Michael Phelps made history in London on Tuesday when he helped his 4 x 200 Freestyle relay team win the gold medal. That brought his career Summer Olympics tally to 19 medals, which represents the most for any Olympic athlete. 15 are gold medals.
It could have easily been 16. Phelps narrowly missed winning his third consecutive gold medal in the 200m fly when he finished just .05 seconds behind South Africa's Chad Le Clos for the victory. The race offered up a dramatic finish as Le Clos won in 1:52.96 after pulling ahead of Phelps in the final meters.
As great as the race was, it does not even register among the all-time closest finishes in Olympic history. These men's races and women's races all had just .01 second or less separating the top two swimmers:
1. Men's 50m freestyle, 2000 Sydney Olympics :
You can't get closer than a tie for a gold medal. That's what happened when a pair of American swimmers both finished first in the 50 free final. Anthony Ervin and Gary Hall, Jr. each finished in 21.98 to claim gold medals. Netherlands swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband finished just .05 seconds off the winning time to claim bronze.
2. Men's 100m fly, 2008 Beijing Olympics:
Phelps came up on the winning end of a last second finish when he bested Serbia's Mike Cavic at the very end of the 100 fly final in Beijing. Phelps finished in 50.58 seconds and Cavic touched the wall with a time of 50.59. The outcome of the race withstood Serbian protests and was part of a record-setting eight gold medal triumph for Phelps.
3. Women's 100m fly, 1996 Atlanta Olympics:
Amy Van Dyken was the undisputed star of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Van Dyken became the first female U.S. swimmer to win four gold medals at one Olympics when she won in the 50 free, 100 fly, 4×100 freestyle relay, and the 4×100 medley relay. The 100 fly offered the most dramatic finish. Van Dyken won in 59.13 seconds, just barely eclipsing China's Limin Kiu, who finished in 59.14.
4. Women's 50m freestyle, 2008 Beijing Olympics:
Britta Steffen set an Olympic record with a winning time of 24.06 seconds in the final. The German swimmer needed every bit of it to beat U.S. swimmer Dana Torres, who claimed silver with a time of 24.07. It definitely rivaled the Phelps-Cavic duel in excitement.
5. Men's 50m freestyle, 2004 Athens Olympics:
Gary Hall added to his legacy of tight finishes with another down-to-the-wire win in the 50 free at Athens. Hall claimed victory with a time of 21.93 seconds. Croatia's Duje Draganja came in at 21.94. Draganja would later redeem himself by winning the gold medal in the 50 free at Beijing in 2008.
6. Men's 100m breaststroke, 1988 Seoul Olympics:
Adrian Moorhouse is a swimming commentator for BBC these days. But more than two decades ago, Moorhouse earned the closest victory in a breaststroke final. The British swimmer was one of the top swimmers in the world in the breaststroke in the 1980s. He validated his standing by winning the 100 breaststroke at Seoul with a time of 1:02.04. It wasn't easy. Moorhouse finished just ahead of Hungary's Karoly Guttler, who finished in 1:02.05.
7. Men's 100m fly, 1988 Seoul Olympics:
Suriname's Anthony Nesty set the trend for fantastic finishes in the 100 fly in Seoul. Nesty bested U.S. swimmer Matt Biondi by a razor-thin margin. He finished in 53.00 seconds to win the 100 fly. Biondi claimed silver with a time of 53.01 after he chose to glide to the wall and Nester caught him from behind. It denied Biondi a sixth gold medal at Seoul. However, he did finish with five gold medals, a silver and a bronze.
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