Photo finish

I loved watching Olympic swimming competitions long before I became a dedicated lap swimmer, and Michael Phelps’ performance in Beijing in 2008 was one for the ages.  Phelps won his 7th gold medal of those Games–tying Mark Spitz’ achievement in Munich in 1972–in the finals of the 100 meter butterfly on 16 August.  He was in 7th place (out of 8 swimmers) at the turn; even after a late surge, it still looked like he was going to finish behind the leader, Milorad ‘Mike’ Čavić, of Serbia.  Čavić, though, allowed himself to glide to the wall after his final stroke, while Phelps took one final half-stroke lunge….touching the wall in 50.58 seconds, 1/100th of a second before Čavić. (Talk about moments that matter!)

A true photo finish
A true photo finish: Phelps, left, beats Čavić by the slimmest of slim margins

You can watch the full race here; it starts at 3:00, and is followed by much commentary from the gobsmacked broadcasters, Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines.

It calls to mind the list of maxims about the value of time, a variation of which follows:

  • To understand the value of a year, talk to a student who has failed an important exam.
  • To understand the value of a month, talk to a mother who has given birth to a baby a month prematurely.
  • To understand the value of a week, talk to the publisher of a weekly newspaper.
  • To understand the value of an hour, talk to a couple in love who are separated and want only to be together again.
  • To understand the value of a minute, talk to someone who has just missed their train or plane flight.
  • To understand the value of a second, talk to someone who has lost a loved one in an accident.
  • And to understand the value of a millisecond, talk to someone who won the silver medal at the Olympic Games.


  • As you probably know, the University of Arizona has a storied history of great swimmers and is gearing up for another great showing for the next Olympics. (Next Thursday, Amanda Beard has a reading of her book “In the Water They Can’t See You Cry” at the local Barnes & Noble.) Ironically, Dan Hicks grew up just about a mile away from me here in Tucson and went to the local high school (Sabino) and then the University of Arizona. He is married to Hannah Storm.


Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s