London’s Calling: Jason Lezak and Kathleen Hersey

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 19. ONE more day and it will officially be a week until the world heralds in the London Olympics Games. Members of the Swimming World office are double-checking their flight schedules because, honestly, who wants to miss out on the most exciting showcase of world-class athletic talent?

Today, Swimming World takes a look at two more Team USA athletes: Team USA Captain Jason Lezak and butterfly sensation Kathleen Hersey.

Jason Lezak:
Due to NBC rights holder restrictions, the following video interview is only viewable until 7/27/2012:

When Jason Lezak placed sixth in the 100 freestyle at Trials, he greeted the finish with a mixture of exhaustion and enthusiasm.

Just out of the pool, with his cap and goggles still clutched in his hand, he told Swimming World, “It was tough. I hurt real bad, but I'm happy to be there.”

There will be London, the fourth consecutive Olympics for Lezak. He is both a Team USA captain and, at 36, is the eldest male swimmer heading to the Games.

Lezak's Olympic experience dates back to Sydney 2000, where he won Gold as part of the 4×100 medley relay and silver in the 4×100 freestyle. The following Olympics, in Athens, he was part of the World-Record setting 4×100 medley relay that defended their Olympic title. Unfortunately, the 4×100 freestyle relay only captured bronze at the 2004 Games.

This was turned around in Beijing 2008, when Lezak produced one of the most famous relay swims as the anchor of the men's 4×100 freestyle relay. After diving in nearly a body length behind the French team, anchored by the then-100 freestyle World Record holder Alain Bernard, Lezak caught up and out touched the Bernard by eight one –hundredths of a second, in a time of 46.06. The time he produced was the fastest 100-meter relay split in history by over half a second. Team USA's win was extra-special because it kept Phelps in contention for his record-breaking eight gold medals in a single Olympics.

“It's never going to get old watching it,” Lezak tells USA Today in reference to the video footage of the history relay. “I have that, so regardless of what happens in the rest of my career, I'm proud of how I've done and that moment.”

In Beijing, Lezak also won his first individual Olympic medal, a bronze in the 100 freestyle, shared with Brazilian swimmer Cesar Cielo.

Lezak has chosen to train without at coach since 2006 at his home pool in Irvine, California. He formerly swam for Irvine Novaquatics, until attending the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he graduated in 1999.

Kathleen Hersey:

Due to NBC rights holder restrictions, the following video interview is only viewable until 7/27/2012:

Olympic Trials was undoubtedly an emotional time for Kathleen Hersey. After she proclaimed her 100 butterfly as “feeling wrong” in the semi-finals of the race, Hersey went on to touch third in the finals.

She told Swimming World after the race, “Would I have liked to go faster? Absolutely, but, I mean, I got third at Olympics Trials, and that's something.”

Hersey managed to earn a spot on the team later in the week, by finishing second to Cammile Adams in the 200 butterfly. But still, she was a bit disappointed.

“Am I happy with the time? No. Am I happy with the results? Yes,” said Hersey post-race.

Hersey qualified for the Beijing 2008 Olympics in the 200 butterfly, after finishing second in the 2008 Trials. She went on to qualify for the finals of the event, placing eighth overall.

The Olympics in London will be different for Hersey, as her mother died earlier this year after battling colon cancer. Hersey told USA Swimming that one of her fondest Beijing memories was looking into the stands and seeing her mother with a huge American flag, almost tumbling over the railing.

“This one is definitely out of the ordinary,” Hersey said after her 200 butterfly. “I recently lost my mom and so there's a lot more to it this time. This [Trials] is the first big meet I haven't had her.”

Hersey is a 2008 Marist High School graduate. Before attending the University of Texas, she set national high school records in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley. She spent two seasons swimming for the women's swim and dive team at UT, before opting to train individually under Longhorn Aquatics coach Eddie Reese.

What can the world expect from Hersey in London? Although her mother won't be there to cheer her on, Hersey still feels passion for the sport of swimming.

“I'm just finding the joy of the sport,” Hersey told Swimming World at Trials. “You get so caught up in the pressure. I swim because I love it, and I love racing.”

Read the rest of the “London's Calling” Series by clicking on the link below:
London's Calling: Swimming World's Countdown to the Opening Ceremonies

Written and posted by Shoshanna Rutemiller

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