Jason Lezak was the hero in the 4×100 Freestyle Relay. Though Michael Phelps started off great in the first 100 meters, the team was trailing behind the anchor leg against Alain Bernard of France. But there was no way Lezak was going to let the French stay true to his word. With only 25 meters to go, Lezak slowly inched his way closer to Bernard while the crowd was wild with excitement. The two lunged for the wall together. Guess what?! The American Team won by a fingertip! His teammates, especially Phelps, went wild. They broke the world record set by the earlier American team in the prelims by almost a full 4 seconds!
The irony of it all is that Lezak is the oldest in the team at 32 years old. He was a full body length behind Bernard after the final turn. Yet, he managed to outswim the younger and stronger Frenchman. Even Bernard couldn’t believe what happened. By the time he realized the loss, the time was already registered on the clock and the Americans were already celebrating.
The win kept Phelp’s bid to break Mark Spitz’s 8 Olympic Gold medals still afloat. It was a sweet victory for the Americans following Alain Bernard’s promise to smash the team and get the gold. It was a close call though. There is no doubt that the French was a team that couldn’t be easily beat. However, Lezak’s spirit and the Americans’ will to take home the gold after losing it in the last 2 Olympics were more than what the French could handle. Maybe next time Bernard will know better than to rile the Americans and give them more motivation to get the gold. In sports, I still believe the mind and heart plays a large part in winning the game. Ask Jesse Owens how it felt to run the victory lap in the 1936 Berlin Olympics with Hitler watching in the sidelines at the height of his propaganda to promote Aryan supremacy.
Here’s a video of the last leg of the race for those who want to see how the the US won the 4×100 freestyle relay by a fingertip care of Jason Lezak.