7…That’s the number of years I believe I lost off my life watching Michael Phelps win his 13th Olympic gold medal of his career and 7th for these Olympics.
When he pushed off at the 50 meter turn, I really didn’t think he could do it. He was in 7th position coming off the wall. That’s next to last place. But that didn’t stop me from yelling, repeatedly, at the TV, “you can do this…come on!” I was amazed when the #1 popped up next to his name, not because I didn’t think he won but because I couldn’t believe he’d just done what he did. My first impression when he touched the wall was that he’d won. It wasn’t until they started showing the replays from different angles and slow motion that I began to doubt my own eyes…all 4 of them.
So, I watched every angle they gave me and even used my own TV’s slow motion to slow it down even more. And in the end, it was clear Michael won that race. It was his final stroke that he practically jumped out of the water for against Cavic’s glide that sealed the deal. That final stroke made his hands come down onto the wall instead of having to reach for it like Cavic did.
I’ve gone through all the possible conspiracy theories from fixing the race to malfunctioning technology (more on that in a second), but I can’t find any of them that hold water (no pun intended).
Michael has used words like lucky, blessed, thankful, speechless, and incredible to describe what has happened to him this week. The truth of the matter is that Michael has dreamed big, and that’s not to say that everyone else in that pool didn’t dream big, too, but Michael seems to be finding anyway and every way to make his dreams come true this week including touching the wall 0.01 seconds faster than anyone else in the pool much to the chagrin of Cavic.
Cavic had said the day before for all the media to hear that it would be good for the sport if Phelps lost. Michael’s coach, knowing how much Michael uses bulletin board material for inspiration, made sure Michael heard the quote. In fact, Michael conceded that the quote was the one thing he was thinking about when he was on the starting block.
There’s one more race left where Michael will swim his signature butterfly stroke for 100 more meters in the 4×100 medley relay, and I’m crossing my fingers that he will be standing on that platform with gold around his next an 8th time in as many days. Hopefully, I won’t have to lose any more years off my life.
The thing is that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone in my life achieve their goals with more intensity, passion, determination, and desire as Michael has this week. I haven’t had much reason to be proud to be an American for a number of years now, but Michael is bringing that back for me.
In the end, Omega is up to the Olympic timing task (by Sally Jenkins, Washington Post)
Michael Phelps’s own mother thought that he had lost — so how could the official timekeepers at the Water Cube be sure he out-touched Serbia’s Milorad Cavic by one-hundredth of a second to win the gold medal in the men’s 100-meter butterfly?
Omega, the Swiss watch company, referred to a triple backup system of redundant numerical and visual evidence that included electronic contact plates in the pool wall, laser and infrare beams at the start and finish, and digital photography to determine that Phelps was indeed the winner and to summarily overrule a protest by Cavic’s coach.
Most crucial were the electronic signals from the sensors implanted in the wall that Phelps brushed ahead of Cavic by the width of a fingernail.
Until 1967, Olympic swimming races were determined by 24 human timekeepers operating handheld Omega stopwatches (three per lane). But in the 1968 Mexico City games, Omega debuted the touch pad, which has since become so refined that it keeps time down to the millisecond, although Olympics and world championships use a hundredth as the more sensible measure because of the nature of pool construction.
It’s impossible (so far) to build a pool in which each lane is precisely the same length. In addition to the touch pad, for the last 12 years Omega has been using digital cameras. Phelps’s race was recorded at 100 frames per second. Omega has been the official Olympic timekeeper since 1932. For the 2008 games, it is using 450 technicians.
As for the formal protest filed by the Serbians, after being invited to watch films with officials, they conceded defeat when two different timing systems, one cable and the other battery, showed identical times.