Lezak has taken long course to Olympic success
Jason Lezak’s first race in his swimming career was not exactly one to remember.
Lezak was swimming in a backstroke event and took two minutes to find his way across the pool. But Lezak was a quick study and less than a year later he was able to do the event in 19 seconds.
He still holds one of the 8 and under records for Irvine (Calif.) Novaquatics, a record he says ranks right up there with any he’s set.
That’s saying something since the 30-year-old Lezak is a two-time Olympic champion and a World record holder. Lezak came to the Carson Aquatic Facility on Friday to meet with and sign autographs for members of the Carson Tigersharks swim club.
Lezak has ties to the club through Tigershark coach Gabby Phalan and her husband, Jim Phalan of Carson City. Lezak and Jim Phalan were roommates while they attended UC Santa Barbara and have remained best friends. Gabby and Lezak also trained together for Irvine (Calif.) Novaquatics under legendary coach Dave Salo.
Lezak has won two gold medals in the Olympics, each in the 400-meter medley relay in 2000 in Sydney, Australia and 2004 in Athens, Greece. In the 400 free relay, he won silver in 2000 and bronze in 2004. In addition, he helped the United States set the current world record in both events.
Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, Ian Crocker and Lezak shattered the world record by more than three seconds in Athens. The other three are world record holders in their events while Lezak is just the American record holder in the 100 freestyle. “I was the slow guy on that team,” Lezak said.
In all, Lezak is an eight-time world champion in long course and short course events.
Lezak won the title in the 100 free in 48.6 seconds at the National Championships to qualify for this past summer’s Pan Pacific Games in Victoria, Canada and the 2007 World Championships to be held in March in Melbourne, Australia. He took second at the Pan Pacific Games in 48.7.
The National Championships were held just two weeks before the Pan Pacific Games. “It was kind of hard to peak and then peak again,” Lezak said.
But Lezak was also on the winning 400 free relay team at the Pan Pacific Games that shattered the world record. Lezak was also part of the 400 free relay team that won in the 2005 World Championships, setting an American record and regaining U.S. supremacy in the sport.
Lezak was part of the first U.S. team ever to lose in the 400 free relay in a major international event at the 1999 Pan Pacific Games. Then in 2000, came the silver in which Lezak and the U.S. team set the American record.
He said he now has more perspective on that effort than he did back then. “To us we were failures because we lost,” Lezak said.
This year’s Pan Pacific Games was somewhat of a letdown. With the exception of Europe, all of the national powers were at the games. But Australia didn’t bring its A team because it was preparing for the Commonwealth Games and China didn’t bring a strong contingent, either.
So the U.S. dominated, but the U.S. also dominated the 2005 World Championships. There is intrigue with the 2008 Olympics since they’re being held in Beijing China and there always seems to be mystery surrounding the Chinese team. “They hide people,” Lezak said. “They bring them out when it’s time.”
Lezak is third all-time in the world in the 100 free, with an American record of 48.1. Only one swimmer has ever gone under 48, an obvious goal for Lezak along with winning gold in 2008.
“I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t get there,” said Lezak about going under 48. “I know there’s some things I can work on to get better. I’m 30, but I don’t think I’ve peaked.”
Lezak isn’t taking it easy as he will compete in three meets in Europe in November. If he qualifies for Beijing, Lezak didn’t say if that would be his last meet, but did say, “That might be the end for me.”
He’s also overcome his share of injuries in his career, including a broken foot and “tendinitis in every single place you can imagine.”
He said he expects Phalan to have plenty of success as the Tigersharks coach. “Gabby has a lot of experience,” Lezak said. “She knows what she’s talking about.”
Lezak was also impressed with the Carson facility. “I think it’s a real nice facility,” he said.