Skip to content

Michael Phelps gets serious in return to U.S. Championships

Aug 5, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

Michael Phelps AP

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.

Two years to Rio Olympics: Swimming storylines

Latest Posts
  1. Joss Christensen skis remains of Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics sites (video)

    Oct 22, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT

    Joss Christensen

    Olympic ski slopestyle champion also needed rabies shots after dog bite.

  2. IOC provisionally recognizes Kosovo

    Oct 22, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE

    Kosovo has never competed at the Olympics as an independent nation.

  3. 2015 Tour de France route unveiled; favorites weigh in

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT

    Tour de France

    Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador have mixed opinions.

  4. Russian Olympic bobsled champ Aleksander Zubkov retires

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT

    Alexander Zubkov Getty Images

    Zubkov, 40, had already said he wouldn’t compete this season.

  5. Jeneba Tarmoh mulls representing Sierra Leone at Rio 2016 Olympics

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

    Jeneba Tarmoh Getty Images

    Tarmoh was part of the infamous tie at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

  6. IOC to discuss recognizing Kosovo this week

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:54 AM EDT

    Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE

    Kosovo has yet to field a delegation at the Olympics.

  7. Watch trailers for ‘Touch the Wall’ about Missy Franklin

    Oct 21, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

    Missy Franklin

    Film documenting Missy Franklin’s lead-up to London debuts next month.

  8. Miracle on Ice fantasy camp set for Lake Placid

    Oct 21, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Miracle on Ice camp

    Eight members of 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team will conduct spring event.

  9. Daron Rahlves, four-time Olympian, in lightsuit skiing video

    Oct 21, 2014, 10:44 AM EDT

    Daron Rahlves

    Red Bull video shows skiers in LED lights at night in Alaska.

  10. Boxer attacks referee at European Youth Championships (video)

    Oct 21, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT

    Boxing gloves Getty Images

    Vido Loncar banned for life by Croatian boxing federation.

  11. Norway Olympic Committee president to step down

    Oct 21, 2014, 9:04 AM EDT

    Borre Rognlien Getty Images

    Borre Rognlien’s move unrelated to Oslo’s failed bid and threats, according to reports.

  12. Oscar Pistorius barred from Rio Paralympics

    Oct 21, 2014, 5:37 AM EDT

    Oscar Pistorius Getty Images

    Pistorius would not be allowed to run, even if he is out of jail and under correctional supervision.

  13. Oscar Pistorius sentenced to maximum 5 years in prison

    Oct 21, 2014, 5:18 AM EDT

    Oscar Pistorius Getty Images

    Pistorius could serve less than one year in prison.

  14. The jump for the ages: Mike Powell, Bob Beamon and a revered world record

    Oct 20, 2014, 2:52 PM EDT

    Mike Powell Getty Images

    A look back at the greatest head-to-head duel in track and field history.

  15. Bill Demong to run New York City Marathon

    Oct 20, 2014, 1:18 PM EDT

    Bill Demong Getty Images

    Olympic champion hasn’t retired from Nordic combined, either.

  16. Bangalore half marathon leaders get lost, forced to take train

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:06 AM EDT

    Bangalore Marathon Getty Images

    “Morning joggers helped us and also guided us to the nearest metro station.”

  17. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale have Olympic 100m final speed, Liverpool manager says

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:54 AM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale Getty Images

    How fast would they have to traverse the Bernabeu to have Olympic 100m final speed?

  18. Lindsey Vonn still struggles with depression

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    Lindsey Vonn Getty Images

    Olympic downhill champion told German magazine she has good days and bad days.

Featured video

Yogging a hit at Youth Olympic Games