The most recognizable U.S. Olympians in swimming and track and field began outlining plans for the London Games on Tuesday, as news broke of both Michael Phelps and Allyson Felix's potential schedules at the Olympic trials.
According to the
Both Phelps and Felix can still alter their trials schedule -- Phelps, in particular, would seem likely to drop the 200 back. His current schedule is not as loaded as it was at the 2008 trials when he entered nine individual events (but scratched to six before heats), and then opted out of the 100 free semifinals after he was assured a spot on the 4x100 free relay team. In 2004, he drew criticism -- notably from Gary Hall Jr. -- for being placed on the Olympic 4x100 free relay team after not swimming the event at trials.
The 27-year-old Phelps has never swum the 100 free at an Olympics, and he has not stated any intention of adding it for his final Games. He's likely got a spot on the 4x100 relay team locked down, and his coach conceded the trials lineup could be downsized before Monday.
"It's safe to say he's entered in more events than he'll actually swim," Bob Bowman, told the
Phelps also does seem like a lock to swim the 400 IM. He said after the 2008 Olympics that he was done with the grueling decathlon of swimming following his second straight gold medal and world record. But he worked it back into his schedule at Grand Prix meets this year, his times strong enough to lead to questions of whether he would swim it at trials. Phelps (and Bowman) were predictably noncommittal on the subject when asked.
It'd be no surprise to see Phelps stick with the 400 IM and repeat his eight-event schedule (100, 200 butterfly; 200 freestyle; 200 IM; 400 IM; 4x100, 4x200 freestyle relay; and 4x100 medley relay) from Athens and Beijing, where he became the first Olympian to win eight medals (all gold) at a single Games. Such a schedule would set up another showdown with rival Ryan Lochte, who surpassed Phelps as the world's best all-around swimmer in the last Olympic cycle and is the reigning world champion in the 400 IM (Phelps still holds the world record). Lochte is entered in 11 events at trials but will surely drop down to four or five.
Phelps has always thrived on challenges. He entered the 200 free at the 2004 Olympics knowing he was a long shot to win, but he wanted to race Australia's Ian Thorpe and Holland's Pieter van den Hoogenband, the two fastest in the event's history. He took bronze in U.S.-record time in what was later known as "The Race of Century." Three potential duels with Lochte (also the 200 IM and 200 free) would bring more attention to the sport, long Phelps' stated intention to pump up swimming's popularity.
Regardless of what Phelps ultimately swims in London, this much is true: He knows there's one major box left to check off before ending his Olympic career. Phelps, who has won 16 Olympic medals overall, will become the most decorated Olympian of all time with three medals of any color in London, passing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina. He'll get that record unless his schedule or his health radically changes between now and late July.
Felix's goal seems simpler. The 26-year-old owns three world championship golds in the 200 meters since 2005, but placed second in the event at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. (She did win a 4x400 relay gold in 2008).
Last year, Felix added the individual 400 to her repertoire and came up three hundredths of a second short of winning the world title in the one-lap race in Daegu, South Korea. She took bronze in the 200 five days later, two tenths of a second behind.
"I feel like this was the year to try something," Felix told SI's Tim Layden in Daegu last August. "Next year I'm going to be more focused on the 200. I'm not so sure about the double, because that 200 is very important to me."
After getting over the Daegu disappointment, Felix said she would attempt another sprint double in London -- no doubt pleasing her sponsors such as Nike -- but repeatedly said that her coach, Kersee, would decide which two events.
But Felix didn't run a single competitive 400 this year (she did run part of a 4x400 at the Penn Relays though). Instead, she focused on the 100 and ran a personal-best 10.92 in Doha, Qatar, in May. That time left little doubt about which event she would pair with the 200 at trials.
If Felix's primary goal is the 200 Olympic title -- the one that's eluded her since she was 18 -- then adding the 100 over the 400 is the smart decision, even though she's not the gold-medal favorite in the 100 (American Carmelita Jeter has run 10.81 this year).
Felix said training for the 400 took away some of the speed needed to contend with the likes of Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown and Jeter in the 200. Focusing on speed work this year, she'll be presumably fresher at the U.S. trials, where the 100 final is Saturday and the 200 final is June 30.
At the Olympics, the 100 final is scheduled for Aug. 4; the 400 final set for Aug. 5 and the 200 final scheduled on Aug. 8. Felix would get an extra day of rest for the crucial 200 -- should she make the Olympic team -- by running the 100 instead of the 400. She'll also be eligible for the 4x400 relay, giving her a potential shot at four medals (100, 200, 4x100 and 4x400). Nobody has won four track and field medals at one Olympic Games since Carl Lewis in 1984 (excluding Marion Jones in 2000).
But can Felix finally win the 200? The five fastest 200 runners this year are Americans (including Jeter, also eyeing a 100-200 double and Sanya Richards-Ross, eyeing a 200-400 double). Felix, ranked third in 2012, has never seen this level of competition from her countrywomen.
And then there's Felix's Olympic antithesis, Campbell-Brown, the gold medalist in Athens and Beijing. She's now 30, but she won the world title over Jeter and Felix last year.
With every four years comes scrutiny on both Felix and Phelps. Without speaking, both made it clear on Tuesday, 38 days from the opening ceremony, that they aren't shying away from the pressure.