The fact that every competitor in that final swam a :21 should validate the amount of ability and talent in the pool that day.
However, it does bring up many questions about how the swimmers swam their races in Beijing. Remember Katie Hoff, who didn't want to "break a nail" as Clay Evans noted to this blog; Milord Cavic, who looked up and lost by a 100th-of-a-second to Phelps in the
From The Age.com:
Let's get this straight: Sullivan didn't choke. What he did do, however - just like Ian Thorpe in his favourite 200-metre freestyle event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when he was a sure thing beaten by Holland's Pieter van den Hoogenband - was fall into swimming's oldest trap.
"You see little kids when they're swimming and their coaches tell them not to look around," Sullivan says, "and they're doing breaststroke and they're in front and [he motions with his head turning like a side-show clown] they look back to see where the others are. I guess you never lose that sort of thing, and when you see someone next to you, that's when instinct tells you to try harder and that's when your technique goes. ..."
This is how close the Beijing Olympics, 50-free final went; Hail Cesar:
21.30 - Cesar Cielo
21.45 - Amaury Leveaux
21.49 - Alain Bernard
21.62 - Ashley Callus
21.64 - Ben Wildman-Tobriner
21.65 - Eamon Sullivan
21.67 - Roland Schoeman
21.72 - Stefan Nystrand