Jason Lezak made the impossible possible on 11 August 2008. When theÂ USAÂ swimmer hit the water in the anchor leg of theÂ menâ€™s 4x100mÂ freestyle relay final, he was more than half-a-body length behind Franceâ€™s Alain Bernard â€“ the man who had gone into the race as the 100m freestyle world record holder. Teammate Michael Phelpsâ€™ uber-hyped assault on fellow swimmer Mark Spitzâ€™s legendary record of seven gold medals in one Olympic Games appeared dead and buried. But over the course of the next 46.06 seconds Lezak turned the world upside down.
â€œA lot of times I watch it now as if I am a spectator not the swimmer and honestly I canâ€™t believe it happened,â€ Lezak said with an infectious laugh. â€œForget the speed or the times, he (Bernard) was the world record holder so you wouldnâ€™t imagine someone to pass him from that distance.â€
Almost 11 years have passed, but Lezak can recall almost every stroke he took.
â€œThere were obviously lots of nerves before and during the race, but once it got to the point where Cullen (Jones, the USAâ€™s third-leg swimmer) is coming in and I am standing on the block, everything just went away. I was in the zone, I was where I needed to be, focused on doing my race for my team,â€ Lezak explained.
â€œOn the first 50m I was breathing to my right and he was on my left, so I didnâ€™t really peek to see where he was because I knew that would slow me down. As I got to the 50m (mark) I saw he had increased the lead and my motivation wasnâ€™t very strong. I was thinking, â€˜Oh the world record holder is even further ahead of meâ€™.â€
So far, so predictable perhaps. But something changed when the USA man turned for home and began swimming towards his teammates, Phelps and all.
â€œComing off that wall I felt better than I had probably ever felt before, swimming as fast as I had swum that first 50m. I honestly think my body was just reacting to the situation,â€ Lezak said, the excitement still evident in his voice.
â€œThe next 50m I could see him breathing every stroke and as I got closer and closer, I had the motivation to go. And I felt another surge of adrenaline, which wasnâ€™t something I had ever felt before. That enabled me to keep my speed up all the way into the wall.â€