OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) - Michael Phelps has dropped the 200 metres freestyle from his schedule for next month’s London Olympics, leaving him with seven events for his Games swansong.
The American qualified for eight competitions, the same number he swam at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
“Michael Phelps will be removing the individual 200 freestyle from his Olympic programme. This will give him a full slate of seven events,” his coach Bob Bowman said on his Twitter account on Monday.
“This change will allow him to focus more energy on relays for Team USA.”
Phelps triumphed in the 200 freestyle in the Beijing Games when he won an unprecedented eight gold medals. But he was beaten in the discipline at the last two world championships.
The 27-year-old, who won the 200 at the Olympic trials here, will still swim in the 100 and 200 butterfly, the 200 and 400 individual medleys and three relays.
Phelps already holds the record for the most gold medals at a single Olympics (eight) and overall total (14) but there are still significant records within his reach.
He needs just three more medals of any colour in London to surpass the overall mark of 18 held by former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
If he is on the podium in each of his four individual events he will equal Latynina’s record of 14 individual medals.
If Phelps wins gold in any of his individual races he will become the first male swimmer to win the same indvidual event at three Olympics.
His withdrawal from the 200 freestyle leaves Ryan Lochte as the favourite to win gold.
Lochte beat Phelps in the 200 freestyle final at last year’s world championships in Shanghai and finished a close second to Phelps at the U.S. trials.
U.S. head coach Gregg Trot said Rickey Berns, who finished third in the 200 freestyle at the U.S. trials, would replace Phelps in London.
Editing by Tony Jimenez