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OMAHA, Nebraska, July 2. IF there was any doubt that Michael Phelps would wind up swimming on the men's 400 free relay at the 2012 London Olympics after not swimming the 100 free individually in Omaha, it has been cleared away. Phelps just announced that he would scratch defending his 200-meter freestyle Olympic gold medal to focus on the men's 400 free relay.
The move gives both he and Ryan Lochte a complete slate of seven events, with Phelps electing not to pursue a replication of his unprecedented eight Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. Phelps had earned swims in the 200 free, 100 fly, 200 fly, 200 IM and 400 IM, and will likely be on all three relays, giving him seven more medal opportunities. It also pulls Ricky Berens, the third-place finisher in the 200 free, into individual-event duty. Additionally, seventh-place finisher Davis Tarwater officially moved up to sixth place with the scratch, making him the newest Team USA Olympian.
Phelps only needs three more medals to hold the record for most Olympic medals in a career. Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina holds that record currently with 18 medals to her credit. Should Phelps medal in all seven, he could conceivably put the record out of reach for future contenders. Add to that the fact that there is still a chance that he could get bit by the swimming bug and return in 2016 after a brief retirement, and we could be looking at an astonishing final career tally.
Lochte also finished with a seven-event slate heading into London. He made the team in the 200 free, 200 back, 200 IM and 400 IM as well as the likelihood that he swims on all three relays. He also stated on his final day that Trials was a training meet, and that he put in a practice the morning of his 100 fly finals swim.