- 11 Aug 08, 09:11 AM
"We will smash them up!" France's Alain Bernard boasted on Sunday after the heats of the men's 4x100m freestyle relay.
He had reason to be confident as he didn't even have to don his suit for the heats after substitute Boris Steimetz had taken care of his responsibilities in a time of 49.83 seconds.
When you consider world-record holder Bernard can go two seconds faster from a flat start, everybody knew the French had a three-second drop in the bag, putting them on course for a world record by at least two seconds.
So, after seeing the performance of the French, America's Michael Phelps must have been worried about the chance of winning eight gold medals slipping away.
We have learnt to have confidence in all the victories under his control but the relays still remain vulnerable. Would his team-mates keep his dream alive?
In traditional fashion Phelps led off in the final, swimming the first leg in a time of 47.51 seconds, only 1/100th of a second off the Frenchman's world best.
However Australia's Eamon Sullivan showed his sprinting class by breaking the world record for the 100m free in a time of 47.24 to put them in front at the first change, with America diving in second and the French following closely behind in third.
The lead went to the Americans on the second leg with Garrett Weber-Gale holding off the charge from France's Fabien Gilot to keep the USA head by half a second at the half way stage.
But then Frederick Bousquet, a well-renowned relay swimmer, took a whole second out of Cullen Jones to hand a healthy lead of a couple of metres to fastest man in the world this year for the final leg!
It was obvious to all in the press tribune that there was no way 32-year-old Jason Lezak from the US could catch Bernard on this last stretch.
Phelps' dream looked dead.
But coming down the second length Jason Lezak appeared to surf the bow wave Bernard was producing and with five metres to go drew level.
It was a blanket finish but the board read 3.08.24 to the Americans followed by 3.08.32 to the French.
For a number of reasons this was possibly the greatest relay race in history.
The world record had gone by four seconds on the most prestigious relay event on the aquatic program.
The world record for the blue riband event had switched from Bernard to Australia's Sullivan.
Phelps' dream of eight medals was still alive.
Jones had become the second black man in history to win an Olympic gold medal in the pool.
Even though the British team finished eighth, they did so in a time that would have won them gold in Athens, which just shows you what a race this was.
I've heard the odd comment about the atmosphere at certain venues in Beijing being subdued. That certainly wasn't the case down at the iconic Water Cube where we had a sensational morning.
We were treated to a world record in the 100m breaststroke when Japan's Kosuke Kitajima defended his title from four years ago.
Lizzie Trickett nearly broke the world record in the 100m butterfly on the way to winning the gold for Australia and put to bed the demons of four years ago.
I felt physically sick before the 400m freestyle final for women but settled down into the race when Great Britain's' Becky Adlington and Jo Jackson romped home to win the gold and bronze respectfully.
It was a really formidable achievement and one which will really excite the whole team and could be just the start for Britain.
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