On a night when the two fiercest rivals among American swimmers, whether they acknowledge it, swam in adjacent lanes -- and later said they would happily go for Olympic gold in a relay together -- Brendan Hansen decided he might as well author another compelling storyline at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
Hansen, the breaststroker from Pennsylvania who already set one world record at these trials, outdid himself Sunday night, winning the 200-meter breaststroke in 2 minutes 9.04 seconds. One more race. One more world mark.
"He's amazing," said Scott Usher, the distant runner-up to Hansen, nearly 1.9 seconds behind. "I knew I was second when I was coming home -- and I could still see him."
No one else, it seemed, could keep Hansen in sight. His feel-good performance turned the spotlight away from freestylers Jason Lezak and Gary Hall Jr. The pair has a running feud, fueled by Hall's claim that Lezak spit in his lane during a meet this year. Hall's manager later said that any aspersions Lezak tried to cast on Hall -- who has eight Olympic medals -- was akin to "Spud Webb kicking Michael Jordan in the shins."
Yet in the semifinals of the 100 freestyle, Lezak served notice to Hall that he was here to win by setting an American record. In Sunday's finals, Lezak was in Lane 4 -- reserved for the top seed -- with Hall alongside in Lane 3. Ian Crocker, the master butterfly man whose freestyle has been rapidly improving, was on Lezak's opposite side.
"I saw my competition to the side of me," Lezak said, not naming names, "and I just wanted to get there before them." When he touched the wall in 48.41 seconds -- with Crocker second in 49.06 and Hall in third at 49.16 -- Lezak looked at the scoreboard to sort out what had happened. When it became clear, he immediately turned to Crocker for a hug. Hall eventually gained Lezak's attention, and offered his hand.
Lezak shook it -- and swiftly turned back to Crocker.
"I don't really see a lot of friction," Lezak said. "I go to a lot of international meets and it seems like I'm pretty friendly, and all the guys are pretty friendly with me."
Problem? What problem?
"There's no trash-talking between Jason and I," Hall said. "I don't know who's trying to create the rivalry that people are talking about.
"After the race, I congratulated Jason. Before the race, I wished him luck. I want to see Jason swim well as a member of the United States Olympic swim team, just as I wish Brendan Hansen luck. I just don't know where this is coming from."
Lezak, who Saturday said he didn't know if the words from Hall's camp were meant to make him laugh or upset him, also took the high road. Which, for Hall, was good, considering his own accomplishment of the night.
The top four men in the event -- Lezak, Crocker, Hall and Neil Walker -- will likely make up the 400-meter relay team in Athens. Hall's father, Gary Sr., made three Olympic teams. Hall Jr. made his third Sunday night, and they became the first father-son duo to accomplish such a feat.
"I was excited because we made a little piece of history tonight, and that just made me so proud," Hall Sr. said. "Just think about it. To make one Olympic team is unbelievable. It's a lifetime dream. And when you make three, it's almost beyond anybody's expectations that you could do it three times. And then to have your son do it. . . . I am thrilled for Gary."
There were other "We Are Fam-i-ly" moments. Dana Kirk won the 200-meter butterfly, thus reaching the Olympics for the first time. Earlier in the meet, older sister Tara was second in the 100 breaststroke. Now, they are the first sisters to be on the same U.S. Olympic swim team.
"It's great to be on that Olympic team with my sister," Dana Kirk said. "We've been wanting this for a long time. It's going to be great having someone there who knows what I need to swim my best. I am so excited, you have no idea."
Amanda Beard won her second event of the trials, the 200 breaststroke, over Tara Kirk, who will thus swim another event in Athens with her sister cheering on.
Even with all the hugs between sisters, between fathers and sons, Sunday's crowd, cheered for no one like it did Hansen. When he headed into the final 50 meters nearly four-tenths of a second under the world record pace -- 2:09.42, set last year by Kosuke Kitajima of Japan -- the fans got into it.
Every time Hansen's head bobbed above the water, he was met with a "Wooh!" The same thing had happened Thursday night, when he set the record in the 100. In that race, he said, he almost got out of rhythm, swimming for the cheers.
"It was important for me to feed off the crowd," Hansen said, "but to feed off it the right way." So he did. Eddie Reese, the coach of the U.S. men's team, said he thought the 22-year-old might have this record in him. But did he see the entire week -- two races, two world records -- coming?
"No," Reese said. "But we dream about it all the time."