File updated with Bob Bowman quotes
Michael Phelps has dropped the 200m freestyle from his London 2012 programme, leaving him with seven events to go for. Ricky Berens steps up to swim alongside Ryan Lochte, while Davis Tarwater is added to the 4x200m freestyle relay.
Coach Bob Bowman's tweeted today:
@MichaelPhelps will be removing the individual 200 freestyle from his Olympic program. This will give him a full slate of 7 events ... This change will allow him to focus more energy on relays for Team USA.
The coach then met the media at the pool to explain the move.
Wearing a British bulldog in Union Flag colours on his chest, Bowman was clear when the question of "expectation" over the eight was raised: "No-one should be expected to do that twice. Once is enough." He smiled at the notion that he wouldn't "hear the No8 after this press conference".
"Something has to give," said Bowman. It was either going to be the 400IM or the 200m free. The attraction of the long medley was a day 1 start, said Bowman: "It's good to get going and not wait until the second day."
Besides that, the better place for rest and recovery was in the middle of a hefty challenge not at the start. "This [dropping the 200m free] helps him out in the middle of the programme, which will help him at the end of it."
In taking out the 200m free it also removed the only solo event in which he cannot chase the triple (victories in the same race at three Games). That was "a factor" but the real issue was making sure Phelps can cope with a punishing schedule at 27 at a swan song Games where he will still be taking on a far greater challenge than almost everyone else - barring Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte.
His charge had toiled his way through trials, often referring to the toll it is all taking physically after coming off six weeks of altitude training and having not fully rested to race at peak. Bowman told Phelps on day two of trials in Omaha to think about dropping the 200m free in London "just put it on the menu" for further discussion at the end of the meet.
Phelps is not a man to chew on things. Bowman had raised the matter and the isolation seemed simple enough - and one that the swimmers was comfortable with. No need to talk about it further.
Last night, after Phelps struggled a little through his last home-water career with a 51.14 win in the 100m butterfly, Bowman called him to a meeting with the management. "I think he was perturbed by that," said Bowman. "He just wanted to go eat. he said 'okay, we're scratching the 200 free … anything else'. And that was it."
Phelps, said Bowman, would be "better in everything" come the Games in London. Including as a a quarter of a 4x100m free force to be reckoned with regardless of Aussie might.
The USA can to leave nothing to chance in the 4x100m free if it is to avoid being sunk by the might of Australia, with those two young guns born on the same day, James The Missile Magnussen and James The Rocket Roberts. The solo 200m free clashes with the 4x100m.
Asked about the Dolphins, Bowman said: "We respect the challenge. We may be more ready than people think."
The decision to drop the 200m free from Phelps's programme means that he can match but not exceed the all-time Olympic record tally of individual-event Olympic medals held by Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina. He needs three medals to top her 18-medal tally including relays.
The move also leaves Phelps with the chance of a triple in the 100m and 200m butterfly and both medleys. No man has ever made one triple. The fact that Phelps has four shots speaks to the magnitude of the most monumental Olympic career in history.
Team USA Director Frank Busch described Phelps's efforts as "Herculean" and backed the decision to take one event away from his London challenge, saying: "Bob's been with him so long they know exactly what they are doing."
As for Phelps, he says: “Four years ago, we were trying to literally do everything. That was what we wanted to do but at this point, it’s let’s go out, let’s have some fun, let’s relax a little bit.”
Dropping the 200m was obviously a relief. “It’s so much smarter for me to do that,” said Phelps. “We’re not trying to recreate what happened in Beijing. It just makes more sense.”
The same day as the 200m heats and semis, the sprint relay is what will be in Phelps' sights: “The 400 free relay is going to be harder than it was last time,” Phelps said between bites of French toast, scrambled eggs and bacon over a late breakfast, AP reporter Paul Newberry watching on. “It just allows me to put my energy elsewhere instead of trying to control it for another three races.”
The programme Phelps is left with is "a lot and it is going to be stressful”, the performer noted. “My body is not going to feel the same as it did after the Beijing 400 IM. I was fresh and still ready to go.”
Regardless of tempting offers - and SwimNews understands there could be some very hefty inducements in the pipeline - Phelps is clear as the breakfast sets on his last swim in the US: “I won’t be coming back. Put it on record.”