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Chris Chase

Phelps Watch (and more): 200-meter freestyle final

Fourth-Place Medal

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Event: 200-meter freestyle

When: 10:16 p.m. ET

At stake: Phelps will tie the Olympic record of nine career gold medals with a victory

Possible spoilers: None

Analysis: After surviving the toughest test he'll face during these Olympics yesterday in the thrilling 4x100 relay, Michael Phelps should cruise to a gold this morning in Beijing. Phelps earned a bronze in this event in Athens, in what was called the 'race of the century'. Both the gold and silver medal winners from that race (Ian Thorpe and Peter van den Hoogenband, respectively) are not in this field. Phelps owns the world record in this event and shouldn't be challenged.

Prediction: Gold: Phelps (USA) (WR); Silver: Taehwan Park (KOR); Bronze: Peter Vanderkaay (USA)

More 4x100 fallout: One of the few ill-effects of Michael Phelps' quest for eight gold medals is that every swimming final which doesn't involve him feels like a let-down. After the events of yesterday, though, the Phelps-less men's 100-meter freestyle suddently has become one of the most-anticipated events of these Olympics.

The brewing rivalry between American Jason Lezak and France's Alain Bernard will get the lion's share of publicity, but the final will also likely showcase Australian sprint star, and new world record holder, Eamon Sullivan.

Heats start on Tuesday night in Beijing, with the final to be contested on Thursday morning (Wednesday night in the U.S.). It is certain to be the fastest 100-meter swimming race ever contested.

Other finals predictions: Women's 100 backstroke: Natalie Coughlin (USA); Men's 100 backstroke: Aaron Peirsol (USA); Women's 100 breaststroke: Leisel Jones (AUS)

Final note: Banned U.S. swimmer Jessica Hardy was scheduled to swim in the women's 100-meter breaststroke in Beijing. Her replacement, Rebecca Soni, is seeded #2 in tonight's final, which speaks to the unbelievable depth of the American swim team.

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