“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” — Galatians 6:9
It ranks among one of my most special and incredible sports moments. One of those times you look back years later and say, “I was watching when THAT happened!”
It was during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and the world was fixated on the most compelling story of the Games: Michael Phelps’ epic chase for a record eight gold medals. Expectations were high and, so far, Phelps had succeeded. It came time for the 4×100 freestyle relay and a chance for the American team to help Phelps’ dream run continue. The Americans were considered underdogs to the French, who possessed blistering speed. The French had been doing a lot of trash-talking going into the race.
The Americans held their own for the first three legs, keeping within a half-body length of the French, when veteran Jason Lezak dove in. He was tasked with bringing it home for the Americans against arguably one of the fastest swimmers in the world at that time. Alain Bernard came into the Games with the 100-freestyle world record, so most assumed this relay leg would be a piece of cake for him.
The 32-year-old Lezak knew he had to swim the race of his life if he was going to pull this out. He later admitted he didn’t think he’d be able to make up the lead Bernard had on him at the turn, and yet, he strategized. He moved closer to the lane line and began to draft behind Bernard on the final 50 meters, making up ground. The crowd was going wild. The French team was yelling. The Americans were yelling. The TV commentators were going crazy. Viewers worldwide were riveted to their televisions.
Lezak drew even with about 10 meters left to swim, and then out-touched Bernard for the gold by eight one-hundredths of a second. His 46.06-second split time on that leg is still the fastest relay split of all time. In one shining moment, Lezak became a swimming legend, and Phelps’ chase for Olympic history continued.
Lezak’s inspired swim that day is a lesson for all of us when it comes to counting ourselves out in sports and in life. Oftentimes, we come up against things that appear daunting and sometimes downright impossible. We feel the odds have been stacked against us and there appears to be no way that we can win and overcome.
And yet, we have a choice: We can give in before the race is even over, declaring defeat over ourselves without even giving it a fight, or we can decide to strategize and leave everything out there, letting the chips fall where they may. If Lezak had not made the choice to give that relay leg all he had, Olympic history would’ve been very different. Your history could be different too, depending on whether or not you choose to count yourself out.
Go leave it out there today and every day because it’s never really over until God says it is, and your greatest challenge could prove to be your biggest victory if you’ll just hang in there and give it your all.
— Katherine Singer
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