By Sarah Tolar
LONG BEACH, August 4. IT was the evening of March 10, 1996, inside the IUPUI Natatorium and history was about to be made. Twenty-six year old Byron Davis stepped up to lane four, for the final of the 100 butterfly, poised to become the first African-American swimmer to qualify for the US Olympic Team.
He touched at the 50 meter mark with the lead – in fact, at 24.05, it was the fastest 50 fly ever recorded – only seconds from realizing his Olympic berth…and then he turned for home fifty meters from fulfilling his dream, then forty, then thirty. He could feel his muscles tightening up and was visibly fighting the pain. But with twenty meters to go, it looked like he could hold on-
With 10 meters to go, Mark Hendereson caught him, then John Hargis. Another few agonizing strokes, and he was at the wall…fourth.
It was a gallant performance – so close to fulfilling that dream he could almost taste it.
Now, eight years later, Byron remains as big a part of the sport as ever. Despite not realizing his Olympic dream, he has realized that he’s happy with the way things have turned out.
Listen as Byron describes his infamous 100 butterfly final from the ’96 Trials, why he has no regrets and what Wheaties has to do with it.