Jason Lezak Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (VIDEO)

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Jason Lezak; Photo Courtesy: JM STREINER

From the beginning, Jason Lezak showed great promise in the pool, but he constantly butted heads with his coach, Dave Salo, over his commitment to training. Recruited to swim at UC Santa Barbara, Jason’s problems with authority continued until coach Gregg Wilson finally dismissed him from the team. This was the wake-up call he needed. He loved to swim and compete, and after promising to improve his training habits, he rejoined the team. In his Senior year, he was named Big West Conference Swimmer of the Year.

At the 2000 Olympic Trials, Jason finished fourth in the 100m freestyle. While he failed to qualify individually, his result was good enough to make the 4x100m freestyle relay team, an event Team USA had never lost in the Olympic Games. In Sydney, the Australians pulled off the unexpected upset in their home pool and the USA settled for the silver.

Over the next four years, Jason was the top sprinter in the world, and at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in Long Beach, he qualified for the Olympic Games in both the 50m and 100m freestyle.

In Athens, the US freestyle relay team was trying to win back the title it had lost in Sydney four years earlier. Instead, they finished third behind South Africa and the Netherlands. The next day Jason did not swim as well as expected and failed to reach the semi-finals. Individually Jason finished fifth in the 50. Success came when he swam the freestyle leg behind Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, and Ian Crocker to win the medley relay gold medal, in world record time.

In 2006, Dave Salo left Irvine to take the coaching job at USC, leaving Jason without a coach. He began coaching himself and proved by qualifying for his third Olympic Games that he had the discipline to train daily without a team or trainer at his side.

When he finished second in the 100m freestyle at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, he was 32 years old, the oldest male swimmer to make the team and was selected by his teammates as a captain.

At the 2008 Games in Beijing, his first event was the 4x100m freestyle relay. The USA hadn’t won this race since 1996 and this time the USA was not the favorite. That distinction belonged to the team from France, with 100m world record holder, Alain Bernard as its anchorman. Swimming last, and starting nearly a fully body length behind, Jason chased down Bernard in the final 20 yards to win the gold medal by eight-one-hundredths of a second. Jason’s split time of 46.06, is still the fastest 100m split in history.

The next day, Jason won bronze in the 100m freestyle for the first individual Olympic medal of his career. On the final day of competition, he anchored the USA’s world record setting medley relay that gave Michael Phelps his historic eighth gold medal.

Continuing to swim on his own after Beijing, Jason passed up the opportunity to compete in the World Championships to participate in the Maccabiah Games in Israel, where he won four gold medals and celebrated his heritage as a Jewish athlete.

In 2012, at the age of 36, Jason qualified for his fourth Olympic team by finishing sixth at the Olympic Trials in the 100 free. In London, he swam in the preliminaries and helped earn a spot in the final for the silver medal winning U.S. team. In doing so, he became the first male swimmer in Olympic history to win four medals in the same event, in the 4×100m freestyle relay, in four consecutive Olympic games.

Jason ended his Olympic career with a total of eight medals, four gold, two silver and two bronze. Today, Jason is a proud husband and father of three and a popular motivational speaker who is successfully balancing his family life with business opportunities.

6 comments

  1. avatar
    cynthia curran

    Interesting Irvine was plan similar to Mission Viejo, and had lots of parks and recreation very different from older cities in Orange County that didn’t have this. It was the heyday of land companies like the Irvine company or earlier the Mission Viejo company planning suburban towns. Both cities were very successful with swimming since they plan swim pools in the community. This is why Lezak was an outstanding swimming.

  2. Halim Yussuf

    Who can forget the anchor leg he swam at Tokyo Olympics, to bring home the gold and Phelps 8th gold medal.

  3. Kevin Corley

    Congrats, and thanks for the most exciting relay in history