Old man Lezak's brilliant finish helps Phelps to pass French test

America's swimming talisman Michael Phelps yesterday remained on course to become the most prolific winner of Olympic gold medals in history when he won his second of these Games and the eighth of his career. It came in an extraordinary 4x100 metres freestyle relay final where five of the eight teams broke the world record set by the US in the heats, and where France looked like odds-on, stone-cold favourites to win until the very last moment of a scintillating race.

That the United States' Jason Lezak managed to out-touch Alain Bernard of France at the wall seemed quite astonishing. The 32-year-old Lezak, the oldest male member of the US team here, was more than half a body length behind Bernard entering the final 50m but absolutely gobbled the gap. His 46.06 seconds split time was mesmerising, helping the US to win in a world record of 3 minutes 8.24 seconds, with France second and Australia third. The margin between first and second was 0.08sec. Fingertips, or less.

Victory meant Phelps, who won six golds in Athens, was just one shy of a world record nine, which is also the number won by Mark Spitz, plus two track and field athletes, and one gymnast. Phelps screamed, fist-pumped and flexed his muscles to extremes in delight. "I was going nuts," he said. "As soon as he [Lezak] came off that last wall, I started going crazy. We're a team. We went in as a team and now we're exiting as a team and we're going out with that gold that we needed to get back."

In the first leg of the race, Eamon Sullivan of Australia broke the individual 100m world record in 47.24sec, beating the previous mark of 47.50sec. "You could tell I was pretty excited," said Phelps, who arrived at the Games with the aim of winning eight golds to beat the mark of seven at one event set by Spitz in 1972. "I lost my voice and I was definitely pretty emotional."

The US President, George Bush, was again a spectator here as Phelps left the US team in second place after swimming the first leg, trailing a French team who had vowed to "smash" them. "Jason finished that race better than we could even ask for," Phelps said. The Americans took nearly four seconds off the world record, a huge margin.

Britain finished eighth but there was no shame in that as they also broke the British record in 3min 12.87sec.

"Experience prevailed over talent today, and I regret that," said Frederick Bousquet, who swam a powerful third leg for an ultimately deflated French team.

After winning seven straight golds in the 4x100m freestyle relay event, the Americans were beaten by Australia and South Africa at the last two Olympics. "I've been on the last two relays where we come up short," Lezak said. "To be honest with you, I got really tired of losing. I finished real strong."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project