In the absence of any Celtics news and very little basketball news, I had to mention Michael Phelps. This kid is amazing. He eats more for breakfast than most people eat all day and still has not an ounce of fat on him. He would make a great basketball player with his size and long arms. But he is even a better swimmer. Last night he won his 7th gold medal of the Beijing Olympics as he edged past Serbia's Milorad Cavic. He was behind Cavic for most of the race and came from behind down the stretch to touch the wall 1/100 of a second before Cavic. It was so close that everyone, including myself, thought that he came in second but the replays showed that as Cavic stopped stroking and reached for the wall, Phelps too an extra stroke and touched just hundreds of a second before his opponent in the next lane. If Michael's arms were just a little shorter, he may have 6 golds and a silver instead of 7 golds to tie Mark Spitz's record that has stood since the 1972 Munich games. They showed his mother holding up 2 fingers as she also thought Michael came in 2nd because he came from behind and it looked like Cavic was first. As they showed the results with Phelps first, his mother collapsed into her seat in disbelief as well as relief. Phelps has one more race as he will swim the butterfly leg of the 400 medley relay tonight. The Americans are favored to win and give Michael Phelps his record 8th medal of the games.
Michael Phelps won the gold by 1/100 of a second and his teammate, Ian Crocker lost the bronze by the same small margin. Andrew Lauterstein of Australia won the bronze medal in 51.12. Crocker was again denied the first individual gold of his career; he didn't even win a medal, finishing fourth by a hundredth of a second in 51.13. Crocker and Phelps were tied together in a drama that played out in the Athens games, showing that Michael Phelps is not just a great athlete, but a good person and teammate as well. In Athens, Crocker's disappointing leg in the 4x100 freestyle relay cost Phelps his chance at a 7th gold medal. Crocker was devastated as he struggled to cope with the reality that he also may have cost four teammates and close friends a gold medal, not to mention Phelps' chance at history. Crocker was then told by the coach that he would not swim the butterfly leg of the 4x100 medley relay. Crocker understood the decision but it hurt because he had lost in his best event and then his last shot at salvaging his games disappeared.
And then, a surprise. Phelps announced he was done swimming in Athens. He said he was giving up the butterfly leg he had just earned with a first-place finish to the man he beat. He called Crocker -- a man whom he wanted to vanquish so badly that he has a poster of him on his bedroom wall -- "one of the greatest relay swimmers in U.S. history." Then Phelps said that he wanted to give his teammate another chance. He told reporters that they came in as a team and would leave as a team. And, Crocker did redeem himself by winning the gold in that race. Lost in the race to beat Mark Spitz's record of 7 gold medals, which Phelps has now tied, has been the fact that 4 years ago in Athens, Michael Phelps embodied the spirit of ubuntu, long before Doc Rivers made it a household word. Michael Phelps is a great athlete, maybe one of the best ever. But, this incident proves that he is an even better teammate.