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Chris Chase

Phelps Watch: 4x100-meter medley relay

Fourth-Place Medal

Event: 4x100 medley relay

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When: 10:58 p.m. ET

At stake: An Olympic sweep and record eighth gold medal

Possible spoilers: Disqualification, Australia

Analysis: And then there was one. Michael Phelps goes for an unprecedented eighth gold medal this morning in Beijing, leading the United States in the 4x100 medley relay. Phelps and his American teammates are considerable favorites, but their victory is by no means a foregone conclusion.

This relay, which features four swimmers going two lengths of the pool in each discipline (back, breast, fly, free) has been historically dominated by the United States. With Aaron Peirsol (gold medalist), Brendan Hansen (former WR record holder), Phelps and Jason Lezak (bronze medalist and owner of fastest 100 free relay split in history) lining up for the U.S. this morning, there's no reason to think that run won't continue.

The Australian team is the only squad that should realistically give the U.S. a race. But of the four legs of this relay, the Aussies only have an advtange in one: freestyler Eamon Sullivan, is faster than Lezak. That likely won't be enough. By the anchor leg, Lezak should have a comfortable lead.

A disqualification might be the biggest fear for the United States. Last year at the World Championships, Ian Crocker left the block too early in his butterfly leg of the prelims and was DQ'd. The Americans need to have safe exchanges in this race, but can't be too cautious, lest they give Australia a few extra tenths of a seconds to work with.

Win or lose, this is the final race of Michael Phelps' 2008 Olympics. Don't take it for granted. Phelps' performance over the last eight days will be discussed and referenced for generations. Catch it live tonight before it becomes history.

Prediction: Gold: USA (WR); Silver: Australia; Bronze: Japan

Photo via Getty Images

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