Saturday, 16 August 2008

Phelps v Cavic

"Seeing is believing"...

or "Things aren't always what they appear"?

In the case of Michael Phelps (a fellow Marylander), it looks like the latter. I saw the finish of his 100m butterfly from above over and over again, convinced that Cavic had really won, but wondering how the timers could have been so off. I also knew what I really wanted were the pics from the underwater camera to see if Phelps had really earned his 7th gold of the Games, equalling Mark Spitz's record.

So when I got home from Ruth's, I googled Phelps Cavic, and came up with definitive proof that the gold medal was really Michael Phelps' and not Milorad Cavic's. If you look carefully, you'll see that even Phelps' body is slightly ahead of Cavic.

And if you're still not quite sure, look here and here to see that Cavic's hands are really inches from the wall.

Absolutely amazing, considering that Michael took an extra half stroke awfully close to the finish. It was a crucial last second decision and was completely counterintuitive; it would SEEM to make more sense to glide long with a dolphin kick, as you're more aerodynamic. Taking a half stroke means interrupted rhythm, extra resistance, a bent it worth the extra propulsion?

In Michael Phelps' case, the answer is a resounding 'Yes'. But even HE thought it had cost him the race before he looked up at the scoreboard. From USA Today:

As they approached the finish, Cavic still was slightly ahead. Cavic began his glide into the wall, arms out straight underwater, and Phelps made a split-second decision to take a fast half-stroke, although a glide is usually the more effective finish.

"I really thought that cost me the race, but it happened to be the direct opposite," Phelps said.

So even the man himself hadn't been sure it was the right decision. He just did it.

He went against all the conventional, documented swimming wisdom and won.

There are any number of lessons to take away from this race: never give up, never let up, be gracious in victory and defeat and so on.

But the one *I'm* going to take away is this: when you're doing what you're meant to be doing, what Martha Beck calls 'following your North Star', your intuition locks in and everything falls into place. It doesn't become easy - it wasn't for Michael Phelps in this race - but somehow, it just works in the most jaw-dropping, deus ex machina ways. And it doesn't have to be a struggle.

No need to go west - follow your star and head north instead.

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