Day 7 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Men's 100m butterfly
It is six years to the very day that Ian Crocker clocked 50.40 to beat US teammate Michael Phelps for the 100m 'fly crown at the world championships in Montreal. Doubtless the current champ misses the former one. He certainly could have done with the company.
In 50.71, Phelps, a class apart despite a "lack of training", became the first swimmer ever to retain the title three times after wins in 2007 and in a furious show of passion and play at the midst of the row over suits in 2009 with Milorad Cavic (SRB).
The silver went to fast-finishing Konrad Czerniak (POL) in 51.15, the bronze to the champion's US teammate Tyler McGill in 51.26 after they overhauled Cavic's ADN Project teammates out on the wing, Jason Dunford (KEN) and Evgeny Korotyshkin (RUS).
At the turn, Dunford, in 1, split first in 23.58, Korotyshkin close, Phelps third in 23.94. Of the wall, Phelps was level with the leaders, who held on for the next 30m as the Olympic champion built a masterful momentum on the way to another tick in a history book overflowing with soaring heights and superlatives. Nothing in the swimming pantheon comes close.
By 15m from home Phelps had his head and neck out in front, all the while extending his lead, the crown no longer in doubt, even though Czerniak and Tyler, surging past the ADN teammates on the wing just out from the red 5m lane markers, finished with more force than the champion ahead of them.
"I'm not in the right shape physically. I want to be faster. It's a tough race," Phelps said after lifting his third gold of a meet that has also delivered two silvers and promises medley relay gold tomorrow if all goes well. Life in the doldrums for a man used to outer orbit. There will be more to come, he hinted: "Sometimes I need to judge what I can do better. I need definitely to push in the first 50 metres. I'll work on my next game. I'll watch some races and think about how I can be faster."
Crocker, winner of the title in 2003 and 2005, fell shy of gold at the Olympic Games and in 2008 after returning home from Beijing wrote on his blog: “Eight years after Sydney (2000) and what seems like many lifetimes, I still haven’t been able to soak in the fact that I’ve even been to an Olympics at all, let alone three ... 18 years of goals set, reached and reset, always looking ahead and having minimal time to enjoy the minutes you’re in, let alone the achievements as they pass. It all adds up to one day standing still and asking yourself, 'what just happened?'."
History in the making:
From the archive:
Americans lay claim to eight crowns, seven silvers and two bronzes in this event since 1973. At Rome 2009 world titles, the year after Michael Phelps kept his eight-gold-medal hopes alive by 0.01sec ahead of Milorad Cavic (SRB) at the Beijing Olympic Games, the American became the first man to crack 50sec, his 49.82 victory leaving him 0.13sec ahead of Cavic, also inside 50. The Serbian's taunt to Phelps that he should shed a 50% poly suit made by the American's sponsor in favour of a 100% poly suit made by his own sponsor if he wanted to win made for an emotionally charged battle. Cavic had surgery on a disc in his back in 2010 but has returned to action this year, while Phelps ended 2010 with the three fastest performances of the year, his best a 50.65 effort that was more than a second ahead of the next best man, Geoff Huegill (AUS), on 51.69.