Does the Miracle In The Water Equal The Miracle On Ice?
The place, Beijing, China, the setting, The Water Cube, the Miracle, The USA Men's 4×100 relay team, Messrs Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones and the man of the hour, 32 year old Jason Lezak.
The French relay team was the heavy favorite going into the men's 4×100 freestyle relay. French swimming star Alain Bernard claimed the French would crush the Americans.
The sporting world agreed. Even former US Olympic swimming great, Rowdy Gains agreed. During a TV pre race analysis he said he put it all down on paper and could not see any way possible for the US to win the gold.
The French had all the momentum going into the race, they were anchored by the 100 meter freestyle world record holder, Alain Bernard. Certainly the day would belong to France.
Once the lead off racers hit the water things changed, a prelude to the event about to unfold. First to fall was Bernard's 100 free style 100 meter world record, shattered by Australia's Eamon Sullivan, who first leg time was blistering 47.24 – destroying Bernard's world record of 47.50.
Swimming anchor was Jason Lezak, the oldest American on the team and anchor man of both the 2000 and 2004 US 4×100 mens free relay team. He faced an impossible task, going against Bernard in the final leg, behind.60 10ths of a second.
At the first 50 split, Bernard set a blistering pace, swimming the fastest 50 out of the 32 racers. His efforts save the France a.82 second lead with only 50 meters to go. As one sports writer put it, a lead even Greg Norman could not lose.
As Lezak made his turn, he too thought it was over and for the third straight Olympics the mens 4×100 relay team would be denied gold. Deciding to blow out his remaining energy, Lezak pulled as close as he could to Bernard's lane, drafting off his wake for 25 meters, inching ever closer.
The final 25 meters saw Lezack churning through the water for everything he was worth, turning in the fastest 100 meter split in Olympic history, 46.06. Good enough to out touch Bernard and the French by the tip of a finger.
Does this upset win equal that of the 1980 US Hockey Team over the Russians? According to Bernard's team mate, Amaury Leveaux, no it does not. A fingertip did the victory, "said Amaury Leveaux, one of the French swimmers." It is nothing. "Mr. Leveaux does that mean the Eiffel Tower is just a" means nothing "pile of beams, girders and bolts?
Does this American victory deserve to rank next to Olympic upsets like the 1980 Miracle On Ice?
Lets review. The opening leg saw a new world individual record for the 100 meter free style set by Australia's Eamon Sullivan. Five of the teams entered in the 4×100 free style relay broke the existing world record set earlier in the week by the American B Team.
Thirty two year old Jason Lezak makes up a half body length and a.82 seconds deficit in the final 50 meters turning in the fastest 100 meter split in Olympic history of 46.06, besting Sullivan's new world record of 47.24 and out touching the French by 8 one hundreds of a second.
Not only did 5 teams beat the previous world record, the Americans beat it by an astonishing 3.99 seconds.
It is this writers opinion that the event itself is now an Olympic legend and the winning USA Team has earned its rightful place in both Olympic and American folklore right next to United States Olympic Hockey Team of 1980.
Only the lead off swimmers times can be new world records for individual events.