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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 10, 2008 4:46 PM

Men's freestyle relay could bring a medal to Bremerton's Adrian

Posted by Ron Judd

Nathan Adrian, 19, of Bremerton, helped put the U.S. men's 400 meter freestyle relay team in tonight's (scheduled: 8:26 p.m. PT) final. But it's unlikely he'll swim in the race itself.

Adrian swam 48.82 in the semis, where the U.S. team lowered the world record to 3:12.33. His teammates were Cullen Jones (47.61), Ben Wildman-Tobriner (48.03) and Matt Grevers (47.77). But two of those swimmers are likely to be replaced by veterans Jason Lezak and Michael Phelps in the final, in spite of their record preliminary time.

Adrian's time was solid, but the slowest of the group. Coaches consider a lot of other factors, as well, including experience, big-race competitive fire, start times and other factors. Usually, a coach gets no credit when he makes the right call -- and a lot of attention when he doesn't.

This call will be made by men's coach Eddie Reese, who doesn't exactly have a sterling record at choosing straws in this event in the recent Olympic past.

It was Reese who made the controversial decision to leave veteran, big-race swimmer Gary Hall Jr. on the beach for the same race in Athens four years ago. Hall publicly questioned Reese's decision to use Phelps -- who technically had not qualifed for the event at trials -- and Ian Crocker, who had been sick leading up to the race in Athens, instead. Crocker practically drowned on his leg, and the U.S. finshed third -- its worst finish ever, ending Phelps' quest for seven gold medals.

Reese responded that he'd made his decision strictly on the basis of recent times. So much for that strategy.

Whoever gets the call tonight will join his teammates in seeking some vengeance. America never lost the race until the Aussies beat them in Sydney in 2000. It has grown into one of the great grudge matches in the sport.

And all swimmers on the team, including Adrian, will get whatever medal the final four earn in the pool.

Choosing relay members is often controversial. And occasionally misinterpreted. Phelps was widely portrayed as heroic in Athens for bowing out of the butterfly spot for his final relay, the 400 medley, to give Crocker a chance to redeem himself for his freestyle relay debacle (which he did). Reese called it a "hell of a gesture." But it wasn't entirely selfless: Phelps, who had swum for the U.S. in the prelims, had already qualified himself for that medal. It would prove to be gold, and it would be his eighth, a record for any non-boycotted Games.

So far.

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Blogroll and links The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information. Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site. Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription). News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions. Beijing Organizing Committee Web site. Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site. London 2012 Summer Games site. Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site. Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
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Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.