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Phelps No 'Slam Dunk' for 400 Free Relay Team

August 05, 2004|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

U.S. Olympic men's swimming Coach Eddie Reese joked about putting a bunch of names in a hat to decide the makeup of 400-meter freestyle relay team in Athens.

He was fielding questions last month about whether Michael Phelps should be included on that relay. Even though he did not swim the 100 freestyle at the trials, which serves as the qualifier, it is within the rules to put him on the relay.

Teammates Gary Hall Jr. and Jason Lezak did not think Phelps should be included. The Phelps camp countered by pointing to his time of 49.05 seconds at the nationals in February, slower than Lezak's American record of 48.17 but faster than any other American this year.

The controversy has not abated. Olympic assistant Dave Salo said last week that there were arguments, pro and con, and that Phelps' inclusion was not "a slam dunk."

"Part of the balance is what guys do in the morning," Salo said. "If guys are going fast in the morning, they may earn their right to be on that relay in place of Michael. He didn't swim the 100 free. Would he have gone 49-flat or 49.5?"

He said coaches are still tinkering with the composition of the foursome for morning prelims.

"I don't think we've decided," Salo said. " ... We're not going to decide based on Michael Phelps' schedule. It'll be based on what gives us the best chance of winning."

A website report Wednesday suggested that Reese had decided to have Phelps swim the 400 freestyle relay final at night. Swiminfo.com quoted Gary Hall Sr. as saying that was apparently the case based on a conversation he'd had with his son.

Spokeswoman Mary Wagner of USA Swimming said from the team's training camp in Mallorca, Spain, that a decision had not been made.

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