-- For a nation accustomed to swimming dominance, it had been an eternity since the United States won a men's 4x100 relay gold medal. After claiming every world title -- eight straight -- through the 1998 world championships in Perth, Australia, the United States men sank into a gold-medal drought in the event that encompassed every major international meet.
Until, that is, Sunday night, when a team led off by Michael Phelps and anchored by Jason Lezak won in a U.S.-record time of 3 minutes 13.77 seconds, dominating Canada (3:16.44) and Australia (3:17.56) at Jean-Drapeau Park. Not only did the U.S. men have a lead from Phelps's opening leg, but every swimmer after added to the lead.
"It's big," Phelps said. "It's big for us to get that race back."
Despite the magnitude and margin of victory, the American team that also included Neil Walker and Nate Dusing received the victory with restraint.
"I've been on every relay since '99 and we haven't won, so I'm really happy about tonight," Lezak said. "We're getting really close to that world record."
Women Win Bronze
The U.S. women's 4x100 relay team had its worst performance ever at the world championships, claiming the bronze medal with an inexperienced team that floundered after a first-place first leg by Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin, 22, was joined by 19-year-olds Kara Lynn Joyce, Lacey Nymeyer and Amanda Weir. "I think it's a great race all around for a young team," Coughlin said. "It's a great starting point for the next three years."
The Aussie team anchored by Lisbeth Lenton won in 3:37.32, topping Germany (3:38.24) and the United States (3:38.31).