WHEN MICHAELPHELPS out-touched Serbia's Milorad Cavic at the end of the 100-meterbutterfly, no one could believe it. Even Phelps's mother, Debbie, thought hehad lost. So did his coach, Bob Bowman. The crowd gasped, then erupted when theboard flashed Phelps as the winner.
This is an article from the Aug. 25, 2008 issue
Phelps had made acritical decision in the final meters to pull a half-stroke while Cavic triedto glide to the finish. Phelps brought his hands down through the water andtouched the wall .01 of a second before Cavic finished his glide.
To see exactlywhat had happened (and what one hundredth of a second looks like), the worldturned to an exclusive set of pictures (page 68) made by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'sHeinz Kluetmeier and his assistant Jeff Kavanaugh with a remote camera, placedby Kavanaugh with scuba gear late the night before, on the bottom of thepool—an extension of Kluetmeier's innovative work in Barcelona in 1992 where SIwas literally first in the water.
Kluetmeier firstphotographed the Olympics in Munich, in 1972, on contract for SI, and becamethe magazine's director of photography from 1992 to '96; he is now SI's onlysenior staff photographer. He has photographed every Olympics since Munich andhas worked with Kavanaugh for seven years. When the two first looked at thesequence at poolside immediately after the race, they thought Phelps had lostuntil they saw the final shot.
"I think ofthese photos as a journalism exercise," says Kluetmeier. "The only wayyou could see who came in first is from the bottom of the pool. You can't seeit from the top; you can't see it from the side. The moment of touching isvisible from underwater looking straight up at a lineup of the two bodies.These photos are absolutely what SI is about—showing pictures and angles thatmost people don't imagine until they see them in our magazine or on ourwebsite."
The pictures drew7.8 million page views on SI.com, and NBC's Nightly News, Today show andOlympic broadcasts featured the images that have been seen by at least 168million people. So far.