Many athletes come to the Olympics to fulfill a lifelong dream. Some just dream of making it there. Others come for a medal. Some come for so much more. And on Saturday in China (Friday in North America), Day 7, some of those Olympic dreams came true.
Michael Phelps pulls off another win in perhaps his closest race ever of the Beijing Olympics! And one half stroke made all the difference! Serbia's Milorad Cavic was leading the race towards the end and just before he touched the wall, Phelps takes a half stroke and surges forward with his long arms to touch the wall first. He wins by 1/100th of a second!
The Serbian coach launched an official protest but reviews of the race certified that Phelps did indeed touch the wall first, winning the 100m butterfly. With that one half stroke winning the gold, Michael Phelps ties Mark Spitz record as the most golds ever won at a single Olympics.
Kirsty Coventry wins gold and sets a new world record for the 200m backstroke. The Zimbabwean swimmer beat out her former college roomate and silver medalist, US swimmer Margaret Hoelzer. Coventry has all ready won 3 silvers in the Beijing Olympics for the 200m IM, 400m IM, and the 100m backstroke. Yet, winning this race means more than earning a gold medal.
For Coventry, this gold medal means another opportunity for her fellow countrymen to put aside their differences in restless, dangerous Zimbabwe and to celebrate as one people. Even Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, who takes a hard stance towards the white minority, calls Coventry Zimbabwe's "golden girl." Her gold, silver, and bronze win in Athens made Coventry a household name and hero in Zimbabwe. Her win tonight makes her a legend, winning 7 out of the 8 medals in Zimbabwe's Olympic history.
Britain's Rebecca Adlington wins the gold and sets a new world record in the women's 800m freestyle. And this time, her parents were there to watch her win. Earlier, they had been victims of internet fraud and were duped into getting fake tickets that kept them from watching her swim in a previous race she won. This is her second gold of the Beijing Olympics, having all ready won the 400m freestyle. She becomes the first British woman to ever win two swimming golds and one of five women in history to ever win both the 400m and 800m freestyle. Her win is a good omen for the London Olympic of 2012.
If Michael Phelps razor thin win tonight was the most exciting event of the evening, then the Cesar Cielo Filho had the most heartfelt and beautiful win of the day. Brazil's Cesar Cielo Filho wins the 50m freestyle. A virtual unknown, he beat out the medal favorites and pulled off a stunning surprise win! When he realized he had won the event, he broke down and cried in the pool.
Such an emotional win, the realization of an Olympic dream. It was a beautiful sight to see the raw human emotion break through. He cried again on the podium after receiving his gold medal. And in a great show of Olympic camaraderie, the emotional gold medalist is embraced by France's Amaury Leveaux (silver) and Alain Bernard (bronze). It is perhaps the best show of sportsmanship and humility from Alain Bernard since his cocky attitude got him humiliated in the 4x100m relay a few days earlier.
Filho's emotional win is what makes this an Olympic moment. With all their superhuman skills and amazing strengths, these athletes are still human. To see such an honest expression of emotional joy makes their achievements much more meaningful. That fulfillment of a lifelong dream is what makes the Olympics such a joy to watch.