Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Indoor Swimming Pool, Olympic Park, Seoul
Date Started: September 20, 1988
Date Finished: September 21, 1988
The best butterflyer in the world for the last 5-6 years was American [Pablo Morales]. But he shockingly failed to make the US team at the Olympic Trials. This left his teammate [Matt Biondi] in the favorite's role in Seoul. Biondi was attempting to emulate [Mark Spitz] and win seven gold medals, but the night before this final, the 1988 Olympics had started poorly for him when he won âonlyâ a bronze medal in the 200 free.
In the butterfly final, Biondi went out ahead well ahead to the wall. He led the race until the last stroke, but as he neared the wall, he was between strokes and elected to kick in, only to be slightly farther out than he realized, and this allowed Suriname's [Anthony Nesty] to pass him and win the gold medal by 1/100th of a second. Nesty was not unknown, having placed fourth at the 1986 World Championships, and winning gold at the 1987 Pan American Games, but this was an upset, and it was the first Olympic medal ever won for Suriname, and also made Nesty the first black swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal.
Nesty had trained and lived and went to college in the United States for several years. But he considered Suriname home and returned to a hero's welcome, being showered with gifts. He would return to Barcelona four years hence and add a bronze medal in this event. Biondi recovered fairly well from his poor start in Seoul, winning five golds in his last five races.