By In Stuff

The Greatest Comeback Ever

So my buddy Mel Stewart sent me an email tonight — he said that Jason Lezak retired.

Jason Lezak.

Jason Lezak?

Mel’s email: “Lezak anchored the 4×100 relay in Beijing …”

OHHHHH. Jason Lezak. The name might only sound vaguely familiar, but the race … unforgettable. It remains one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, one of the most amazing things any one of us has ever seen. You didn’t have to be a swim fan. You didn’t have to know anything about swimming. You didn’t even have to be a sports fan. This was  Beijing, when Michael Phelps was trying for eight gold medals, Lezak was indeed anchoring his 4×100 relay.

And France was basically a full body length ahead of the U.S. when Lezak hit the water. This was daunting enough. But it just so happened that the Frenchman who was a full body length ahead was Alain Bernard, who happened to be the world record holder in the 100-meter freestyle. So, basically, the race was over.

Only … it wasn’t over at all. It was, instead, just beginning.

Watch the whole amazing thing … or fast forward to about 3:00 and watch the optical illusion and listen as disbelieving announcers come to understand just what they are seeing.

You can read a lot more about Lezak’s retirement on Mel’s fabulous swim site, SwimSwam.

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10 Responses to The Greatest Comeback Ever

  1. nick says:

    That clip still gives me goosebumps.

  2. steve2222 says:

    I am not American, but i will remember the name Jason Lezak forever. It gave me goosebumps then and it gives me goosebumps now. Look at the faces of the French swimmers, they cant believe they were beaten, that was amazing sporting theatre.

  3. brhalbleib says:

    Feel bad for the French 3rd leg swimmer, he swam a hell of a race, to have the anchor guy cough it all back up in the last 50 meters

  4. Jeff Russell says:

    This and the Rulon Gardner/Karelin match are my two favorite non-home-city-affiliated sports moments of my 28 year life. Two non-superstars overcoming incredible odds against the best opposition on the biggest stage.

  5. David in NYC says:

    Puts me in mind of this, from the 1964 Summer Olympics: Bob Hayes runs the anchor leg of the 4×100 relay, making up a similar deficit, leading the US team to a gold medal and (at the time) world record 39.06 seconds.

    I remember reading an article about the race (Sport magazine, IIRC), specifically about the guys hand-timing the event. At the time, the world record for 100 metres was 10.0 seconds (by Hayes, in the same Olympics). Granted, Hayes had a running start in the relay, but there is also the baton pass involved.

    Anyway, in the article, one of the hand-timers looks at his stopwatch at the end of the race and says, “That can’t be right. I have Hayes in 8.9; that’s impossible.” To which the second guy says, “Yeah, that’s gotta be wrong. I have him in 8.5.”

  6. y42k says:

    Greatest comeback ever: Red Sox down 0-3 in the 2004 ALCS.

    Actually, “Greatest comeback ever” would be a great topic for a curiously long post, Joe.

  7. This moment, Landon Donovan’s last-second World Cup goal against Algeria, and Boise St. vs. Oklahoma are my favorite finishes to sporting events of all time.

  8. It remains one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, one of the most amazing things any one of us has ever seen.


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