The first day of finals in swimming at the Maccabiah belonged to Jason Lezak, who set the 100-meter freestyle record in the Olympic pool at Wingate. Nearly an hour before his initial appearance, cars were lined up on both sides of the road. The facility was packed as Lezak - like a rock star - warmed up.
Jane Katz, a 66-year-old American doctor who has only missed one Maccabiah since 1957, was first in the water, diving in to the tune of "Born in the USA," which drove the flag-waving crowd wild. "I was excited to be able to share my love for the water," said Katz.
Lezak would not be the first one to see records fall yesterday. Israel's Guy Barnea, who placed 16th in the 100-meter backstroke in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, blew away the old 50-meter backstroke record with a sizzling time of 24.64 seconds, just three-tenths of a second shy of the world record.
Lezak, who was in lane four for his final, said he didn't come here just for the fastest time, but he did managed to set a new Maccabiah standard with a time of 47.78 seconds. "Considering all I've done in the last weeks, I'm very surprised," he said afterward.
It's doubtful this record will ever fall unless another Olympic gold medalist shows up. The consolation for Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or, the Israeli who came in second place, was that he set a new Israeli record with a time of 49.02 seconds.
After the races, Lezak told reporters that he felt Bar-Or and Barnea were headed in the right direction. "I think that perhaps in 2012 we'll see more Israelis advancing to the swimming finals," he said.
Andrea Murez of the U.S. also set a Maccabiah record in the 100-meter women's freestyle with a time of 56.44 seconds.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now