American Michael Phelps has tied legendary swimmer Mark Spitz's Olympic Gold record, winning his seventh gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Phelps has been winning by world record times in all of his events. His latest time was only an Olympic record. But VOA's Jim Stevenson reports from Beijing that his margin of victory was a small as it gets.
In less than the blink of an eye, Michael Phelps touched the wall ahead of Serbia's Milorad Cavic to win the men's 100-meter butterfly. No one in the Water Cube who witnessed the race knew who had won. Neither did Phelps or Cavic.
The answer came from the electronic timing system, which showed Phelps had touched in 50.58 seconds. He commented on the mere one-100th of one second difference from Cavic.
"One -100th (of a second) is the smallest margin of victory in our sport. And it was pretty cool. I guess that is all I can say," he said.
Serbia immediately filed a protest once the results were shown on the Water Cube scoreboard. Phelps was only seventh at the 50-meter turn, and it seemed impossible that he could have surged in front at the end.
But officials from FINA, swimming's world governing body, quickly reviewed the finish. Ben Ekumbo of Kenya was the event referee.
"It is evident from the video that it was an issue of stroking. One was stroking, and the other was gliding. We use automatic timing systems. And the timing system in this case was in perfect order," he said.
Cavic was not interested the protest. He was simply thrilled to get a silver medal.
"It is a gold medal at stake. It is a difficult thing to lose. But you have to understand, I came into this competition with the goal to win the bronze medal," he said.
That bronze went to Andrew Lauterstein of Australia. By another margin of one-100th of a second, he edged previous world record holder Ian Crocker of the United States off the medal podium.
Phelps is now tied with fellow-American Mark Spitz who won seven gold swimming medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
"It really shows that no matter what you set your imagination to, anything can happen. If you dream as big as you can dream, then anything is possible," he said.
Michael Phelps's dream is to win an unprecedented eighth gold on Sunday. He will have to rely on his teammates to do it in the difficult four-by-100 meter medley relay final.