Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ah Merde, Ces Gars-là Sont Rapides

That means "Oh shit, these guys are fast" in French. The French went on record as saying "The Americans? We're going to smash them. That's what we came here for" before the 4x100 free relay. The French came into the race as favorites, and they didn't disappoint; although you couldn't script a better ending to a race then this one. The event started with a team of Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones, Ben Wildman- Torbriner, and Matt Grievers, posting a World Record time of 3.12.23 in the qualifying heats. Three of the four swimmers on that relay team wouldn't even race in the finals for team USA. The finals were about as hyped up as a swimming race can be, with team France providing the USA with some bulletin board material. Team USA fielded a finals team of Michael Phelps, Garett Webber- Gale, Cullen Jones, and Jason Lezak. Everyone was writing the Americans off early, saying that every American team member needed to swim "the perfect race" for them to have a chance to win. Phelps led the race off for team USA, with Leveaux leading off for France. It was the Aussies though, that took the early lead, with Sullivan going out in 22.48 and coming back in 24.76 to put the Australians in first after the first hundred meters; everyone knew it would take a World Record to win the relays after team USA's showing in the prelims, but five teams were under the world record after the first leg. Fast forward to the last lap, with France leading with a total time of 2.42.86. Bernard was the anchor for France, and Lezak for the USA; Bernard went out in 21. 27, and Lezak in 21.50, so Team France was leading by a hair with 50 meters to go. That's when the magic happened. A great turn by Lezak, coupled with Bernard slowly dying, led to a virtual tie at the backstroke flags, 7 meters to go. Lezak was coming on really strong, but the cushion Bernard had built for himself during the first 50 meters ultimately saved him.

Lezak just touched Bernard out at the wall, with Bernard taking an extra stroke he didn't need to, which added critical time. Lezak came back in 24.56, for a split time of 46.06, and Bernard came back in 25.46 for a 46.73 split. When all was said and done, three teams were under the old World Record, but it was Team USA with a time of 3.08.24 beating out France's time of 3.08.32 by eight hundredths of a second. Team USA had claimed the gold medal from favorite France, as well as setting the World Record for the second time that day.