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The Sports Illustrated shot everyone has waited for

Maese et al.,

Subject: Iconic images

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So here it is, the photo that everyone has been waiting for, perhaps coming to a poster near you. As reported in today's Sun, Phelps posed for Sports Illustrated photographer Simon Bruty, replicating the famous shot of Mark Spitz after he won seven golds 36 years ago. The magazine should be on newsstands or in your mailbox by Thursday or Friday. Phelps was a little bit cryptic when New York Times reporter Karen Crouse asked him yesterday if this photo was in the works, saying he "had no idea" if there were plans for one, even though he'd already posed for the shoot that morning. I supposed that's technically correct -- he's not privy to the final decisions of Sports Illustrated editor Terry McDonnell -- but it was kind of a politician's answer. Of course he knew. Octagon, his agency, would never let him pose for a shot like this if it wasn't going to be the cover. (By the way, here is a great Q&A SI's media writer, Richard Dietsch, did with SI photographer Heinz Kluetmeir, on how he got that amazing shot of Phelps and Milorad Cavic in the 100-meter butterfly that shows Phelps getting his fingers on the wall just before Cavic.) Do me a favor, and check out all of SI's Phelps covers. The magazine's photographers are amazing, and the site deserves the hits.

It's a cool shot, and something people in Baltimore will probably cherish. I imagine I'll tuck one away in a shoebox too. As a kid, the walls of my room were blanketed with Sports Illustrated covers. They were my wallpaper. One of my closest childhood friends and I would barter and trade them like baseball cards. I'd buy them from bins in the basements of used book stores and carefully fasten them to the wall with yellow sticky tack.

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Phelps has said often the last few days that winning eight gold medals has only reminded him that it's OK to dream ridiculous dreams, even if no one thinks you're capable of accomplishing them. I used to fall asleep gazing at the covers of Sports Illustrated that lined my walls, and now I just spent two weeks in China writing about the guy on one of those covers. Brutal deadlines, little sleep, intense pressure, missing my wife, but also an amazing experience.

"Sometimes you sort of have to pinch yourself to see if it's real," Phelps said.

I suppose that makes two of us, Mike.


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