FanDuel - WFBC

August 11, 2008

Jason Lezak's Unbelievable Freestyle Relay Swim: The final leg of the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay may be the most stunning achievement thus far in the Summer Olympics. American Jason Lezak entered the pool a half-second behind Alain Bernard of France, who had said earlier that they would "smash" the Americans. Only 46.06 seconds later, Lezak touched 0.08 seconds before Bernard to claim the gold -- the fastest anchor leg ever by 0.73 seconds. See the video.

posted by rcade to olympics at 07:05 PM - 19 comments

Incredible event. But does anyone else think NBC and media are playing up the Phelps angle of this accomplishment too much? There are four swimmers in the event. The victory matters more than just the prospect of keeping Phelps' eight gold hopes alive.

posted by rcade at 07:34 PM on August 11

How appropriate that the guy running his mouth couldn't back up the talk? Lezak had an incredible swim (best relay split ever), but Bernard also faltered with about 20 meters to go. There's a lot of second-guessing of the relay order and criticism of Bernard for giving the Americans extra motivation.

This was the one event that was going to make or break Phelp's attempt at eight golds. I thought he did a good job of deflecting questions: "there are a lot of swims to go."

posted by dusted at 07:56 PM on August 11

...does anyone else think NBC and media are playing up the Phelps angle of this accomplishment too much?

A bit. As time passes it's more likely that the general public will remember Phelps accomplishments in these Olympics more than his teammates, whether he surpasses Spitz or not. However, the fact that the media has chosen to cover the games this way does contribute to that eventuality quite heavily.

The victory matters more than just the prospect of keeping Phelps' eight gold hopes alive.

Agreed. But for the "General Public" which largely ignores amateur athletics outside of the Olympics, "names" like Phelps, LeBron, May & Walsh will draw viewers and hopefully steer them towards "lesser known" athletes.

posted by lilnemo at 08:18 PM on August 11

I don't think the media is playing up the Phelps angle too much because I feel that Lezak really has been given credit where credit is due. The Phelps story is huge and this was the one nobody expected him to get. It's not like they're giving Phelps the credit for the win, which would obviously be ridiculous. But if it wasn't for Phelps' involvement I can't imagine that the French would've been talking in the first place, plus now I can name 2 male swimmers for team USA.

posted by captaincavegirl at 08:26 PM on August 11

I don't know how NBC could avoid playing up the Phelps angle. To me, he is a once in a lifetime type deal. Still, Lezak has probably entered Olympic legend with that swim. I can't think of enough superlatives to use to describe that swim.

Blaming Bernard seems lame. His split was fantastic, but Lezak was just better.

posted by bperk at 08:27 PM on August 11

Armstrong riding uphill Walter Payton scoring a touchdown Jordan hitting a game winner Reggie Jackson Homering in the playoffs Ali knocking Foreman out

Phelps...no wait Make that Lezak's leg of the WR relay.

posted by sportsblitz at 08:43 PM on August 11

Of course they are. The entire damned time the U.S. team was standing waiting for medals, all they could talk about was Phelps and how this kept him in the running to break Spitz's record.

Hey, guys? The fellow who swam the race of his life AND saved Phelps's bacon is only 10 feet away! Could you focus on him?

Not a fucking chance.

posted by wfrazerjr at 08:53 PM on August 11

The Phelps of the world get a ton of pre-Olympic attention, but every four years, the really great stories are about the Lezaks - formerly unsung athletes who rise to the occasion and stun us. Well done, Mr. Lezak. Well done.

posted by Joey Michaels at 10:01 PM on August 11

Wow, simply, Wow... what Lezak did!!! Sorta like some very good horse running down Secretariat in the stretch. It looked like he was up on top of the water that last 20 meters!!

posted by Fly_Piscator at 11:48 PM on August 11

But does anyone else think NBC and media are playing up the Phelps angle of this accomplishment too much?

