COLUMBIA — In a matter of 46.06 seconds, Jason Lezak's world turned upside down.
Three-and-a-half years after swimming the fastest ever 100-meter split to propel the United States to gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay at the 2008 Olympics, Lezak is still adjusting to the fame he won after playing such a crucial role in one of the most thrilling victories of those games.
"When it happened, over there in China, I didn't really realize," Lezak said Sunday at the Missouri Grand Prix. "I knew we were excited, and to see how much publicity it got when I got back home was pretty amazing."
Lezak was the oldest swimmer on the U.S. men's swimming roster in Beijing. Now 36, the three-time Olympian is hoping to qualify for this summer's Olympic Games in London. He is currently training for the 50- and 100-meter freestyle races.
The seven-time Olympic medalist's stop in Columbia this weekend was the first time he swam competitively in six months.
Lezak's road back to the Olympics has been a bit more hectic than previous trips thanks to his heroics in 2008.
Since the victory, Lezak has worked to juggle his training with appearances as a motivational speaker and obligations to his growing family. He said his struggles to manage his obligations contributed to a weak showing in the 2011 competitive racing season.
"I have two kids now," he said. "Learning to balance that with the appearances and the swimming, it's been tough."
Lezak said adjusting to his aging body has been one of the hardest changes.
"I can't do what I did last year or the year before," Lezak said. "It's always a change."
Despite the changes, Lezak isn't ready to say 2012 will be his last year of competitive swimming.
"I'm still enjoying it, still loving it, still feel like I can make some changes to be even better," Lezak said.
Lezak had mixed results at the Missouri Grand Prix in a weekend he called a starting point for his training.
In Saturday's 50-meter freestyle race, Lezak took the bronze medal, finishing behind Brazil's Cesar Cielo, the current world record holder in the event, and France's Fred Bousquet, who held the record previously.
On Sunday, Lezak finished seventh in the 100-meter freestyle. Cielo, who also holds the record for this event, took the gold.
Lezak will join his fellow London hopefuls at the Olympic Trials, which will be held from June 25 to July 2 in Omaha, Neb.