A History Of Close Calls and Nail Biting Finishes

"Every task, goal, race and year comes to an end…therefore, make it a habit to always FINISH STRONG."

There is no need to gauge Michael Phelps’ place in swimming history. He is the GOAT…The Greatest of All Time

Michael Phelps set out with the goal “to change the sport of swimming.” And, owning a record 23 Olympic gold medals and 28 total over five Olympic games, he has. Swimming is richer because of him.

Nobody can come close to Michael Phelps’ career in the pool, but it took him a good number of nail-biting close calls to get there.

Even for the most decorated Olympian of all time, staying ahead of the competition often meant two things…finishing strong and winning by the narrowest of margins.


Phelps has won a lot of races over his illustrious career…but the 100-meter butterfly is a good place to focus in on his ability to finish strong.

What I find most astonishing is how close Phelps is to not having any gold medals at all. His winning margins in the 100m butterfly in three Olympics combine to just 0.28 seconds, and the vast majority of that comes from 2012. His victories in 2004 and 2008 were razor thin.

Michael Phelps’ 100-meter Butterfly Victories

In 2004 he bested Ian Cocker by just 0.04 seconds

In 2008 he beat Milorad Cavic by the smallest possible margin of 0.01 seconds

To put that win into perspective…if you clap your hands twice, as fast as you can, the time between the first and second claps will be more than that one hundredth of a second.

And in 2012 he edged out Chad le Clos by a mere 0.23 seconds

"It’s not the first, but the last step in the race…the last shot in the basket, the last volley in tennis, the last swing of the bat that makes the lasting difference…for that is where the game is won and that is why you must always finish strong."


In a 60 Minutes interview, the host Anderson Cooper showed Phelps pictures of himself winning the 100-meter butterfly final at the Water Cube in Beijing by ONE-HUNDREDTH of a second over Serbia’s Milorad Cavic.

That victory might seem miraculous, but for Phelps, these amazing close calls aren’t out of the ordinary. There’s nobody better at finishing a race stronger or harder than him.

Phelps admitted that his winning margin of one-hundredth of a second was almost impossible to see, but it was because of…ONE SMALL DIFFERENCE.

On the final stroke Cavic lifted his head up just slightly which acted as a mini speed bump and I kept my head down streamlined.

Small stuff matters a lot!

It’s important to keep in mind that high achievers in every vocation turn over all stones, understanding and exploiting to their benefit the fact that the critical difference between merely acceptable versus excellent results lies in the smallest of details.

They acknowledge and accept that the difference between Gold and Silver at the Olympics can be traced to the tiniest of details in training or execution; as a result, they make everything counts, and they always…Finish Strong!

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