Aug 5, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
IRVINE, Calif. — This week’s U.S. Swimming Championships will include nearly 1,000 competitors, as young as 13, but one stands out above the rest.
Michael Phelps will dive in the Woollett Aquatics Center pool on Wednesday for his first Nationals since the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin put the atmosphere in perspective Tuesday morning.
“Where else do you have the opportunity to have high school basketball players play in a game with LeBron James?” she said.
It’s the fifth meet of Phelps’ comeback after a 20-month competitive retirement following the London Olympics. It’s the most important of the handful so far with spots at stake for the year’s biggest international meet two weeks later, the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia.
Times from the U.S. Championships and the Pan Pacific Championships will determine who makes the team for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, the biggest meet between now and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Here, Phelps is entered in the 100m freestyle Wednesday, 100m butterfly Friday, 100m backstroke Saturday and 200m individual medley Sunday.
Universal Sports will have coverage from 9-11 p.m. ET on Wednesday. NBC picks up weekend coverage from 4-6 on Saturday and Sunday.
Phelps will make the Pan Pacific Championships team if he finishes in the top two of any one of those four events. He would likely also make the Pan Pacs team if he finishes third in a single event. Once a swimmer makes the Pan Pacs team in one event, he or she can enter additional events at the meet in Australia.
That takes a bit of the pressure off, but Phelps is still treating the meet with respect. He said he enters a meet shaved for the first time since the London Games, where he won six medals to bring his career tally to a record 22.
On Tuesday, Phelps, tanned and dressed in a neon green Under Armour tanktop as if he had just strolled in from Newport Beach, paraphrased the lines he’s stressed throughout the comeback.
He has unfinished business — which he won’t divulge — and is training different now at 29 than during his dominant days. Fewer yards under the eyes of longtime coach Bob Bowman in Baltimore and healthier eating to shed those retirement pounds.
Phelps said he just finished a six-month stretch avoiding red meat, just to see what it would do to his body. He’s been pleased with the progress of his return, particularly since high-altitude training in Colorado Springs in May and June.
At his last meet, Phelps beat longtime rival Ryan Lochte in three head-to-heads in Athens, Ga., in July. Granted, Lochte had not competed in three months due to injury.
“After this week we’ll have a good picture of if he’s ahead, behind,” Bowman said of Phelps, the 10th-oldest swimmer in Irvine.
Tuesday was significant for two other reasons. Phelps announced he signed a new swimsuit deal through the 2020 Tokyo Games, and the date marked two years to go until the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.
One couldn’t imagine Phelps diving in for a sixth Olympics at age 35 in six years. Even for No. 5 in Rio, he and Bowman wouldn’t commit.
“We’ll see how it goes this week, and then maybe if there’s anything after that, we’ll see how that goes,” Bowman said.
May 29, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT
The Prefontaine Classic will remember the distance running icon Friday and Saturday.
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May 28, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
Torres’ daughter now swims and looks up her mom’s races on YouTube.
May 28, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT
The competition will be live on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday and Sunday.
May 28, 2015, 9:16 AM EDT
Ross spoke with FIVB about the pair’s prospects for the near future.
May 27, 2015, 4:01 PM EDT
Several of the top U.S. contenders for World Championships medals will be in action.
May 27, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT
Cain must be in top shape one month from now for the biggest domestic meet of the season.
May 27, 2015, 11:51 AM EDT
Walsh Jennings has a history of shoulder problems.
May 27, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT
Uhlaender isn’t finished with her sliding career, though.
May 26, 2015, 2:54 PM EDT
Also, Asafa Powell won a 100m race.
May 26, 2015, 8:13 AM EDT
She may change coaches after the World Championships.
May 23, 2015, 7:40 PM EDT
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May 22, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT
The 2000 Olympic champion continues to struggle with weight loss.
May 22, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT
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May 22, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT
“We want to rebuild the arena of the Colosseum so that the athletes can be lifted in like the gladiators in the Roman times.”
May 22, 2015, 9:25 AM EDT
The U.S. won “Beat the Streets” 9-4.
May 21, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT
Skaters, skiers, gymnasts, track and field athletes and more.
May 21, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT
Russia ceded its place as top challenger to the U.S. in recent Olympics.
May 20, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT
They were a gift from a previous Olympic host city.
May 20, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT
Usain Bolt dropped on the list and is no longer the top track and field athlete.
May 20, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT
Markus Rehm jumped another personal best on Saturday, moving up the list of top active jumpers.
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