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Michael Phelps has strong feelings about new Olympic swimming events

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NEW YORK — Michael Phelps is glad for gender equality in his sport, but overall he’s not supportive of adding swimming events to the Olympics.

Last week, the IOC announced it added the men’s 800m freestyle, women’s 1500m freestyle and a mixed-gender 4x100m medley relay to the Olympics for 2020.

Swimming’s international governing body also hoped to have 50m events in backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly added, but those were rejected even though they are already on the world championships program.

Phelps supported having women able to race the 1500m free at the Olympics, which the men have done for more than 100 years.

But ensuring gender equality for Tokyo 2020 also meant adding the men’s 800m free to match the women’s 800m free, which has been on the program since 1968.

Adding events to the Olympics “takes away from the sport,” Phelps said in Manhattan at an appearance for Krave Jerky on Thursday. He hopes the 50m backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly remain off the Olympic program.

“What else are we going to add? Are we going to do, like, 75m frees? How many other events are we going to add?” he said. “It’s just like what we had in 2009, after world championships, having those high-tech suits [that were banned in 2010]. It’s not swimming anymore. We’ve had this event schedule for so long, and now we’re just going to pick and choose what events we want? I could go into more detail, but I’m really not going to. It’s a touchy subject. I hope swimming takes the turn for the right direction, and we continue to grow.

“When you add something like an 800m for men and a 1500m for women, and you’re adding mixed relays and 50s of strokes. I don’t want to say it, but it seems like there’s too much going on. It seems like, so then we’re going to grow the team by a handful of other people? I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s what swimming has been through all of this time, and hopefully we don’t have it for too long, but it’s not in my power. I can’t really do anything. I’ll just sit and watch.”

The added events give Katie Ledecky at least one more medal shot in Tokyo, leading to wonder how close she could get to Phelps’ record-tying eight medals at one Olympics (and all gold, his record alone). Ledecky won five golds with the same program at the 2015 World Championships and added the 4x100m freestyle relay for Rio, where she took silver.

Phelps said he doesn’t care if somebody matches or breaks his medal records with the aid of events that weren’t on the Olympic program during his career.

“It’s good to have somebody out there that is willing to challenge himself in a way that they had no idea,” Phelps said. “So if they have a chance to do something great like that, then I would love to see it.”

Ledecky’s more realistic hope in 2020 is to match the female record of six golds at one Olympics. Still, some are already talking eight.

“It’s great to be able to see Katie potentially go for eight,” Phelps said. “I think it’s great to see different events added for Katie because then you can really challenge where her limit is. … Then you bring a lot more excitement to the sport from a marketing standpoint.”

Phelps never would have raced an 800m freestyle at a major meet, but given his 100m butterfly prowess would have been a prime candidate for a mixed medley relay. And he does have experience racing against women.

He swam the leadoff leg of the 2007 Duel in the Pool mixed 4x100m freestyle relay against Australia. Phelps clocked 48.72, while Trickett swam 52.99, at the time the fastest 100m ever by a woman. It was not ratified as a world record because it came in a race with men.

In April 2015, Phelps famously (jokingly) challenged Katie Ledecky to a race on-air at a meet. They had swum the exact same time in separate 400m freestyle heats that day within about a half-hour of each other.

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

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