The Possibilities for Phelps in 2008

BEIJING, China, July 4. WITH the Olympic Trials in Omaha less than a year away and Beijing creeping closer, there will be much speculation concerning which athletes will be favored in which disciplines. And, as was the case in 2004, there will be much speculation pertaining to the schedule of Michael Phelps and which events he opts to tackle.

Coming off a seven gold-medal haul at the World Championships in Melbourne, Phelps is likely to reprise the slate he embraced down under: The 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly, 200 individual medley and 400 individual medley. Of course, Phelps will be expected to see triple-relay work as well, his slots in the championship finals of the 400 and 800 freestyle relays pretty much locked up. Meanwhile, depending on the outcome of another showdown (barring a stunning development) with Ian Crocker in the 100 fly, Phelps will handle the fly leg – prelims or finals – in Beijing on the 400 medley relay.

The question is whether Phelps might consider a sixth individual event, presumably the 100 freestyle or 200 backstroke. Those disciplines are the next best in Phelps' arsenal and are manageable within his schedule, the 100 free seeming to click better. The 200 back makes for some incredibly tough days. So, we thought we'd provide a look at Phelps' potential schedules for Beijing – one with the 100 free as a sixth event and one with the 200 back as a sixth event.

Certainly, much can change in the next year and when dealing with an athlete as talented as Phelps, no limitations should be placed, nor should anything be surprising. Perhaps he'll stick with five individual events and three relays. Maybe he'll go for six solo forays, which would mean 20 swims. We'll soon see. If nothing else, it's going to be one heck of a show.

If Michael Phelps opts for six individual events in Beijing, his schedule could look like this:

Aug. 9
400 individual medley (prelim)

Aug. 10
400 individual medley (final)
200 freestyle (prelim)

Aug. 11
200 freestyle (semifinal)
400 freestyle relay (final)
200 butterfly (prelim)

Aug. 12
200 freestyle (final)
200 butterfly (semifinal)
100 freestyle (prelim)

Aug. 13
100 freestyle (semifinal)
200 butterfly (final)
800 freestyle relay (final)
200 individual medley (prelim)

Aug. 14
100 freestyle (final)
200 individual medley (semifinal)
100 butterfly (prelim)

Aug. 15
200 individual medley (final)
100 butterfly (semifinal)

Aug. 16
100 butterfly (final)

Aug. 17
400 medley relay (final)

Or, his schedule could look like this:

Aug. 9
400 individual medley (prelim)

Aug. 10
400 individual medley (final)
200 freestyle (prelim)

Aug. 11
200 freestyle (semifinal)
400 freestyle relay (final)
200 butterfly (prelim)

Aug. 12
200 freestyle (final)
200 butterfly (semifinal)

Aug. 13
200 butterfly (final)
800 freestyle relay (final)
200 backstroke (prelim)
200 individual medley (prelim)

Aug. 14
200 backstroke (semifinal)
200 individual medley (semifinal)
100 butterfly (prelim)

Aug. 15
200 backstroke (final)
200 individual medley (final)
100 butterfly (semifinal)

Aug. 16
100 butterfly (final)

Aug. 17
400 medley relay (final)

Note: Prelims will be held in the evening, with semifinals and finals contested in the morning. The charts indicate Phelps representing the United States in three relay finals. If Phelps swims only the prelims of the 400 medley relay, that leg would be scheduled for Aug. 15

Reaction Time Comments
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I think Michael Phelps would be best served at Beijing were he to skip the 400 IM/400 free — although he could almost assuredly win golds in both — and focus instead on winning the 100 free.

That would do a couple of things: first, presuming he makes the Olympic team in the two-lapper, that would show he has become a great sprinter (in addition to all his other aquatic virtues) and that his 2007 world-best 48.7 100 free relay leadoff from the World Championships was no fluke.

Second, I think concentrating on winning the 100 free would give him a fresh outlook on swimming heading into the Olympics.

