Thursday, August 5, 2004
Hall: Sorry for issuing incorrect information
By Eric Adelson
ESPN The Magazine
Even Hall of Fame Olympic swimmers make mistakes.
Gary Hall Sr. apologized Thursday and retracted a statement he made Tuesday to several news outlets, including ESPN, saying his son, Gary Jr., told him Michael Phelps would swim in the 4x100 relay final.
"I would like to apologize to the Men's U.S. Olympic Swimming Head Coach Eddie Reese, the U.S. Olympic 4x100 Freestyle Relay Team, the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, and my son, Gary Jr. for unintentionally issuing wrong information regarding the decision on Michael Phelps to swim the finals of the 4x100 Relay," Hall Sr., a three-time Olympic medalist, said in a statement.
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Reese told ESPN that he would not make his final decision until after prelims on the day of the relay final.
"That has not been decided," Reese said. "We have nothing to base it on. We've gotta wait 'til everyone swims."
Last week in a hotel conference room in Stanford, Calif., Reese announced to his team that the bottom four of the top six qualifiers in the 100 freestyle will all have a chance to earn one of the two remaining spots in the 4x100 free relay. Those four -- Gary Hall Jr., Neil Walker, Nate Dusing, and Gabe Woodward -- would swim the morning of the final on Aug. 15. Phelps, who didn't swim the 100-free in trials, would not.
Reese said at that time he would meet over lunch 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. If any two of the four swim well under 48.5 seconds, they would likely get the nod and Phelps would sit the day out.
That is still the plan, Reese said Thursday.
"Our whole goal is to win that relay," Reese said. "We've gotta have the best four people."
But Reese reiterated that it would be premature to put Phelps on the team before prelims.
"It would be unfair to take that chance," Reese said.
Hall Sr.'s comment became a bit of a distraction for the relay team. Reese held an impromptu team meeting Wednesday night to clear up the confusion. Reese said the team reacted with amusement at the controversy.
"They were really funny about it," Reese said.
Reached at his home Tuesday night, Hall Sr. said, "according to Gary, Eddie's going to put Michael on the relay at night."
Hall Sr. then called ESPN on Thursday to admit the error.
"I did not intend to upset any of those who were involved," he said in the statement. "I have the deepest respect for Coach Eddie Reese, and I know that whatever decision he will make with regard to that team will be in the best interest of the U.S. Olympic Team."
Eric Adelson is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.