RIO de JANEIRO — Of all the images from Michael Phelps’ storied career, perhaps none is as visceral — as open and truthfully honest — as the shot from the finish of the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a portrait of Phelps screaming to the heavens in raw, primal, triumphant victory.
This was the race in which Jason Lezak somehow willed his way past France’s Alain Bernard. Lezak was behind when he dove in. He was behind at the turn. He was behind until the very end, when he out-touched Bernard in a moment that instantly became an Olympic classic.
Right there on the deck, Phelps, who had set the Americans to the lead in the first leg, roared. Right behind him, Garrett Weber-Gale, who had pulled the second leg in the relay, fists clenched, leaned back and screamed in jubilation. Both guys were in their star-spangled LZR suits.
This is the red, white and blue moment the U.S. swim team lives for.
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