Last week, the IOC announced the addition of several new events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, aimed at gender equality.
Swimming added three new events — women’s 1500-meter freestyle, men’s 800-meter freestyle, and a 4×100-meter mixed gender relay.
The addition of the events should be welcomed news for swimmers like Katie Ledecky who now have a shot at more medals.
However, Michael Phelps is apparently not a fan of the expanded slate. In an interview with NBC’s Nick Zaccardi, Phelps criticized the addition of the events, though it’s unclear what his actual problem with them is because he said he wouldn’t elaborate.
“What else are we going to add? Are we going to do, like, 75-meter frees? How many other events are we going to add? 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 800-meters for men and a 1500-meters 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.”
Lest someone come to the conclusion that Phelps doesn’t like the idea of his medal count being topped by the addition of more events, Phelps then told Zaccardi that he supports someone trying to top him.
“It’s good to have somebody out there that is willing to challenge himself in a way that they had no idea. So if they have a chance to do something great like that, then I would love to see it.”
“It’s great to be able to see Katie [Ledecky] potentially go for eight [medals]. 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.”
It’s unclear what, exactly, Phelps doesn’t like about the new events, especially if he sees how the race for more medals could benefit the sport from a marketing standpoint.
Perhaps Phelps doesn’t like change just for change’s sake, but as he said, it’s out of his hands.