- Eric Adelson, ESPN The Magazine
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Michael Phelps might get his shot at eight gold medals after all.
Days after telling his team Phelps would be left off the 4x100 freestyle relay in Athens if his teammates swam fast enough in prelims, U.S. coach Eddie Reese has apparently changed his mind.
Gary Hall Sr. -- father of relay team member Gary Hall Jr. -- told SwimInfo and ESPN The Magazine that Reese has informed the team that Phelps will swim in the relay final no matter what.
"According to Gary, Eddie's going to put Michael on the relay at night," Hall Sr. said. "He's going to be swimming at night.
Efforts to reach Reese by phone late Tuesday night in Spain were unsuccessful.
Phelps' inclusion in the relay final would set his docket at eight events, giving him a chance to eclipse Mark Spitz's record seven-gold medal performance in 1972.
Last week Reese announced to his team that the bottom four of the top six qualifiers in the 100 freestyle would all have a chance to earn one of the two remaining spots in the 4x100 free relay. Those four -- Hall Jr., Neil Walker, Nate Dusing, and Gabe Woodward -- will swim the morning of the final on Aug. 15. Phelps, who didn't swim the 100-free in trials, will not. Reese planned to meet with the three other U.S. coaches and pick the two freestyle swimmers to advance to the final along with top qualifiers Jason Lezak and Ian Crocker.
Reese told ESPN The Magazine that if two team members swam "in the 48-low range" in prelims, Phelps would likely be left out of the finals.
Among the Americans, only Lezak has swam the 100 free faster than 49 seconds this year. He went 48.17 at U.S. trials. Phelps has America's second-fastest time this year, at 49.05. He's followed closely by Crocker with 49.06, then Hall at 49:16, Dusing at 49:40, and Woodward at 49:45.
"[Phelps is] pretty much a guaranteed 48-something when the relay starts," Crocker said.
After the U.S. swim trials, some swimmers grumbled about the possibility of Phelps making the 4x100 freestyle relay team, since he did not swim the 100 freestyle at U.S. trials. However, Hall Sr. said Reese also faced second-guessing if the relay team did not include Phelps.
"It's tough to defend [not putting Michael on], because Michael went 49-flat not once but twice," Hall Sr. said. "Eddie's a pretty smart guy."
Hall Sr. said his son was not upset about the apparent change in plans.
"Gary just wants to win."
Eric Adelson is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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