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The Olympic Games provide a brief respite from all of the turmoil going on in the world around us.
It’s an opportunity once every four years to focus on the truly great accomplishments of our own, and others’ countrymen and women.
It’s a time when the political conversations (save the Edwards/Hunter drama) cease for a few weeks, and we focus on what is great about this world instead of what’s not.
The Olympics won’t make gas prices go down or the housing market go up, but they will, at least for a short time, give us something else to think and talk about.
It’s not the Super Bowl or the World Series—it’s better.
The athletes in the Olympics don’t have a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, like most professional athletes, but rather a single piece of gold for which they’ve trained almost their entire lives.
It’s powerful to watch. I can’t help but get emotional during the Olympics. Each story of the athlete’s personal triumphs seems to be more inspiring than the next.
Every athlete has a story; every athlete has overcome some adversity or hardship to become an Olympian, some more difficult than others. But they all share determination, ferocity and a dream to be the best of the best.
Last Sunday night, from 12 time zones away, I watched like the rest of the world, as American swimmer Jason Lezak gunned down the American’s rivals, the favored and flamboyant French team, for the gold medal in the 400 meter free relay.
I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.
It’s not just that the Americans won the gold medal that was so incredible; it’s how it was done. As anchor on the 400 meter free relay, Lezak swam the fastest split ever—46.06.
No person has ever swum that fast before. And nothing less than Lezak’s perfect swim would have been enough to capture the gold, giving Michael Phelps his second gold of the games and keeping his hopes alive to capture history with eight individual gold medals.
They’ve replayed that relay several times; each time I get chills watching it.
My N.C. State teammate, Cullen Jones, swam third on the relay and is now an Olympic champion, which added to my anticipation as I watched him be a part of one of the greatest sports moments of all time.
Lezak didn’t go on to capture the gold a few days later in the individual 100-meter freestyle, the man he chased down won. Instead Lezak earned his first individual Olympic medal—a bronze he shares with Cesar Cielo Filho of Brazil.
But years from now, Lezak won’t be remembered for what he didn’t win.
He’ll be remembered for what he did. I hope the next time ESPN puts together its 100 best sports moments of all time TV shows, they consider this one for the No. 1 spot.
Everything about those final seconds was magical.
Everything about those final seconds was what the Olympics are all about.
That’s the reason we watch the Olympics—to watch regular people become superhuman, even just for a moment, to accomplish the improbable if not the impossible.