did add a little trash talk, though.
“Is Michael Phelps the gold medal winner?” Cavic asked. “I think if we had to do this again, I’d win.”