(1975 - )
Jason Lezak is a Jewish American swimmer and a seven-time
Lezak (born November 12, 1975) was born in Bellflower, California. At the age of five,
he joined the Novaquatics swim team in Irvine, California and has never left. He first qualified for the nationals while a senior
in high school and in 1994, Lezak was a high school All-American in
water polo. At Irvine, Lezak was coached by Dave Salo, who used a unique
training method emphasizing quality over quantity. Lezak appreciated
Salo's philosophy of concentration on fast-twitch muscles, and did not
see the need to swim thousands of meters every day.
Lezak began 1999 on a promising note, winning the bronze
medal in the 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Open. At the Pan Pacific
Championships that year, Lezak won a silver medal as a member of the
400-meter freestyle relay team. After competing at the Olympic pool
in the 1999 Pan American Championships in Sydney, however, he suffered
from bulging discs in his back in October.
His training was limited in 2000 due to his back injuries
and to tendinitis in his elbow. Lezak recovered in time for the 2000
U.S. Olympic Trials, where he finished fourth in the 100-meter freestyle
with a personal best of 49.15 seconds and qualified for the relay team.
He also finished fifth in the 50-meter freestyle at the Olympic Trials.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he competed in two relay
events. In the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, the U.S. easily advanced
to the finals by winning its preliminary heat (3:15.43). In the finals
though, they were defeated by Australia and won the silver medal with
a time of 3:13.86; it was the first time in Olympic history that the
U.S. did not win the gold medal in that event. Lezak also swam in the
preliminary heat of the 4x100-meter medley relay; the U.S. finished
third in the heat (3:38.59), and went on to win the gold medal.
In 2001, Lezak made the U.S. National team by finishing
second in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events at the U.S. Nationals.
At the World Championships (July 22-29), Lezak reached the semifinals
in the 50-meter, but finished tenth overall (he failed to advance to
the finals) with a time of 22.43; fellow American Jew Anthony Ervin
won the gold medal. In the 100-meter freestyle at the Worlds, he finished
eighth in the final with a time of 49.51.
At the 2002 U.S. Championships, Lezak finished in first
place in both the 50-meter (22.34) and the 100-meter (49.19) freestyle
events. One week later, he won the 50-meter freestyle at the Pan Pacific
Championships; Anthony Ervin finished in second place in the 50-meter
at both competitions. At the end of the 2002 season, Lezak was ranked
No. 1 in the U.S. 50-meter free (22.00) and 100-meter (48.89).
Lezak performed well during 2003 in the short-distanced
freestyle events. At the World Championships, he finished fourth in
the 100-meter free with a time of 48.94. He also competed in the 50-meter
free and finished eighth in the final with a time of 22.14.
At the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, Lezak broke the American
record in the 100-meter freestyle (48.17) in the semifinals. He eventually
won the 100-meter and also qualified for the Olympics in the 50-meter
freestyle (22.05). At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Jason swam in heat 9 in the 100-meter
freestyle event and came in fifth (49.87), with a disappointing time.
He failed to qualify for the semifinals. Lezak has done better in 50-meter
freestyle event. He swam in heat 9 on the morning of August 19 and finished
third (22.33), thus qualifying for the semifinals. His time was the
seventh best among the sixteen swimmers which competed in the semifinals.
Lezak won the second semifinal and qualified for the final with the
third best qualifying time (22.12). Jason improved on his qualification
time in the final (22.11) but finished fifth, nine hundredths of a second
behind third place and the bronze medal. Though he did not participate
in the heats, Lezak was picked to swim the fourth leg in the 4X100 medley
relay final on August 21. Jason helped the U.S.A to a gold medal, as
well as a new world record (3:30.68).
Lezak qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the
100m freestyle, the 4x100m free relay, and the 4x100m medley relay.
He was the oldest man on the U.S. swim team at age 32. He anchored the
U.S. men's 400-meter freestyle relay team to a come-from-behind victory,
stealing the Gold from the French. His leg, the fastest 100 relay split
(46.06), marked one of the most memorable moments of the Games. Jason
also swam the last leg of the 4x100m Men’s Medley Relay to secure
the gold and Michael Phelps’ record setting 8th gold medal.
In 2009, Lezak was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in the 30th edition of the ceremony at the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel. At the games he set a new Maccabiah
record for the men's 100-meter freestyle at 47.78 seconds and, as
anchor, helped the U.S. men's relay team clinch the gold.
Lezak finished in sixth place at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in
Omaha, Nebraska, and competed
as a member of the U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay team at the 2012
London Olympics. He came in second place in the qualification
for the Men's 4x100m Freestyle race as well as the final itself; Lezak
won a silver medal for his second-place finish (3:10.38, whereas he
swam a 3:12.59-race in the qualification) in the Men's 4x100m Freesyle