Phelps Watch: 4x100 freestyle relay final

Event: 4x100-meter freestyle relay

When: 11:33 p.m. ET

Possible spoilers: France, Australia, Italy, South Africa

Analysis: This race is the biggest obstacle for Michael Phelps in his quest for eight gold medals. The men's 4x100 freestyle relay has been a notoriously unpredicatable event over the past two Olympics, and this year should be no different. At least four teams have a realistic shot of winning gold in what should be the fastest relay race of all-time. The eight relay squads that qualified for the finals all set national records in the preliminary heats, despite some using their "B" lineups.

Three nations broke the previous world record in the prelims, with the U.S. narrowly edging out France and Australia for the top seed. Only one of the swimmers on that world record-setting team will swim in the finals for the United States. Cullen Jones earned that right by splitting the quickest time among the Americans. He will join Phelps, Jason Lezak and Garrett Weber-Gale in the finals.

The American performance in the prelims is encouraging for Phelps and his chances to win a second gold medal during these Games, especially considering that, aside from Phelps, the performance of the U.S. swim team so far in Beijing has been lackluster. The speed shown by the "B" relay swimmers last night in Beijing is a good sign for the "A" team that will hit the pool Monday morning in China.

French sprinting star Alain Bernard has been smack-talking in the lead-up to the race, saying that his team will 'smash' the Americans. Bernard might get his gold medal, but his prediction won't come true; whichever team wins this race will do so by a narrow margin. The Amercians seem better positioned to win than they were 24 hours ago, but this is still France's race to lose. You'll want to be watching at 11:33 tonight. It should be a thrilling race.

Prediction: 1) France (WR); 2) United States; 3) Australia

Other finals predictions: Women's 100 butterfly: Lisbeth Trickett (AUS); Men's 100 breaststroke: Kosuke Kitajima (JPN); Womens' 400 freestyle: Frederica Pellegrini (ITA)

Photo via Getty Images

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