Michael Phelps Wins Gold in Dramatic Fashion, Ties Mark Spitz's Record

Joe MorganSenior Analyst IAugust 15, 2008

I am a sports fanatic and I recently have become enthralled with the Beijing Olympics.

Whether it’s been the success of the “Redeem Team” led by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, or the performances of Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson in the all-around gymnastics competition, these Olympic Games have quenched my desire for excitement that I feel as a die-hard sports fan.

However, the swimming competitions and the story of Michael Phelps have intrigued me the most. Along with everyone else in the world, I have taken an avid interest in Michael Phelps’ quest for history. Last night, I sat down to watch Phelps compete for his record-tying seventh gold medal in the XXIX Olympiad.

Ever since the beginning of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Phelps has oft been compared to legendary U.S. gold medalist Mark Spitz. Comparisons between the two have ranged from both athletes' dominance in the pool to Phelps' attempt to break Spitz's record of seven gold medals in one Olympic Games.

At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Mark Spitz absolutely dominated for the U.S. swim team, winning seven gold medals and setting the world record in each of the events in which he competed. Paired with his other two gold medals won at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Spitz forever etched himself into Olympic lore with an all-time record of nine gold medals.

With his ninth gold medal, Spitz joined U.S. sprinter Carl Lewis, Finnish sprinter Paavo Nurmi, and Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, as the only Olympians to ever accomplish this rare feat.

After a stellar performance in the 2004 Olympic Games that included six gold and two bronze medals, Phelps was well on his way to breaking the all-time record for Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

However, despite breaking the all-time gold medal record (Phelps currently has 13 gold medals overall) and destroying world records in each event he has competed in so far this week, the whole world watched yesterday to see if Michael Phelps could make history. Would Phelps tie Spitz’s Olympic record of seven gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly?

Unfortunately for Phelps, he was chasing history in arguably his weakest event at the pool, the 100M butterfly (Every Superman has his kryptonite), despite taking first at the 2007 World Championship. Many experts and critics alike predicted that Phelps’ teammate Ian Crocker, the world record-holder in the 100m butterfly, could win the race and derail Phelps’ attempt to win eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics.

Well, sure enough, when race time finally rolled around, the whole world watched with bated breath to see if Michael Phelps would be able to overcome the pressure, live up to the hype, and win his seventh gold medal of the Beijing Olympics.

As the swimmers took their places by the pool, complete silence ensued. I could feel the tension and the power of the moment as I watched from the comfort of my home. I, along with the rest of the world, anxiously waited for the race to begin.

The buzzer sounded and the swimmers were off. I automatically sat up in my chair and stared intently at my television screen. My heart was pounding very violently in my chest as I rooted for Michael Phelps to take the lead and win this race.

As usual, Phelps got off to his customarily slow start, making his turn in seventh place out of the eight competitors. Then, we all saw the Michael Phelps that we have grown accustomed to watching since he burst onto the international scene in Athens just four years ago.

With his amazing strength and agility in the pool, Phelps quickly moved up through the pack with powerful strokes, gaining ground on the leader in a great display of phenomenal athleticism. I got up from my seat and I was now standing, watching the conclusion of this race in a state of mild hysteria.

Phelps was gaining fast on Serbian leader Milorad Cavic. The swimmers were nearing the finish. It looked as if Cavic had won when suddenly, Phelps’ stroke carried him above the surface of the water and his hand hit the wall.

I saw the NBC computer marker stretch across Phelps’ lane, declaring him the winner. I was shocked, yet ecstatic. Michael Phelps defeated Milorad Cavic by one one-hundreth of a second.

0.01 seconds.

What a miniscule number!

It is almost completely impossible to do anything in 0.01 seconds. I don’t even think a person can blink that fast!  

That was the time difference between Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic of Serbia in last night's 100-meter butterfly.

That race was thisclose.

For Phelps, that time margin was the difference between triumph and failure. The fact that such tiny numbers can be the difference between first and second place makes the Olympic Games one of the world’s most exciting events.

At this point, in jubilation of Phelps’ accomplishment as well as my delight that the U.S. had won, a sudden adrenaline rush caused me to make an extremely wild fist pump. Luckily, no one was around to witness my excitement getting the best of me.

Michael Phelps had made history by the slimmest of margins. The replay shown on T.V. didn’t help much. It only served in creating more confusion and led the Serbian delegation to challenge the race’s results.   

After Phelps was officially confirmed as the winner, he was able to celebrate. Michael Phelps had tied Mark Spitz’s record for the most gold medals won by an athlete in one Olympic Games.

In a great moment for the Olympics, for the United States of America, and for Michael Phelps, the Olympic legend stood atop the podium once again. Accomplished, but already focused on winning his eighth gold medal in the 4x100 medley relay tonight.

I sat back in my chair as my pulse slowly returned to its normal rate. I closed my eyes and smiled. I had just watched one of the greatest Olympians in history make history.