- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 16, 2008

BEIJING | To win his record-tying seventh gold medal of these Olympics, Michael Phelps had to come from seventh place.

Out of contention at the halfway point of Saturday’s 100-meter butterfly at the Water Cube, Phelps rallied over the final 25 meters to out-touch Serbia’s Milorad Cavic by a hundredth of a second to match Mark Spitz’s 36-year-old record for most gold medals in a single Olympics.

“When I took that last stroke, I thought I lost the race, but it turns out that was the difference,” Phelps said after setting an Olympic record at 50.58 seconds. “I had no idea the race was that close.”

Phelps will go for Olympic history on Sunday in Beijing when he swims the butterfly leg for the United States in the 4x100-meter medley relay. The U.S. has never lost the event in Olympic competition.

Once he hit the wall and realized he had won, Phelps showed rare emotion, pumping his fist and slapping both hands through the water - by far his most demonstrative reaction of his six individual victories.

“I feel a little bit of everything - relief, excitement, everything,” he said. “I had to take my goggles off to make sure the ‘1’ was next to my name. When I saw the 50.58 and the 50.59 and I saw the ‘1’ next to my name, that’s when I sort of let my roar out.”

After the 100-meter butterfly semifinals, in which Phelps rallied to be the second qualifier, he said the first 50 meters of the final would be vital and he didn’t want to be behind.

Well, it didn’t go as planned. At the turn, he was ahead of only one swimmer and trailed the leader Cavic by .62 seconds.

Starting with 40 meters remaining, Phelps’ powerful stroke kicked into overdrive and he started picking off swimmers. But it still appeared that Cavic - who was ahead of world record pace at the 50-meter mark - had too substantial of a lead to be overtaken.

Even in the last moments of the race, Cavic had the edge but Phelps’ long arms hit the wall first.

Over the final lap, he passed Jason Dunford, Ryan Pini, Andrew Lauterstein, Andrii Serdinov, teammate Ian Crocker and finally Cavic.

Cavic’s coach filed a protest, but officials confirmed the result, saying the overhead camera and touch pad provided sufficient evidence that Phelps touched first.

“I know I’m fast in the first 50, and I know Michael would be chasing me down at the end,” Cavic said. “The last 15 meters there was no point to look over, I knew he was there. I saw his shadow in the side of my goggle and I knew he was coming.

“It’s too bad we couldn’t have both finished at 50.58. It would have great to share that gold medal. … If it was up to me, I would drop the protest. I’m stoked with what happened and very, very happy. I don’t want to fight this.”

Phelps has won all seven of his finals, but this was the first that didn’t result in a world record for him or his relay team.

This is Phelps’ second bid at Spitz’s record. In 2004, he also swam eight events and won six golds, winning bronze in the 200-meter freestyle and 4x100-meter free relay. Phelps’ 13 gold medals are the most all-time in Olympic history.

Earlier in the meet, Phelps won the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys, the 400-meter and 800-meter freestyle relays, the 200-meter freestyle and the 200-meter butterfly.

“I came here wanting to win as many races as I could, get as many personal bests as I could,” he said.

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