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Irvine Olympian Lezak wins gold in relay

August 11, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's being called one of the greatest comebacks in Olympic history. In a spectacular finish, Southern California swimmer Jason Lezak made up nearly a full body length in the final leg of the 400-meter freestyle relay to take gold for the U.S. Eyewitness News visited his home pool in Irvine.It was a race to remember, and replay, again and again: 32-year-old Jason Lezak amazed audiences around the world with his stunning come-from-behind win in the 400-meter freestyle relay.

Eyewitness News Reporter Melissa MacBride interviewed former Olympian John Mykkenan, who swims regularly with Jason Lezak in Irvine. Click here to watch former Olympian John Mykkenan talk about American swimmer Jason Lezak

The Irvine native kept gaining on Alain Bernard of France over half the length of the pool. Lezak wasn't about to lose. He says he got a super-charge -- at the end he lunged for the wall and touched .08 of a second ahead of Bernard, giving the U.S. the gold.

Nineteen-eighty-four Olympic silver medalist John Mykkanen was in awe.

"Unbelievable to watch," said Mykkanen. "I was yelling at the TV, I was getting tears in my eyes, it was fabulous."

Mykkanen swims with Lezak at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine. He says he thought the U.S. was destined to take silver in the event yet again.

"When I saw the deficit that he had to try and make up at the start, I thought, no way. That's too much," said Mykkanen. "To be almost a second behind, against the world-record-holder in that event, that's never been done."

Jason first started taking swimming lessons when he was 5 years old. People here at the Woollett Aquatics Center who have watched him grow up are extremely proud of what he's accomplished.

"I mean we're busting with pride, and he's not even our child," said business manager Kim Hoesterey. "He's just one of those kids you want to embrace and you love to see successfully because he's done such a great thing for swimming in our community."

Lezak coaches himself and spends nearly every day at the pool. The Nova Masters Swim Team considers him an inspiration.

"He does some things in practice that are just phenomenal," said Michael Collins, Nova Masters Swim Team Coach. "But he doesn't do thousands of yards to do it; he just does what he needs to, and when it comes to a super-big, important swim, he can do it like he did last night."

Lezak's race of a lifetime could help his teammate Michael Phelps in his bid to win eight gold medals. But Lezak says his goal was to swim his heart out for this country, a mission he accomplished in 46.06 seconds, the fastest relay leg in swimming history.

 

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