Monday, August 11, 2008

Day 3 RECAP: Thrilling U.S. Relay Win Provides Most Exciting Moment of Games

The third day of competition is in the books at the Games of the XXIX Olympiad and the buzz across the globe still surrounds the epic and thrilling win by the United States in the 4x100 meter freestyle relay that produced the most exciting moment of these games so far.

The Miraculous Race in Perspective
Newspapers, TV news programs and blog sites (including this one) are talking about the exciting final that was seen live in the eastern and central time zones in the final half hour of primetime on NBC last night. The race that was won by the United States in world record time is being spun in a variety of different ways, including "Miraculous!," "An Instant Classic!, "One for the Ages!" and "Historic!". And you can only imagine the heartbreak in France as the team that was heavily favored to win lost in the final stroke.

The aspect of the race that most of the American media is focusing on is how Jason Lezak, the captain of the men's swimming team that anchored the historic race, kept Michael Phelps's bid for a record eight gold medals alive. Phelps is 2-for-2 and is also two gold medals away from being the most decorated Olympian ever.

For Lezak, this was just redemption for the previous two relays that he has anchored in the last two Olympiads. In 2000, the favored American team lost to Australia and then in Athens, lost to South Africa and the Netherlands. Now in Beijing, Lezak brought the gold back to the United States in the most dramatic way possible.

Cullen Jones was also part of this epic story that unfolded on Day 3. In qualifying on Sunday night, Jones was part of the relay team that set a world record and became the fastest qualifying team coming into the finals. But only one member of that team would be able to be part of the U.S. team that would race in the finals. The Bronx-born, New Jersey-native who nearly drowned at the age of five was chosen and he would swim the third leg, which would provide the dramatic setting as France started to pull away.

Of course there was all that hype and talk before the race, mainly by France's Alain Bernard, on how France will smash the Americans. At the time, it looked like that statement would hold true. NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines said that he's looked at this race multiple times and could not imagine the United States overtaking France. Bernard is the reigning world record holder in the 100 meter free and France had two other great sprinters to power them. How could France lose?

But they did. And even if none of these storylines existed, the race itself was spectacular. Five of the eight teams that finished broke the old world record that the United States had set in the preliminaires. The U.S. smashed that record by nearly four seconds. And that was just icing on the cake. The race was decided by eight one-hundredths of a second. Eight is a pretty significant number in China as it is supposed to mean good luck. I don't think the margin of victory was a coincidence.

The United States won in a time of 3:08.24. Those three minutes could very well be the most exciting three minutes in Olympic history. It capped an incredible night in swimming when records fell almost everywhere. Japan's Kosuke Kitajima won the men's 100 meter breaststroke in world record time while American Brendan Hansen finished outside of the medals. There was added disappointment for the United States as American Katie Hoff was outtouched by Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington, winning Britain's first swimming medal.

And to think, it's only Day 3 of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.

See also:
Lezak Lifts U.S. in "Best Ever" Relay (Yahoo! Sports)
Lezak, not Phelps, Puts on A Show (NY Times)
Lezak's Swim is One For the Ages (

Other Highlights from Day 3:
- China Two-for-Two In Diving
Lin Yue and Huo Liang kept a possible Chinese sweep of the diving medals alive when they dominated the competition in the Men's 10m Synchronized Platform Diving final.
China divers go 2-for-2 at Beijing Olympics 9:40 am EDT (AP)

- Fencng: Italy wins Historic Gold, Bronze in Women's Individual Foil
Valentina Vezzali won her record third conseutive gold medal in the women's individual foil competition after breaking a 5-5 tie in the final seconds of the third period.
Fencing, Phelps carry Team USA 10:04 am EDT (Yahoo! Sports)

- Upsets Headline Quarterfinal Action in Badminton
Champion Hidayat makes early exit 10:55 am EDT (Reuters)
Japanese duo upset defending champs in badminton 11:02 am EDT (AP)

Medal Standings (courtesy of
Overall medal standings - 66 of 440 medal events complete


So that's Day 3. Time for me to get some sleep as we gear up for an action packed Day 4. NOW Sports will provide a preview later tonight.

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