(Cough, Cough, Cough, Wheeeeeeze)
Pardon me (Cough, Cough)
I just about tore my lungs away from their moorings.
In one mighty whoop of exuberance, I’ve lost my voice and am still feeling a bit dumbfounded.
And I’m happy too, sitting here smiling like a moron.
You see I’ve just watched the final of the Men’s 4x100 freestyle relay, and about lost my mind.
For those of you who’ve been tracking my recent posts regarding the Olympics, you have probably gleaned a fairly cynical attitude when it comes to my opinion of the games.
I’ve written about my suspicion that Dara Torres is doping, and building on this, wrote an abbreviated rant about how it seems that EVERYONE is doping. The sum total of those two articles might make you think that I’m a just a hater. That I’m some venom spitting moron with a loud-mouth opinion.
Well I won’t deny all these allegations!
But in essence, I am really a lover of the Olympics. I love them enough to get upset when I suspect foul play in what is supposed to be the purest form of competition. And so I explored that a little and came away with a couple of decent rants.
But let’s get back to what is soooooooooooo good about the Olympics.
That being France looking stupid on the world stage.
For those of you that missed it, the favored French swimmers had been quoted as saying that they would “smash” the U.S. squad including golden boy Michael Phelps in his quest to win eight gold medals. Most pundits at least agreed that the U.S. had to swim the perfect race to even have a chance.
What resulted was an epic battle that is already being hailed as one of the best relay races of all time.
Phelps swam the lead leg, keeping the U.S. in second place and closely behind the Australians who set a lead-leg world record. In the next two legs the French gained ground, and were in front entering the final swim, with their dominating anchorman and 100m world record holder, Alain Bernard, off the blocks perhaps a second in front of the U.S.
Enter Veteran Jason Lezak.
Swimming the anchor for the U.S. team, Lezak swam the perfect race, positioning himself immediately next to the lane-marker so he could draft off Bernard’s wake. At the turn, Bernard was over a body length ahead and it looked doubtful that Lezak could overtake the powerful Frenchman. With 25 meters left, Lezak made his move, drifting back into the center of his lane and charging down the stretch, with each stroke making up an inch of distance.
As 20 meters became 15 and then 10, he kept coming. But was there enough pool left?
It was impossible to tell.
At this point I was screaming at the television.
I was on my feet, inches from the screen, and absolutely apoplectic.
I was red in the face and roaring for my countrymen, against the French, on the world’s biggest stage, in one of the greatest races of all-time.
And still he gained.
In the final five meters, they were neck and neck, with Lezak a foot behind, but still swimming strong.
And as the veins in my temples nearly exploded, the U.S. out-touched the French by .08 of a second, while shattering the world record.
Lezak’s final leg of 46.0 seconds was the fastest anchor leg in history, brought home the gold for the U.S., and almost single-handedly kept Michael Phelps’ goal of eight gold medals alive. Phelps should consider giving Lezak a small endorsement percentage if he actually accomplishes his ultimate Olympic glory.
When the two swimmer’s touched no one could be sure who actually won, and in the brief agonizing moment between the end of the race and the posting of times, I knew I loved the Olympics again.
I always have.
As the Frenchmen's pomp turned into ashen stares, and the Americans matched my screams of jubilation, I could feel the cynicism melting away in this brilliantly framed moment.
Like the sun beaming through the heavy clouds.