The newspaper headline of 2008:
If the description of the four swimmers seems cartoonishly broad, at least it has accuracy on its side:
Forget for a moment the religious and ethic designations. The only race that counts in the Olympics is what happens in the pool, which brings us to Lezak, the self-coached, then 32-year-old who swam the anchor leg in the 4x100. Lezak will never get a tenth of the recognition of Phelps (instead of post-Beijing Guitar Hero commercials with
For those blinded by Phelps' dazzling eight-pack, we offer an abridged version of the most thrilling 46-plus seconds since the Detroit Lions began gathering footage for their 2008 highlight film:
Lezak, anchor of the Olympic 4x100 relay team since 2000, dove into the water about sixth-tenths of a second behind
Unless Lezak had a submarine waiting to carry him the final 50 meters, it appeared that he was not going to overtake the best swimmer in the world at that distance.
Then, a minor miracle occurred. Lezak, who to that point had never won an individual Olympic medal, pulled within half a length with 15 meters to go, then caught Bernard at the wall, touching first by .08. Said German coach
Lezak would return to The Michael Phelps Story, anchoring the 400-medley relay final to put the final punctuation mark on gold medal No. 8 -- a period that American swimming will never forget. Praise Phelps, sure, but don't forget Lezak and the rest of the foot soldiers. The King of Swimming performed in a pool, not a vacuum, as a cheeky Israeli newspaper reminded us all.