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Phelps will settle for seven golds at Olympics

The US athlete’s coach has announced that he won’t swim the 200m freestyle in London.

Phelps has already won 16 Olympic medals.
Phelps has already won 16 Olympic medals.

MICHAEL PHELPS WON’T try to replicate his glittering eight-gold haul of 2008 at the London Olympics, coach Bob Bowman said Monday.

“No one should be expected to do that twice, once was more than enough,” Bowman said of the US superstar’s punishing programme in Beijing, where he eclipsed Mark Spitz’s record of seven golds at one Games.

Bowman announced on Twitter that Phelps wouldn’t swim the 200m freestyle in London, although he won it over rival Ryan Lochte at the US Olympic swimming trials.

“Michael Phelps will be removing the individual 200 freestyle from his Olympic program,” Bowman tweeted. “This will give him a full slate of 7 events.

“His change will allow him to focus more energy on relays for Team USA.”

Since taking his career tally of Olympic golds to 14 in Beijing, Phelps had insisted he wouldn’t swim eight events at his last Olympics in London.

But at the trials, which conclude on Monday night, he qualified in exactly the same eight events: the 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m freestyle and 200m and 400m individual medleys. He’s expected to swim three relays.

Phelps, whose 16 Olympic medals include two bronze won in Athens, will still be able to surpass Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina for the most Olympic medals won in a career — 18 — but he would only be able to match her total of 14 individual Olympic medals.

He will also have a chance to claim a third straight Olympic title in four events — the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m and 400m individual medley.

No male swimmer has ever won the same Olympic event at three straight Games, although two women swimmers have accomplished the feat.

With Phelps’s withdrawal, Ricky Berens gains the second spot on the US team in the 200m free after finishing third at trials behind Phelps and Lochte.

US men’s head coach Gregg Troy said no one on the coaching staff would second-guess Phelps’s decision.

“I don’t think there’s many people that want to challenge the programme that Michael swims,” Troy said.

The men’s 4x100m freestyle relay has been a big topic of conversation at the US trials. On paper, the Americans are underdogs against an Australian team expected to feature the season’s dominant sprinters of James Magnussen and James Roberts, while France and Russia have plenty of sprinting talent as well.

Troy said he didn’t think Phelps’s withdrawal from the 200m free signalled a special emphasis on the 4x100m freestyle relay.

“It’s more relative to it being a tough programme Michael swims,” Troy said. “He’s a lot older and those older guys don’t recover as quickly.”

Bowman, however, hinted that Phelps was keen do all he could to knock back the mighty Australians.

“We respect the challenge we’re up against,” Bowman said. “And perhaps we’ll be more ready than people think.”

Phelps had also insisted after Beijing he wouldn’t swim the 400m medley again in major competition, but his times this year have persuaded him otherwise. Bowman said that event, on the opening day of swimming competition, is a good way to launch the meet.

“We like to get going,” Bowman said. “No matter how it goes, we want to be in the mix. We don’t want to wait until the second day.”

Bowman added that Phelps would benefit more in the long run from thinning out his schedule in the middle of the Games.

The heats and semi-finals of the 200m free fall on the same day as the 4x100m free final.

On the next day, the 200m free final would have added to his burden on the day he launched his 200m butterfly treble bid.

“We felt comfortable with what he swam here, but when you start adding relays in something’s got to give,” Bowman said.

“He and I had discussed it early in the week,” Bowman said. “Last night I think he was more perturbed that I made him sit down with his management team and go over it. He sat down and said “OK, we’re scratching the 200 free.’

“He was fine with it.”

© AFP, 2012

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