Oh, maybe a bit, but I was much more annoyed that NBC and the media were way too effing giddy to play up the France v. US matchup more than they were the Phelps ascpect.

Let's face it: during the Cold War, there was always the US v. USSR thing where it was all "good v. evil" and "us v. them" and it kept so many more people tuned in. During this Olympics, NBC (and its affiliates) are stretching to keep USians interested in a sport they're not used to watching. Having a shifty enemy helps.

By no means am I trying to take anything away from Lezak's performance. I mean, hell, it was phenomenal, and worthy of all the praise that it's getting. I'm also glad to see any cocky asshat eat his flipper, regardless of nationality.

I just wonder if it were the, say, South African team or the Aussie team if it would have gotten so much hype.

Not to mention, I've watched a *lot* of swimming this year, and .08 is hardly a pounding. Hell, it's only two beers.

posted by Ufez Jones at 01:35 AM on August 12

Thorpe talking about Phelps got a lot of hype as well, so I don't think it has anything to do with what other country the talking shit athlete comes from. Any story that helps create an us vs. them scenario works.

posted by bperk at 08:09 AM on August 12

It wasn't just a French team, though, Ufez. It was an arrogant French team that vowed to smash the Americans. That's too good for the media to pass up.

posted by rcade at 09:40 AM on August 12

While I've oft bitched about network sports announcers' propensity to focus on storyline instead of just calling the game/race/match, I actually thought this worked out amazingly well. Going into the race I wasn't that invested in Phelps' quest for 8 golds and the shit talking from Thorpedo and the French...just seemed like more network hype. As the race went on I thought it was unfortunate that Phelps was going to lose out on a gold because the French team was just too good, but that's why getting 8 golds is so tough. Then when Lezak made his move, I just started freaking out. My poor downstairs neighbors...

Despite all the hype, there were so many cool elements to this story, it actually lived up to the advance billing. Phelps' quest for 8 golds continues, Lezak delivers one of the finest Olympic performances I've ever seen (and the look on his face on the medal podium was awesome), and FIVE relay teams broke the previous world record!

posted by Venicemenace at 10:05 AM on August 12

It wasn't just a French team, though, Ufez. It was an arrogant French team that vowed to smash the Americans. That's too good for the media to pass up.

Yeah, I realize that, and the NBC broadcast of the Olympics are the epitome of shoving contrived story-lines down your throat in an attempt to make you pay attention. I just kind of fear this will serve as great fodder for the right-wing radio nutjobs to harp on for hours on end.

It was a great race and a fantastic athletic accomplishment. I just wish we could leave it at that.

posted by Ufez Jones at 03:47 PM on August 12

Don't get me wrong; what Lezak did was amazing. However the ONLY reason he swam such a fast leg is because Bernard allowed him to do so. Bernard broke a cardinal rule in competitive swimming. He swam right up again the lane divider between him and Lezak for almost the entire final 50m. Lezak was smart enough to notice this and drafted off him. Allowing him to easily close the gap while still saving his energy for the final push. Bernard swims in the middle of his lane or on the other side and the French win. I was absolutely astonished to see a swimmer of Bernard's caliber make such a rookie mistake.

posted by camcanuck at 05:12 PM on August 12

This sort of shit talking and 'rivalry' seems to be a feature of the Mens 4x100. Does anyone remember Gary Hall Jr.'s "We'll smash them like guitars" in 2000? And the Aussie response after they'd won? All good fun, and Gary Hall Jr. remains extremely popular in Australia.

It seems to be only media nut jobs who take this 'sport is war by other means' thing seriously. The swimmers don't.

posted by owlhouse at 05:49 PM on August 12

Wonder how long before the French accuse Lezak of juicing...

posted by MeatSaber at 06:32 PM on August 12

Wonder how long before the French accuse Lezak of juicing...

Less time than it took you to accuse them of accusing Lezak.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 07:27 AM on August 13

Sad is the day when one cannot display true greatness, yet still be questioned by those who know little.

posted by knowsalittle at 07:19 AM on August 15

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