August 12, 2008
The pictures of Michael Phelps and Garrett Weber-Gale celebrating their improbable win in the 4x100 freestyle relay were splashed across newspapers and websites around the world yesterday. But there was somebody conspicuous in his absence from all the immediate reaction shots.
Where was Cullen Jones? The third swimmer in the United States' world record setting 4x100 team, Jones was nowhere to be seen in the aftermath of Jason Lezak's stunning anchor leg. Every picture and video shot includes only Phelps and Weber-Gale; Jones was AWOL. Eventually, he joined the celebration, but where was he during that thrilling finish? I've heard that question three times over the past 36 hours, so this morning, Fourth-Place Medal's crack investigative unit, which yesterday uncovered the mystery of the hot Paraguayan, got on the case.
After breaking down the last moments of the race like the Zapruder film, it becomes clear that Jones wasn't with his teammates because he had run to the side of the pool to get a better angle to view the touch. Look for Jones at the bottom-left of the picture, leaning over at the finish line. He's immediately to the right of the WR/OR graphic.
During an interview on the Today show, Jones said that he didn't remember walking away from the starting area, only that he was so dizzy after his race he could barely stand up. After looking at the finish, Jones stared at the scoreboard for a few seconds to confirm what he had seen. When he realized he and his relay teammates had just capped one of the most improbable comebacks in Olympic history, he began celebrating... alone.
If you have an Olympic mystery you'd like solved, let us know in the comments section. If you have a regular mystery you'd like solved, call Scooby Doo.