Last night I witnessed swimming history. I watched what most believe to be the greatest swimming relay of all-time. A race that featured five teams break the previous world record for the event. Five teams! A race where two teams shattered the mark. But only one was victorious. That team, was the U.S.A.
To kick off the match, the greatest swimmer of all-time, Michael Phelps, hit the water first for the U.S. Just an hour after Phelps had swam in a qualifier, he was forced to put his stamina and endurance to the test in the 4x100 meter freestyle relay. In the first 50 meters Phelps looked drained, but he turned on the jets on the way back, closing the gap behind the leader to practically nothing. Weber-Gale's turn was next. He did exactly what was expected of him, gaining the lead for the U.S. The third swimmer in the relay was Cullen Jones, the young, rising star for the U.S. He swam hard, but the French were too much. By the time he touched the wall he had fallen behind by roughly .60 seconds.
The final man to hit the water was Jason Lezak. He was matched up against one of the best in the world, Alain Bernard of France, who already held the .60 second lead mentioned earlier. The same man that had earlier made a statement about the Americans saying, "We're going to smash them. That's what we came here for". By the time Lezak made the turn at the wall, Bernard's lead had grown to .82 seconds. The announcer had already declared France the winner. There was nothing the U.S. could do. It was insurmountable.
But Jason Lezak was tired of losing. He refused to quit, as he desperately tried to catch the wave of Bernard. As they raced down the stretch I think myself and all of America watching found ourselves saying, "Come on. Go, go, go!", as Lezak slowly cut the gap on Bernard. The tension in my family room was on the rise, and I found myself nervous for a swimming match as it came to the closing seconds. Finally, trailing with only 5 meters left, Lezak was right there with Bernard needing an improbable surge for the Gold. He reached within himself and found just that in the last meter. Staring into the eyes of Bernard in the last moment, Lezak outstretched the Frenchmen, touching the wall just 8 hundredths of a second before Bernard. My family and I sat in silence for the second it took to put up United States with a #1 next to it in their lane. Once it was up, an outburst of celebration erupted in my family room. Many friends of mine found themselves screaming in joy. It was truely a unified American moment.
This race epitomized the Olympics at its best. This was why we watch. What a triumphant moment it was for America. The exuberance on Phelps' and the other swimmers' faces said it all. It was a feeling everyone watching in the States must have felt. I know I did. Let's hope the rest of the Olympics can be just as exciting and entertaining, and bring us more moments that make us feel proud to be an American.
Hey France, that just happened!
Image taken from Yahoo! Sports