With Rio organizers having released the competitive sporting schedule in its entirety for the 2016 Olympic Games, we speculated what 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps’ might look like for his 5th Games appearance.
Now Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman, has confirmed the specific events in which the comeback king will be targeting at the U.S. Trials, which begin on June 26th in Omaha, Nebraska.
In speaking with USA Today, Bowman said that, although Phelps will be trying out some off-events during the Arena Pro Swim Series stops, “Phelps should do both the 100 and 200 butterflies and the 200 individual medley” at the U.S. Trials. But that schedule leaves out one of Phelps’ past gold-medal-winning events, the 200m freestyle.
Regarding the 200m freestyle, Bowman is quoted as stating “ probably not” when asked if the 18-time gold medalist would indeed target the race individually for the 2016 Olympic Games. However, Bowman said “He’s probably going to be doing enough to show that he should be in the relays.”
Phelps certainly has successful Olympic experience in the 200m freestyle, having earned bronze in the event at the 2004 Games in Athens, followed by gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Although he qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the event for the 2012 London Games, Phelps decided to drop the event individually.
The 200m freestyle has been part of Phelps’ repertoire off and on since his comeback, with his best time since re-entering the world of competitive swimming being the 1:48.20 he clocked at the 2014 Santa Clara Grand Prix (now called Pro Swim Series). That same venue is where Phelps registered his best time of 2015, a 1:49.03, a mark well-off that year’s best time of 1:45.14 that Great Britain’s James Guy dropped for gold in 2015 FINA World Championships.
In terms of the two butterfly races and the 200 IM, Phelps proved last year he is still at the top of his game, ending the season on top of the world rankings in each of the events. While competing at the U.S. Nationals in San Antonio in August, Phelps scored a 200m butterfly time of 1:52.94, faster than the winning time at the World Championships.
Phelps then posted a 50.45 in the 100m distance of the same discipline, again a time that would’ve won the world title in Kazan. He continued his San Antonio and world domination by winning the 200 IM in a time of 1:54.75, over a full second ahead of Ryan Lochte’s world title-winning time in Kazan.
Phelps continued that momentum heading into 2016 by blasting wins in those same three events while competing at the U.S. Winter Nationals at the beginning of December.
In the same USA Today interview, Bowman attributes Phelps’ so-far-successful comeback at least partly to the change in environment. Phelps, along with other members of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, followed Bowman out to Tempe, Arizona once Bowman took on the head coaching job at Arizona State University.
Says Bowman of ‘the new’ Phelps, “He’s doing very well personally and as an athlete. He just purchased a house up here. He likes Phoenix and Scottsdale. He’s really grounded and he’s approached everything so well since he came back from his time away. He’s as fit as he’s been in a long time.”
“The timing was fortuitous for him because it let us have a clean slate, start over,” Bowman said. The new environment “was great,” Bowman said. “He’s just really in a different place now.”
As someone who knows the ins and outs of the world’s greatest Olympic swimmer ever, Bowman sends shivers through Phelps’ competition stating, “He’s better now than he’s been in many years.”