Following the IOC announcement of the additions of the men’s 800 free, women’s 1500 free, and the mixed 400 medley relay to the Olympics, many people haven spoken out. While a popular grievance has been that the 50’s of stroke should’ve been added before these other additions, or at least before the mixed relay, Michael Phelps is frustrated with the addition of new events, in general.
While he does support gender equality and the women’s 1500, an event in which men have been able to swim for more than a century at the Olympics, adding new events “takes away from the sport,” according to Phelps at an event for Krave Jerky in Manhattan (per NBC Olympic Talk).
“What else are we going to add? Are we going to do, like, 75m frees? How many other events are we going to add?” he said. “It’s just like what we had in 2009, after world championships, having those high-tech suits. 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.
“When you add something like an 800m for men and a 1500m for women, and you’re adding mixed relays and 50s of strokes. 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.”
In terms of adding people to the team, which Phelps seems concerned about, the IOC did say that they were going to lower the overall amount of swimmers invited to the Olympics by 22. From that statement, it seems as though team sizes won’t increase because of the new events, at least for now.
However, Phelps wasn’t wholly dismissive of the IOC announcement. He did address murmurings of Katie Ledecky potentially going for more than six golds in Tokyo with the new events added.
Besides the 200, 400, and 800 free individually, as well as the two free relays, Ledecky would assumedly take gold in the 1500 in Tokyo to put her at six golds. As she’s progressed in the 100 free and the 400 IM, there are talks of having her at least swim prelims on one or both of the medley relays, or shoot for gold in the 400 IM (that being more of a stretch than being a prelims medley relay swimmer), bringing her over six golds to nine, potentially.
“It’s great to be able to see Katie potentially go for eight,” Phelps said. “I think it’s great to see different events added for Katie because then you can really challenge where her limit is. … Then you bring a lot more excitement to the sport from a marketing standpoint.”