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December 12, 2008

its all in the approach…

Take for example the picture below, which I’m sure many of you have seen. It is a photo taken from the bottom of the Beijing pool, and it shows, on your left, Michael Phelps, on his way to his 7th gold medal, and on your right, Milorad Cavic of Serbia, on his way to a silver medal in the 100m butterfly event.

Had you not seen this race, however, you’d be tempted to tell me that I’ve mixed up my right and left. There is no way, surely, that Cavic, on your right, can lose this race. He has led for 99.5 m of a 100m race, and is centimeters from the wall. But Phelps touched first, by 1/100th of a second, in one of the moments of the Games.

It is against this backdrop, where gold and silver, history and anonymity are separated by millimeters, that sports sciences and the value of attention to detail become apparent. If you look at Cavic on your right, you’ll see that as part of his early reach for the wall, he has begun to hyperextend the neck, and the result is that his head is starting to rise out of the water. Phelps, on the other hand, has made a call to get one last stroke in. His head is down, his arms are making one final sweep for the wall, and he is about to pip Cavic on the line.

What this race comes down to then, is Cavic’s head position, which may have increased his drag (this is according to Phelps himself), and the timing of a lunge for the wall. Such are the margins between gold and silver. Phelps goes on to become the first man in history to win 8 gold medals at a Games, Cavic may never again be so close to an Olympic gold and a place in history as the man who denied Phelps the perfect Games.

– From Ross Tucker.

2 Comments on “its all in the approach…

Phil Emslie
December 12, 2008 at 11:33 am

One of the best races i have ever watched, was awake at 4am to watch it too. The unfortunate thing about sports is the fact that noone remembers who comes 2nd! Of all the great sporting achievements its very seldom the loser is remembered, as for this race, Cavic had his chance, and unfortunately for him Phelps had his chance too and took it by the narrowest of margins possible!
Absolutely Brilliant!

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Phil Emslie
December 12, 2008 at 11:35 am

Year after year as your swimming coach tells you to focus on the finish, touch properly, swim to the wall, etc etc, prime example of where it paid off!

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