By Phillip Whitten
PALO ALTO, August 1. IN a reversal of what he's said since the US Olympic Trials ended just over two weeks ago, head US men's coach Eddie Reese announced to his team yesterday that Gary Hall, Jr., Neil Walker, Nate Dusing and Gabe Woodward — who finished third through sixth in the 100 free at Trials — will get a shot at earning one of the final two spots in the USA 400meter freestyle relay in Athens.
Previously Reese had indicated that Michael Phelps, who won the 100 free at the US Spring Nationals in February in 49.05 seconds, would likely be on the relay. Phelps' 49.05 would have placed him second at the US Trials, just ahead of Ian Crocker's 49.06. The event was won by Jason Lezak in 48.41, after he set an American record of 48.17 in the semifinals.
Hall, Walker, Dusing, and Woodward will swim the prelims of the 400 free relay on the morning of August 15. Reese will then collaborate with his assistant coaches — Dr. Dave Salo, Jon Urbanchek and Bob Bowman, who is Phelps' coach — to select the two swimmers who will join Lezak and Crocker in the final.
"We have four guys that are swimming in the prelims," Reese said. "If we have all four go very fast, it'd be hard for Michael (Phelps) to be on that relay."
Reese defined "fast" as "under 48.5 seconds."
The standard is a tough one. Lezak is the only American who has swum the 100 free under 49 seconds this year, and he has done it three times, including his American record 48.17. That time makes him the fastest swimmer in the world this year and the second fastest swimmer in history, trailing only Holland's Pieter van den Hoogenband.
However, the relay start is estimated as saving a swimmer about seven-tenths of a second, so only the first swimmer will have to go 48.5 seconds or better with a flat start. The remaining three will only have to swim the equivalent of 49.20 or better. In the Trials final, Hall swam 49.16 with a horrendously slow start. Walker was 49.38, Dusing 49.40 and Woodward 49.45.