Michael Phelps is committed as one can be to something four years away. The 14-time gold medalist says he plans on competing in the 2012 London Olympics, albeit with an easier, less-ambitious schedule than the one he just finished in Beijing. He's already broken the most prestigious mark in Olympic history, so what's next? What will Michael Phelps do as an encore?
He'll be 27 in London, an age that was once thought to be over-the-hill in swimming. (Although that sterotype was perpetuated because, up until a few years ago, there wasn't enough money in swimming for people to stick with the sport beyond their college years. Phelps doesn't have that problem, since he's making seven-figures from Speedo, Visa and all his other sponsors.) He could probably handle a slate of eight events again, but not with the same dominance he exhibited in Beijing. Look for Phelps to slice his individual events from five to three (or possible even two) to compliment the three relay events.
First to go will be the 400 IM. Phelps said his coach, Bob Bowman, promised that the 400 IM in Beijing would be the last he'd ever have to do if he set a world record. Phelps complied, so the 400 IM will likely be retired from the repertoire. The 200 will probably be dropped too, particularly if Ryan Lochte continues his ascension.
There's been talk of Phelps giving up his signature event, the 200 fly, but he hasn't lost the race since 2001. Phelps without the 200 fly would be like Michael Jordan without dunking. Adapting your game to fit your age is one thing. Abandoning your bread-and-butter is an entirely different one.
The 100 fly is the race that has given Phelps the most trouble over his career. He could cut the event or, with the IMs off his slate, could dedicate more time to training for the 100. Phelps says he wants to try new events though, which might put the 100 fly in jeopardy. Among the new events Phelps could try are the 100 free and 100 back.
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- Michael Phelps