What's Next For Phelps

August 12, 2008|By KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG

TONIGHT, FIRST FINAL

EVENTS: 200-meter butterfly

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is Phelps' dominant event. He has held the world record since 2001. An upset here would be one of the biggest surprises of the Olympics. At the world championships in Melbourne last year, Phelps broke his world record by 1.68 seconds, a Bob Beamon-esque time drop in swimming. If American Gil Stovall or Greece's Ioannis Drymonakos are within a body length of Phelps when he touches the wall, they can consider that victory.

TONIGHT, SECOND FINAL

EVENT: 800-meter freestyle relay

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is probably Phelps' favorite event. In Athens, when the U.S. won this event, he went absolutely bonkers. Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Klete Keller have spots on the relay cemented, and the United States coaching staff will likely choose among three swimmers - Erik Vendt, Ricky Berens and David Walters - for the fourth spot. A world record here would not be a surprise.

THURSDAY NIGHT

EVENT: 200-meter individual medley

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Once again, Lochte and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary will be Phelps' closest competition. Phelps beat Lochte by nearly a half-second at the Olympic trials, but Lochte had just finished swimming the 200 backstroke 25 minutes before their race. Lochte, who holds a share of the world record in the 200 backstroke, will face the same challenge in the Olympic final, giving Phelps all the advantage he needs to pull away.

FRIDAY NIGHT

EVENT: 100-meter butterfly

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is the only one of Phelps' events where he can't claim he's the fastest man alive. Ian Crocker, his U.S. teammate, holds the world record (50.40) and Phelps hasn't come within a half-second of that mark. Crocker hasn't gone that fast in three years and seems to have a mental block when he races against Phelps. In Athens, Phelps trailed the entire race, but out-touched Crocker at the wall to win by .04 of a second. Expect a close race, but assume Phelps will get his hand on the wall first until Crocker proves otherwise. The winner gets to swim the fly leg of the final in the medley relay.

SATURDAY NIGHT

EVENT: 400-meter medley relay

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is always one of the most exciting events of the Olympics, because it tests a nation's overall swimming strength. Four swimmers, four specialties. Aaron Piersol will lead off by swimming the backstroke, then turn it over to Brendan Hansen, who will swim the breaststroke. Phelps then gets his shot in the butterfly before passing off to Jason Lezak. The Americans will be heavy favorites in this event, and it could be the capper to a historic meet for Phelps.

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