By now half the world has watched Michael Phelps win a race by .01 seconds and Dara Torres lose a race by .01 seconds in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
So just how close were those races? We thought it would be cool to figure it out. We took Dara’s time of 24.07 seconds in the 50 meter freestyle swimming event. If you divide 50 meters by 24.07 seconds, she was traveling at 2.08 meters per second (pretty darn fast). At that speed she is moving 2.08 centimeters in 1/100th of a second. For those of us in the USA, this is 0.8189 inches.
That means Dara lost by about 8/10 of one inch and Michael won by 8/10ths of an inch! When you think of the years of training, the heats leading up to the finals, and then the race itself, the difference of less than one inch is truly amazing. We are talking about the length of a finger nail. If you think about it, if they didn’t have those electronic walls to measure it — a few decades ago, those races would have ended as ties and a couple more gold medals would have been handed out.
Congratulations to both Michael and Dara for making these an Olympics to remember.
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