Monday, August 11, 2008

one moment in time.

I had tried to go to bed last night, but for some reason I couldn't get to sleep. So I turned on the TV. I'm really glad I did.

For anyone who did not see it last night, Michael Phelps won his second gold medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay. It was a team event, and though he was his usual stellar self, this was not his show. He would not have won this gold medal without Jason Lezak.

Lezak is the oldest guy on the team. He trains himself. And yesterday, he pulled off by far the greatest swim of his life--and what several people have called one of the greatest Olympic performances in history.

Lezak was trailing before he went into the water on the last leg of the 4x100 freestyle finals. And he was not just trailing anyone--he was behind the world record holder, Alain Bernard from France. With less than 50 meters to go, the announcers started talking about how France would win the gold, and America would get the silver.

They said: "I don't think he can do it." I have to wonder if Lezak heard them.

Amazingly, he started to close the gap. As the announcers started yelling, I leaned forward on my couch. As their pitch increased, with less than 25 meters to go, I stood up. In those final electrified seconds before a neck-and-neck Lezak and Bernard touched the wall, I stared at the screen as if it could tell me my future.

Time stopped.

Then I saw the Americans raise their hands in the air. Lezak did it. To put it into perspective, Phelps--the undisputed best swimmer in the world--put up a time of 47.51 on his leg of the race. Lezak, when it mattered most, put up a time of 46.06--nearly a second and a half faster. He had also come from behind to beat the man who held the world record.

At the moment I saw that the US won, I jumped in the air and pumped both my fists in the air--similar to the way Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones and millions of people watching on TV did. All of us watching--more or less at the same time--twitched with the excitement of the moment, synchronized in gestalt glee.

Lezak won by eight one hundredths of a second. A sliver of time. In ordinary circumstances, it would be easily forgotten. But this wasn't ordinary.

One German swimming coach that was watching said: "It was one of those moments where you just sit back and say, 'Jesus Christ.'" The American swimming coach said, "It has to be in the unbelievable category. That's the biggest word I know."

"Unbelievable," said Phelps.

"It really crossed my mind for a split second that there was no way," said Lezak. "Then I changed."

Yeah. He changed alright. France's team director said that it wasn't his team that lost, but "Lezak who won."

And he wasn't the only one.


Here's a replay of the race....

But if you get a chance, try to find the replay of Phelps' reaction to the win. I'm sure it'll be on YouTube at some point. The three phases of it are fantastic--his incessant cheering and gesticulating in Lezak's final push to the finish, the moment of wide-eyed anticipation as he looks up to the board to see the results, and the euphoric eruption upon seeing that the US won. It's fun to watch.

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At 2:26 PM, Anonymous erik said...

watched the video this morning; must have been special to view in real time! in four years, when credit card debt free, i will purchase a TV and cheer 'til red/white/blue in the face


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