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Swimming: Thank Lezak, thank the French, love the Olympics

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I suppose the question now is: Whom do we love more, Michael Phelps or Jason Lezak?

Or the whole French relay team?

The men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay today was one of those events to make NBC think spending $894 million to broadcast the Beijing Games was a bargain. The French relay team had said they would “smash” the Americans. And they so nearly did.

Until anchor Lezak made that final turn.

Can a single man save the Olympics? That’s a silly thing to say. But for about 60 seconds, as Frederick Bousquet put inch after inch between himself and Cullen Jones in the third leg of the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay, the revelation was like a lead weight on Jones’ ankle:

If the US finished second – if Michael Phelps’ phenomenal quest had ended virtually before it had begun – the entire American Olympics would have been diminished. Hardly ruined, of course. Not nearly.

But if the men’s 4 x 100 relay told us anything, it was that we live for drama and suspense.

I can only imagine what the French nation thought as US anchor Lezak closed in on Alain Bernard, one of the best swimmers in the world, in the last leg. With five feet to go, Bernard still had the lead.

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