Namesnik and Dolan got together and decided nothing. They simply raced.
Eric's hope was to move out fast. Tom's strength is his freestyle finish. Eric had to build a big lead before that leg, especially on the first two legs, the butterfly and the backstroke. He simply didn't do it.
Tom was ahead at the end of the fly by .21 of a second, but when he and Eric touched at the end of the backstroke—swimming in lanes 3 and 4—they were in a dead heat at 2:02.87. It didn't matter. The race was done. The crowd of almost 15,000 made a lot of noise and the television pictures showed the closest of races, with Eric pushing ahead of Tom by .44 of a second at the end of the breaststroke leg. But everyone who knew the situation could predict that Tom would be the winner when he caught Eric in the final 50 meters of the freestyle. His final time was 4:14.90. Eric's time was 4:15.25.
Eric swam to his lonely spot on the rope, down the lane, left with the sight of the scoreboard and numbers he never could change. Tom looked at the crowd and raised the index finger on his right hand. Number 1. The applause again was for him.
"Eric looked so disappointed on the victory stand," Urbanchek said. "It's funny about silver. Gustavo Borges of Brazil had silver the other night [on Saturday, in the 200-meter freestyle], and you could see his happiness just flow out of him. Eric, I think that when he watches films of this 20 years from now he will wish that he had smiled more on the stand. Silver is a great accomplishment."
Eric did not believe that. Not now. As Tom was dragged here and there, hungry and jubilant, the television people finding the car to take Claudia and him to the interview with Costas—wait a minute, Katie Couric wants a few words with him before he goes—Eric talked quietly underneath the stands of the Aquatic Center. He told how he had started swimming as a kid because his sister was a swimmer and she brought home these little plastic trophies. He was six years old. He wanted those little trophies. He had been swimming for 19 years.
"I was trying for the gold medal tonight," he said. "It didn't happen."
The fact was pointed out that silver was a good medal. Maybe he hadn't won, but he had beaten everyone else in the world. Hadn't he?
"Yeah," Eric Namesnik said, "everyone except one."