OMAHA - Michael Phelps is a proven world-beater, but even he can't beat Father Time.
Phelps dropped the 200-meter freestyle from his Olympic program Monday, which means he will swim seven events in London and won't try to duplicate his otherworldly eight gold medals in eight events in Beijing.
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"So you won't hear the number eight again," said a smiling Bob Bowman, Phelps' longtime coach, who announced the change. "It just makes sense. Nobody should be expected to do that twice. Once was more than enough. Trust me."
Bowman said he and Phelps decided to drop the 200 free to keep Phelps fresher through the Games and to allow him more energy for the relays. Phelps turned 27 at the Olympic trials.
"That's a tough program Michael swims," men's Olympic coach Gregg Troy said. "It's really tough. And he's a little bit older, and those older guys don't recover quite as quickly."
Phelps qualified in five individual events for London and is likely to swim all three relays, as he did in Beijing. His remaining individual races are the 200 and 400 individual medley and the 100 and 200 butterfly.
"What this allows him to do is really focus his energy on the 4 by 100 relay the second night of the meet without having to do two 200 frees before," Bowman said.
That relay final goes on the same day as the prelims and semifinals of the 200 free. Bowman said he believed Phelps could win the 200 free but that he wanted Phelps ready for that relay, in which the Australians are expected to challenge traditional U.S. dominance.
An Aussie reporter asked about that. "We respect the challenge we're up against," Bowman said. "And perhaps we'll be more ready than people think."
Bowman reminded reporters that Phelps has said all along he didn't think he'd do eight again. Bowman said he discussed with Phelps the possibility of dropping the 200 free early in the week but that they didn't discuss it again until Sunday night.
"He was absolutely fine with it," Bowman said. "When we talk about technical things, he sees the logic of it quite easily."
Ricky Berens, who had already qualified for the team on relays, moved up to take Phelps' spot in the individual 200 free.
"I looked at all the events and it was really just a program decision," Bowman said. "It came down to the 400 IM or 200 free. One of those had to go."
Bowman said he wanted to keep the 400 IM because it is on the first day and he wants to space out the seven-event program.
"I felt like the (eight-event) program was too big," Bowman said. "If we could alleviate one of these he would have more (energy) near the end" of the Olympic meet.
By Erik Brady, USA TODAY