Olympic Swimming 2012: Ranking Michael Phelps' Most Difficult Remaining Events

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Olympic Swimming 2012: Ranking Michael Phelps' Most Difficult Remaining Events
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Michael Phelps' race to become the most decorated Olympian in history is getting ever closer to the finish line. However, on Sunday he and his American teammates were handed a disappointing defeat.

Frenchman Yannick Agnel was able to overtake Phelps' teammate and rival Ryan Lochte in the final leg of the 400-meter freestyle relay. The United States placed second, earning silver medals for their efforts.

Overall it's the 17th piece of hardware Phelps has taken home from the Olympic games. The 27-year-old now trails Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina by one medal and he's got five more events scheduled. 

Let's take a gander at the remaining events ranked in order of least to most difficult. 

5. Tuesday, July 31—200-Meter Butterfly (Event Final—2:47 p.m.)

The 200-meter fly is far and away Phelps' best event. Phelps himself is the best swimmer this event has yet to see, as he holds the world record at this distance and took home gold in the two previous Olympic Games. 

Phelps should be moderately well rested considering his schedule for Monday doesn't include any event races, only the preliminary and semifinal heats for the 200 fly.  

4. Saturday, August 4—4x100-Meter Medley Relay (Event Final—3:27 p.m.)

Fittingly, Phelps will encounter one of his least difficult challenges on the final day of competition. Phelps has labeled the London Games as closure, adding "now it's just a matter of how many toppings I want on my sundae." (Per ESPN.com)

This is a fine opportunity for Phelps to decorate his metaphorical sundae as the Americans have yet to lose this event at any Olympic Games. Their star-studded lineup should allow that streak to continue.

The United States is expected to feature the quartet of Phelps (butterfly), Nathan Adrian (freestyle), Matt Grevers (backstroke) and Brendan Hansen (breaststroke), a grouping any country would have difficulty matching. 

3. Tuesday, July 31—4x200-Meter Freestyle Relay (Event Final—3:47 p.m.)

Phelps is a consummate professional, but an aging one at that. With only one hour of rest between this event and the running of the individual fly there's definitely an added degree of difficulty. 

With that said, insurmountable and difficulty aren't terms that appear to hold much water with Phelps (pun intended). 

2. Wednesday, August 2—200-meter Individual Medley (Event Final—3:16 p.m.)

This event will mark Phelps' last opportunity to outshine Lochte. The rivalry got its start in the very same event during the 2011 World Championships where Lochte defeated Phelps. 

Phelps regained the edge at the U.S. Trials in Omaha just last week, but Lochte has proved to be anything but predictable during the 2012 London Games. If Phelps wishes to close out this rivalry with a win he'll need one of his best performances. 

1. Friday, August 3—100-meter Butterfly (Event Final—2:38 p.m.)

Just one day later Phelps will compete in his final individual race, one historically marked by extremely small margins of victory. 

In 2004 he edged Ian Crocker by a mere finger-length and manged a second victory four years later when he beat Milorad Cavic by just 0.01. 

He'll likely have already overtaken the overall lead in medal count, but what about his legacy? Can he go out on top one last time?

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