This time, there was no question that Michael Phelps touched the wall ahead of Milorad Cavic.
In a rematch of last year's thrilling 100-metre men's butterfly final at the Beijing Olympics, Phelps again reeled in Cavic during the final 25 metres and out-touched the Serb at the wall during the world aquatics championships on Saturday.
Compared to the photo finish in Beijing, Phelps won with acres of time to spare, claiming victory over Cavic by 13/100ths of a second.
In the process, he broke Cavic's world record, set only a day earlier. Phelps finished with a time of 49.82, while Cavic touched the wall at 49.95 — with both under the world record mark the Serb set in the semis.
It's also the first time the 50-second barrier was broken in the race.
Spain's Rafael Munoz finished third.
A lot was made of the rematch between Phelps and Cavic, especially with the Serb's persistent stance that he actually won the gold medal in Beijing. The victory kept Phelps's drive for eight gold medals intact, besting Mark Spitz's old mark of seven.
Stirring the pot
Cavic stirred the pot before the final by offering to get Phelps one of the faster polyurethane suits so he wouldn't have any excuses. Bob Bowman, Phelps's coach, said earlier in the week that his swimmer would not compete internationally until the new suits are banned.
"How can it not motivate you? When there are things that are said, the only thing it does for me is fire me up," Phelps told NBC. "It does nothing but literally motivate me to no end, and I love it."
Phelps is one of the few who still wears the Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit, while most have switched to the faster polyurethane models. These new suits will be outlawed on Jan. 1, 2010.
When told of Cavic's comments after the semis, Phelps said to NBC that he would let do his talking in the pool.
And did he ever.
Memories of Beijing
Phelps got off to the fastest start in his career for the event. Cavic, as expected, pulled up to the front and tried to shake Phelps in the first 100 metres. But Phelps kept him a half body length away, and slowly reeled in the Serb after the two turned for the home stretch.
The final few strides looked eerily similar to the victory in Beijing, as the two were stride-for-stride in the final 25 metres. That's when Phelps left no doubt that he had won, and Cavic was left smiling and shaking his head after the two touched the wall.
"This is just a testament to Michael Phelps," Cavic said. "He can do it all."
The victory obviously meant a lot to the American phenom, who let out a roar toward the U.S. section of the stands after his win.
Cavic said one thing to Phelps after the race: "You're the man."
"He just looked at me and smiled," Cavic said. "He knows it."With files from The Associated Press