x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Phelps opts for high-octane bid in Olympic record quest

Tiring athlete has time of more than two seconds off his personal best in favourite 200m event but is still the year's fastest time.

Michael Phelps won eight out of eight medals at Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Michael Phelps won eight out of eight medals at Beijing Olympics in 2008.

OMAHA // Michael Phelps ended the suspense over what exactly his intentions were for the London Olympics by confirming he plans to swim the same eight events he has contested at the last two Games.

In addition to his 14 golds, which is more than any other Olympian in history, Phelps also has two bronze medals.

He went six-for-eight in Athens, then an unprecedented eight-for-eight in Beijing.

Now he needs just three medals of any colour in London to surpass the overall record of 18 held by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.

At the halfway stage of the US Olympic trials, Phelps has booked his place in three of his five individual events; the 400-metre medley, 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly.

He still has the 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly to go and will be automatic choice for the three relays.

Having pulled out of two other events from his gruelling schedule, Phelps, 26, powered away from his rivals in the 200m butterfly over the final two laps to win in 1min 53.65secs, more than two seconds outside his world record but still the fastest time in the world this year.

"It's not a good enough time to win a gold medal, but I think I'm OK with it," he said.

"Today was the best my stroke has felt throughout the whole meet. So, in all I'm pleased, but I think I need to go faster if I want to win that at the Olympics."

Of all his events, the 200m butterfly is his favourite and the one he has dominated the most. It was the only event he qualified for at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when he was just 15 and it was the competition where he set his first world record and won his first world title.

He won the event at five world championships, has held the world record for more than a decade and won the gold medal at the past two Olympics.

"This is my fourth Olympics Games in this event, so it's special to me, special to my family, special to my mom," Phelps said.

"I have a couple of weeks to perfect some things that I'm going to need if I want to end with a good one."

Phelps had also entered the 100m freestyle but pulled out before Thursday's heats, which was not surprising given that he had been battling stroke for stroke with Ryan Lochte for the first three days.

"I just wanted the morning off," he said. "I was getting tired and needed a break."

Phelps was also signed up for the 200m backstroke, but his coach Bob Bowman said he was also scratching from that event.

"He will be swimming the 200m IM and the 100m fly, so normal programme," Bowman said.

Allison Schmitt, who trains with Phelps and Bowman at North Baltimore, added another race to her Olympic programme, winning the 200m freestyle in 1.54.40.

That is the fastest in the world this year, improving on the 1.54.66 posted by France's Camille Muffat. "I didn't feel like I was on my (American) record pace, but I could hear the crowd. I was pretty excited before I even looked up and saw the time," said Schmitt, who won the 400m free earlier this week.

The teen sensation Missy Franklin, fifth at the first turn, surged to second to add the event to a London schedule that already includes the 100m backstroke.

In the day's other final, Caitlin Leverenz won the women's 200m individual medley in 2.10.22 to give herself a shot at a medley double in London.

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