Michael Phelps Not Happy About Olympic Event Additions

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a week after the International Olympic Committee added three new swimming events to the Olympic programMichael Phelps made it known that he’s not thrilled with the changes. According to NBC OlympicTalk, Phelps commented on the changes at an appearance for Krave Jerky in New York City on Thursday.

Phelps was pleased that women will be able to race the 1500 free to ensure gender equality, according to NBC, but he thinks that a greater number of events “takes away from the sport.” He even compared the situation to the 2009 World Championships, when the presence of high-tech polyurethane suits contributed to 42 new world records set.

Phelps explained that he was pleased the IOC chose not to add the 50s of butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke to the program.

“What else are we going to add? Are we going to do, like, 75 frees? How many other events are we going to add?” Phelps said, according to NBC. “It’s just like what we had in 2009, after world championships, having those high-tech suits [that were banned in 2010]. It’s not swimming anymore. We’ve had this event schedule for so long, and now we’re just going to pick and choose what events we want? I could go into more detail, but I’m really not going to. It’s a touchy subject. I hope swimming takes the turn for the right direction, and we continue to grow.

“I don’t want to say it, but it seems like there’s too much going on. It seems like, so then we’re going to grow the team by a handful of other people? I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s what swimming has been through all of this time, and hopefully we don’t have it for too long, but it’s not in my power. I can’t really do anything. I’ll just sit and watch.”

Phelps’ opinion is in contrast with many others in the swimming community who were pleased to see the new distance events added. Bob Bowman, Phelps’ coach for two decades, told Swimming World last week that he is excited for the new distance additions.

Phelps added that he would not be upset if a swimmer, possibly even Katie Ledecky, were to challenge his record of eight gold medals with the extra events added. He called it “great to see different events added for Katie because then you can really challenge where her limit is.”

Read more from NBC OlympicTalk by clicking here.



  1. Sean McCann

    I kind of agree. The women’s 1500 needed to happen like 40 years ago, and I wondered if they would add the 800 for the men or simple lengthen the women’s distance event. They chose to add, which — as a former distance swimmer — feels nice, but is it a distinct test from the 1500? When track equaled out the program, they didn’t add a men’s 3200 because that test is not different enough from the 5000. I’m not sold, but it’s not a travesty.
    However. The mixed medley is totally Mickey Mouse. It’s a fun idea for an informal setting, like an intrasquad meet or an alumni meet. Not worlds and certainly not the olympics.

    • Sean McCann

      Also, sprinters don’t need any further opportunity. If you’re the best sprint freestyler in the world at a given moment, and you come from a major swimming country, you can count on between 5 and 7 medals (depending on whether you can hang for a whole 200) in the olympics, without swimming another stroke.

  2. Allison Lloyd

    More swimming events equals more opportunities for swimmers, what is wrong with that?

  3. Aiden Smith

    Jaden Harris. – just salty that his record can now be “easier” to challenge

  4. Oline Stehr

    The mixed medley is just dumb

  5. James Hooper

    No 50’s of the other strokes is the tragedy here…

  6. Jackie Crowe Carribine

    I luv Phelps but equality should be across events/strokes and distance. Mixed relays are the least of our worries. If you’re a breaststroker and a sprinter why can’t you have your moment. Why only front crawl. Not right!

  7. avatar

    I’m coming from 1) the four strokes look freakin’ amazing when someone does them really well and 2) the Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport.
    The 50m free is already verging on flailing through the water. I wouldn’t want to watch a 50m sprint in Track and Field. Long course events of 100 meters and up emphasize the ACTUAL STROKES more than the 50s do, where the start and underwaters get such a stronger emphasis.
    The 50s (and the 100 yard IM) have a valuable place in age group swimming and for race training. But, please, no additional “splashing and dashing” in the Olympics.
    We already have a great display of the strokes in the Olympics, and it’s a very long, involved pageant at this point. Adding events dilutes the importance of what’s already there. Adding events isn’t free. They add to time, money and the attention span of the broader audience.
    With that said, I’m delighted that the 1500 for women has been added. I’ve long thought that it was an insult not to have the 1500.

  8. Joshua Matthew

    Have to agree, the 1500 for women needs to be added (give all the medals to Ledaky though) but do we need the other events? Diluting by adding does not increase thr interest…or talent pool.

    • Andrew Webber

      Needs to be equal, there’s no discussion about the about of events until that happens

  9. Kristine Murphy Grim

    There are other terrific swimmers. I wish they got as much press as Phelps.

  10. avatar

    Change is good and exciting for the sport. More opportunities for swimmers. While the mixed relay may be a one time occurrence it will be a fun event to watch. Phelps is incredible, but I’m not sure why he is not in favor of these additional events.

  11. Ron Spieker

    Quick FINA, remove the events before Mr Phelps gets really upset. Oh the horror! (Lessons in how to stay relevant)

  12. Nate Sharp

    Just more events for him to medal in.

Author: David Rieder

David Rieder is a staff writer for Swimming World. He has contributed to the magazine and website since 2009, and he has covered the NCAA Championships, U.S. Nationals, Olympic Trials as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. He is a native of Charleston, S.C., and a 2016 graduate of Duke University.

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