It’s one of sport’s crying injustices that American swimmer Matt Biondi is remembered as much for one infamous defeat as he is for his phenomenal Olympic success.
His tally of seven medals at a single Games has been bettered only by the great Michael Phelps and he was unquestionably one of the standout male athletes of the 1988 Games in Seoul.
However a stunning loss in the 100m butterfly, when a horribly mistimed lunge for the finishing wall allowed Suriname’s fast-finishing Anthony Nesty to win gold, lingers long in the memory.
Biondi’s first taste of Olympic success had come at Los Angeles in 1984 when he helped the 4x100m freestyle relay to gold. The 19-year-old Californian’s potential was evident.
His Seoul campaign opened in solid fashion with bronze in the 200m butterfly, and then followed the defeat by Nesty.
Biondi’s narrowest of defeats prompted the American to ponder whether he should have grown his fingernails longer, but he would have his revenge with five pulsating gold medals.
Biondi showed his explosive pace by capturing 50m and 100m freestyle golds and helped the medley relay and 4x200 freestyle relay teams to victory too.
But it was in the cavalry charge of the 4x100m relay that he really set himself apart.
The quartet of Christopher Jacobs, Troy Dalbey, Thomas Jager and anchorman Biondi looked the standout favourites as the teams prepared for the start.
The opening two legs saw the Americans surge into a slight lead but a brilliant third leg from Nikolai Yevseyev brought the Russians to neck and neck as the final swimmers entered the water.
Biondi put the result beyond any doubt with a powerhouse opening 50m, and extended his lead on the return as the Americans knocked over half a second off the world record.
His split time was astonishingly sub 48 seconds and his place in Olympic history was assured. Biondi would add two more relay golds in Barcelona in 1992 before taking up a career in teaching.