"They always said, 'You know, the one like Mark Spitz with all the medals,'" McDonell laughed. "It was certainly an idea that occurred to us."
On Wednesday, Sports Illustrated will unveil its exclusive photo on newsstands across the country. On the cover, a grinning and bare-chested Phelps, 23, displays eight medals splayed across his chest in a nod to the man whose record he broke.
"It is not lost on me that the Spitz picture is one of the most popular and iconic photos in all of sports," McDonell said.
McDonell said the cover was a way to visually and instantly portray the "dominant" story of the week.
"This is about Michael going forward, this is an image that our readers and others will remember.""Chris and I were able to watch about 5 of his 8 gold medal wins. We were so nervous during the last relay event that I think we held our breath the whole race (not really cuz I can only hold my breath for about 20 seconds...). Both of us are 23, the same age as Michael Phelps, but I think he's a little bit more fit. Just a little. Anyways, here's my small tribute to this amazing athlete. Go USA!