The Anchor: Jason Lezak's Golden Leg

Jason Lezak
Jason Lezak

On the morning of August 11, 2008, American swimming sensation, and UCSB graduate, Jason Lezak anchored one of the most thrilling relays in the history of swimming. 

Lezak launched himself off the block to anchor the 4x100 freestyle relay as the United States team trailed the French team by almost one second.  As Lezak approached the last wall, French world recorder-holder, Alain Bernard was still a full body length ahead.  Lezak did not let his position discourage him, as he powered off the wall and began to rapidly creep-up on Bernard.  The twosome went stroke-for-stroke as they came into the finish, but Lezak drove into the wall out-touching his competitor by .08 seconds. 
Everything about Lezak's anchor leg was executed to perfection.  He recorded the fastest time in the history of the event and had a perfectly timed reaction split of .04 seconds, which allowed the United States to shatter the world record by four seconds and come home with a gold.   

Lezak is a California native, who grew up in Irvine. He emerged as a top-notch swimmer in high school and earned himself a scholarship to UCSB where he continued to excel in the pool. During his junior year, though, head coach Gregg Wilson dismissed Lezak from the team due to his poor attitude and sportsmanship. Lezak signed a contract, apologized to his teammates, and was ultimately allowed back on the UCSB swimming team.  He finished out his college career by setting school records in the 50 and 100 free and garnering NCAA All-American honors in both events. 

Two years after graduating UCSB, Lezak made his first U.S. Olympic Team and swam the third leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay at the Sydney Olympics and won a silver medal. During the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Lezak was the American record-holder in the 100 freestyle, but failed to make it into the final heat to compete for a medal. Later in the meet he anchored the 4x100 freestyle relay, bringing home a bronze and swam the 50 freestyle, finishing fifth.  In 2008, Lezak was the oldest member on the team, but managed to come out with two gold medals and a bronze.

Jason Lezak, now 36, just claimed the final spot of the 4x100 freestyle relay as he qualified for his fourth Olympics earlier this month in Omaha, Nebraska. He has also been named as one of the five team captains for the U.S. Olympic Swim team, an honor that was also bestowed upon him for the 2008 Games.