I love watching the Olympics. They are chock full of stories of triumph, teamwork, and sacrifice, interwoven with stories of heartbreak and disappointment. As my high school soccer coach would say, “It’s the stuff dreams are made of.”
Much bru-ha-ha has been made about Michael Phelps…and rightly so. I can’t help but be proud of a local Baltimore boy setting a goal and then making it happen. It’s awesome to watch him swim. If he were a man of faith like Eric Liddell, I could hear him saying, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I swim, I feel his pleasure.”
But for me, the biggest Olympic moment wasn’t brought to me by Michael. It was brought to me by the anchor leg of the men’s 4-by-100 relay that was swum by Jason Lezak.
Jason started his leg with lots of ground to make up. The man he was tasked to catch is the world record holder at that distance…and in all honesty, it didn’t look like Jason was going to be able to make up the gap. A lot was riding on this race…including potential heartbreak for Michael Phelps, and American pride after some smack talk by the French team. But after the turn, it was like something broke loose, and Jason started gaining. He said later in an interview that he thought to himself, “This is ridiculous. This is the Olympics. I can do this.” And he reached down somewhere and found the speed to swim the fastest 100-split of relay history at 46.06 seconds.
Because of Jason Lezak, the USA won the relay, kept Michael’s dream of eight gold medals alive, and demolished the old world record. But what makes the moment stand out to me (besides the incredible impossibility of it all) was Jason’s humility. He knew that the spotlight would shift right back to Michael and his quest for gold, and he was ok with that. Jason was quoted later saying, “I'm part of a team, and today was no different. I got with the guys and said, ‘We're not a 4-by-100 team. We're all one.’”
Now granted, I have a soft spot for team sports, and for side-kicks…but let’s face it: That amazing anchor leg, winning by a touch after making up a seemingly impossible margin…
That’s the stuff dreams are made of.