Jason Lezak’s stirring anchor leg lifted the U.S. men’s 4×100-meter relay swimming team to the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics and a world record.
Lezak and another Jewish swimmer, Garrett Weber-Gale, comprised half the U.S. squad with Michael Phelps and Cullen Jones. The Americans finished Monday’s race in 3:08.24, erasing the world mark by about 4 seconds.
Lezak swam 46.06 seconds in managing to overtake world record-holder Alain Bernard of France. Lezak, who picked up his third career gold medal, trailed by nearly a second heading into the final lap. His time would have beaten his American record in the 100 freestyle.
Weber-Gale followed Phelps’ opening leg with a time of 47.02.
The U.S. team had beaten the world mark in the qualifying round with a team that did not include Lezak or Phelps but did have Ben Wildman-Tobriner, another Jewish swimmer.
Phelps has now earned two gold medals in his bid to win eight and break the mark of seven set by Mark Spitz, also a Jewish swimmer, in the 1972 Games in Munich.
On Saturday night, 41-year-old Dara Torres made history by becoming the oldest swimmer to win an Olympic medal when she anchored the U.S. women’s 4×100 freestyle relay team to a silver. The Netherlands won the race in a world record 3:33.76, with the Americans finishing in 3:34.33.
“As I’ve said from the beginning of this, age is just a number,” Torres, a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, told The New York Times.
For Torres, the first American swimmer to compete in five Olympics, it was her 10th medal.