What is the most remarkable single physical performance in Olympic history
Jason Lezak’s comeback on the anchor leg of the 4×100 free at the 2008 Olympics:
You all know the guy on the right, the most decorated Olympian ever. The guy on the left, that’s Jason Lezak, who led the most incredible comeback ever in the sport of swimming.
Before we get into it, a few things to remember
- The French were favored to win the race
- Michael Phelps was going for 8 gold medals; at the time Mark Spitz for the most gold medal’s in a single Olympics, with 7. He needed this race.
- Lezak was 32, relatively unknown, and past his swimming “prime.”
Going into the anchor leg, the U.S. was in second by about 7/10ths of a second, which is a lot in this relay, and Alain Bernard, one of the fastest 100m swimmers of all time, was on the blocks. Lezak had no choice but to ride the wave of this incredible French swimmer ahead of him. At one point, he was down by about 3/4 of a body-length, which seems insurmountable in such a short swim.
With 15 metres left in the race, Lezak was still behind by half a body-length.
8 seconds later, Lezak (bottom) had caught Bernard, the supposedly unconquerable 100m specialist.
In the end, Lezak swam a 46.06 split, which is UNREAL. It means he had perfect timing on his transition/jump into the water, a blistering stroke, and the greatest final 15m in the history of swimming.
For context, here’s how his 46.06 time stands up to this year’s US splits (these guys won the gold medal):
He was almost a full second faster than Nathan Adrian, who won the 100m individual in 2012.
At the 2016 Olympics, people made a huge deal about Phelp’s age, his mileage, etc. Remember that in 2008, Lezak was older than Phelps is right now. Lezak swam over a second faster, under crazy circumstances.