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Hall ready for 50 free ‘battle’

Gary Hall Jr. of Phoenix (left) put himself at center stage for swimming’s glamour event tomorrow by qualifying fastest in the 50 freestyle semifinal today.

“It’s a good position. I’m in the middle of the pool and I’ll have a good view of all the competitors – not that I’ll be looking,” said Hall, who won silver in ’96.

Anthony Ervin, the first of black heritage to make a U.S. Olympic swim team, said the race is “going to be a battle,” with Russian Alexander Popov attempting an unprecedented third gold in the 50 free.

QUALIFIERS: 1. Hall, Phoenix, 22.07. 2. Pieter van den Hoogenband, Netherlands, 22.11. 3. Ervin, Athens, Ga., 22.13. 4. Popov, Russia, 22.17. 5. Lorenzo Vismara, Italy, 22.30. 6. Mark Foster, Britain, 22.32. 7. Bartosz Kizierowski, Poland, 22.35. 8. Oleksandr Volynets, Ukraine, 22.36.

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