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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 16, 2008 12:43 PM

That Phantastic Phelps Phinish, Phrame by Phrame

Posted by Ron Judd

Much is likely to be said, over many years, about that miracle Phelps Phinish in the 100 butterfly last night. Several closeup underwater photos of the touch are circulating today, each of them telling the story -- or part of it.

The truth is, what you see in swimming is not always what counts. From what I've always been told, a swimmer can glide in and give a feather-weight brush of the wall, and it wouldn't register until proper pressure was applied. That rarely happens. Still, with a soft touch, it might be a fraction of a second between the time the fingertips hit the wall and the timer is actually tripped. Perhaps that was the case with Milo Cavic's slow glide into the finish.

(Swim racers who want to chime in on the sensitivity of the touch pads, please help educate the rest of us. )

Perhaps the most revealing series of photos has been posted by Sports Illustrated, whose photogapher, Heinz Kluetmeier, captured the final second of the race in a frame-by-frame sequence with an underwater camera fired by remote control.

The most amazing of all is frame 4 of 8, which clearly shows Cavic's fingertips only perhaps 4 inches from the wall -- while Phelps is still in midstroke, with his head appearing to be as far as 3 feet away from the wall.

What you can't see from the frames, or appreciate with any still images, is the lightning-quick speed with which Phelps took that last half-stroke, bringing his arms from back and all the way forward again faster than it took Cavic to glide that final few inches.

Kluetmeier's following frame, blown up, appears to show Cavic's fingers still a fraction of an inch away from the wall, while Phelps' right hand is clearly touching.

Any way you look at it: An amazing, instinctive reaction by Phelps, against an opponent who was finishing in textbook fashion.

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Posted by KamiilYaan

1:49 PM, Aug 16, 2008

I think you mean the 100m Butterfly final.

Posted by ted fleming

3:04 PM, Aug 16, 2008

wow.. what a lame title

Posted by good ol' george

4:05 PM, Aug 16, 2008

I actually like the title. PHABULOUS!

Posted by sporty

4:10 PM, Aug 16, 2008

Now, that's what I call a Photo phinish !
I loved the humor in your headline! As good ol' George said, Phabulous!!!!

Posted by Diane

1:30 PM, Aug 17, 2008

Touchpads do vary in sensitivity, basically depending on the company. Sometimes a touch on one isn't enough, but fine for another. But they all need more than a brush of the fingers/hand to activate them.

That's why swimmers are coached to finish "hard" into the wall. Now Emily Silver's finish at the Trials may have been too hard, since she broke her fingers, but swimmers do want to make a firm touch on the wall.

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Aug 16, 08 - 12:43 PM
That Phantastic Phelps Phinish, Phrame by Phrame

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www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
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Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
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