If you have a lane, you have a chance.
Brendan Hansen, 30, who secured a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympic 100-meter breaststroke today with outside heat from Lane 8, is one of the greatest "Comeback Kid" stories of these Olympic Games.
Hansen, USA's most dominant male breaststroker for more than a decade, finished third with a time of 59.49 seconds. Australia's Christian Sprenger finished with a time of 58.93 and the new world-record holder, without the non-textile suits, Cameron Van Der Burgh of South Africa finished at 58.46
As if that weren't spectacular enough, Hansen went on to be a critical leg in the winning USA Men's 4x100 Medley Relay--helping to secure Michael Phelps 20th gold medal and end his historic career on an emotional high note.
The father-to-be and co-captain of his fourth Olympic U.S. swim team retired after 2008 following a disappointing U.S. Olympic Trials and 2008 Olympic non-individual medal. This was despite his gold medal in the 4x100-meter U.S. men's medley relay that helped secure Michael Phelps a record-breaking eight gold medals in one Olympic Games.
After having garnered silver and bronze to his longtime rival Kosuke Kitajima of Japan in 2004 and then a world-record holder in 2008 without hitting the podium in an individual event, Hansen said he needed to walk away after almost a lifetime of swimming.
But he didn't walk, he actually ran, biked and swam open water becoming a champion triathlete. At the same time he continued to encourage kids as a Mutual of Omaha Olympic representative and a champion of USA age-group swimming. But he focused more on his personal life, marrying sweetheart Martha Hansen, raising two dogs and just being Brendan Hansen, lover of life and not as a competitive international swimmer.
As 2012 approached, and Hansen began having more fun in the pool training for his triathlons, his wife asked him, when he was 40 years old and they had children running around if he would be satisfied with not going after a medal in the 2012 Olympics. His answer?
"Probably,” to which she replied (h/t Karen Crouse, The New York Times), “Well, I don’t want to live with that person so get your butt in the water.”
Hansen added: “I totally overachieved with my wife. There’s not a day goes by that I’m not thankful I met her.”
Back to the pool he went with a newfound love and dedication, as he was no longer the hunted, nor the hunter, just a 30-year-old former Olympian on a comeback trail that was more about him fulfilling his own demons and desires and not for anyone else.
The result? After only nine months of serious training, the four-time Olympic gold medalist finished first in the 100-meter breaststroke in the stacked U.S. Olympic Trials but failed to make the 200-meter breast, his signature race.
For Hansen, that didn't matter.
What mattered to him was being a part of the USA Olympic 2012 team, soon being named one of its captains and enjoying every moment, encouraging the newcomers, supporting the veterans and giving his all toward his dream of getting on the Olympic medal stand.
All of it was accomplished and done so in Lane 8.
His face after the bronze-medal victory? Priceless.
A fist pump, a call-out to his fans and USA teammates, and then a love note to his parents who helped raise the Olympian that he had become.
It took a lot of hard work as a veteran to come back and beat his longtime friendly rival Kitajima, whose scream after winning gold in 2004 Hansen served as his alarm every morning for motivation for years before Beijing.
More than that, the decorated Olympic swimmer and by far the most dominant USA male breaststroker from 2001 to 2008 and now 2012 said, according to Jason Devaney, that his bronze medal was his "favorite medal."
The love for this humble, breaststroke phenom came in from all over the world, particularly from his longtime USA fans and supporters. Included was Josh Davis, Olympic medalist and believer in Hansen, who announced his mother's death the same day that Hansen announced he and his wife were pregnant.
Hansen replied to Davis and all of his fans that he did hear them. "I took that lane 8 opportunity & turned it into this!! Just want every1 to know I heard u screaming at ur TV #TeamUSA."
As a journalist who's had the pleasure to interview Hansen when he lost his Olympic gold medal on a plane but later had it returned by a kind women, and as a swim coach and mother of three swimmers whom have had the great experience of meeting Hansen, delighting in his humor, his inspiration, his low-key, non-Olympic-star like effervescence...we, along with his hundreds of thousands of fans, could not be more proud of this epic USA swimmer.
The moral of the story? Be who you are, never give up, listen to your instincts and know that if you have a lane at the Olympic finals you deserve to be there and have a chance to take the podium if you give it everything you have.
The shouts in my living room and around the world were heard for this veteran swimmer, soon-to-be-papa, comeback kid and one of the greatest ambassadors of the sport of USA swimming.
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