PHELPS out-touched Serbia's Milorad Cavic at the end of the 100-meter
butterfly, no one could believe it. Even Phelps's mother, Debbie, thought he
had lost. So did his coach, Bob Bowman. The crowd gasped, then erupted when the
board flashed Phelps as the winner.
Phelps had made a
critical decision in the final meters to pull a half-stroke while Cavic tried
to glide to the finish. Phelps brought his hands down through the water and
touched the wall .01 of a second before Cavic finished his glide.
To see exactly
what had happened (and what one hundredth of a second looks like), the world
turned to an exclusive set of pictures (page 68) made by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's
Heinz Kluetmeier and his assistant Jeff Kavanaugh with a remote camera, placed
by Kavanaugh with scuba gear late the night before, on the bottom of the
pool—an extension of Kluetmeier's innovative work in Barcelona in 1992 where SI
was literally first in the water.
photographed the Olympics in Munich, in 1972, on contract for SI, and became
the magazine's director of photography from 1992 to '96; he is now SI's only
senior staff photographer. He has photographed every Olympics since Munich and
has worked with Kavanaugh for seven years. When the two first looked at the
sequence at poolside immediately after the race, they thought Phelps had lost
until they saw the final shot.
"I think of
these photos as a journalism exercise," says Kluetmeier. "The only way
you could see who came in first is from the bottom of the pool. You can't see
it from the top; you can't see it from the side. The moment of touching is
visible from underwater looking straight up at a lineup of the two bodies.
These photos are absolutely what SI is about—showing pictures and angles that
most people don't imagine until they see them in our magazine or on our
The pictures drew
7.8 million page views on SI.com, and NBC's Nightly News, Today show and
Olympic broadcasts featured the images that have been seen by at least 168
million people. So far.