He's already won an Olympic 400 IM gold and at three World Championship titles; what more does he have to prove?

As for the 400, leave that to the distance freestylers.

Phelps' one foray into the 400 at the World Championships two years ago ended in disaster when he failed to qualify for the finals.

True, there were extenuating circumstances but I still say ditch the 400.

Go for the "glam" of the 100. Go for the unprecedented feat of winning FIVE individual golds at a single Olympics (100-200 frees/flys, 200 IM).

Secondly, by focusing on the 100 free this would undoubtedly improve his 100 fly too.

Yes, he's defending Olympic champ and the second-fastest 100 flyer extant, but at this point in their careers, world record-holder Ian Crocker is the faster of the two.

The 100 fly is Crocker's one and only individual race at the Olympics. If Phelps is going to beat the world record-holder he'll have to get faster and distance training isn't the hot ticket.

Early in his career, Mark Spitz set a world-record in the 400 free. By the time he got to college at Indiana he only swam the sprint freestyles (100-200; there was no 50 then) and the 100-200 flys.

Munich and golds/world records in each of those four races was the culmination of that program.

Were Phelps to win the 100 free at Beijing there would be NO question that he'll go down in the history books as the "greatest" swimmer of all-time. (Not that there is now but…)

And were he to lose the 100?

Hey, maybe the guy's human after all!

I believe the challenge of going for the 100 free gold would invigorate him to the nth degree and give a spark to his training that he might well not otherwise have.

Better still, announce in September that his Beijing program will include the 100 free along with the four other races.

Wouldn't that shake up the swimming world and grab headlines from that point until the Olympic Trials?

Forget about who's going to win the BCS title, can Phelps win the 100 free gold?

Swimming couldn't BUY that kind of publicity if it tried.

* * * * *

On another topic, I think United States Swimming should add a new category to its age group rankings, i.e., "U.S Open NAG record."

I bring this up because USS allows foreign swimmers to be ranked among its Top 25, and one look at the current short-course rankings — particularly in the boys' 17-18 events — shows a large number of foreign-born U.S. collegians.

If we allow them to be ranked let's also allow them to hold a U.S. Open NAG record as we do with our U.S. Open senior records.

In that regard, Holland's Inge de Bruin holds the current U.S. Open record in the 50 free, and she also held it in the 100 free until Amanda Weir beat it last summer at Irvine.

Similarly Ian Thorpe holds the U.S. Open 400 free standard from the 2004 Janet Evans Invitational.

If a foreign athlete's time is faster than the comparable American age-group record then so be it, give the swimmer the credit.

Years ago foreign athletes were not allowed on the NAG list, then the policy was changed to what it is today, which I think was for the betterment of the sport.

Were this rule in effect today 15-year-old Australian Cate Campbell, who won the 50 free at Santa Clara over the weekend in 25.17, would be the U.S. Open record-holder in 15-16 girls.

(The current American 15-16 NAG record is 25.50 by Miami Swimming's Christina Swindle from 2000.)

Campbell's pr is 24.89 from the Australian Olympic Youth Festival last February at the Sydney Olympic Pool.

That time is faster than the U.S. 17-18 NAG record of 25.00 by Kara Lynn Joyce, and of course far better than the 13-14 standard of 26.02 by Weir from 2001.

In fact, Campbell is the only sub 18-year-old to dip under 25.0.

When foreign swimmers were ineligible for USS NAG listings in the early '80s, you had the situation of Brazilian Ricardo Prado (then attending college at SMU after having trained the previous several years at Mission Viejo) winning a bronze in the 400 IM at the Los Angeles Olympics while still 18 — and not being ranked on the NAG list even though his time was faster than the then comparable record!

(Of course Prado was not unduly concerned about not being ranked No. 1 among 17-18 boys but the point is: here was a case of an athlete who was living and training in America for years and was now attending college here yet was excluded from the rankings).
Bill