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.
Aug 27, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT
Bolt previously said he would retire after the 2017 World Championships.
Aug 27, 2015, 11:53 AM EDT
“The rumor I’m trying to start right now is that Justin Gatlin paid him off.”
Aug 27, 2015, 11:52 AM EDT
Also, Allyson Felix broke a U.S. record for World Championships medals.
Aug 27, 2015, 11:51 AM EDT
Felix could try to race two individual events at the Rio Olympics.
Aug 27, 2015, 7:48 AM EDT
Justin Gatlin got the best of Usain Bolt in their only race before Gatlin’s doping ban.
Aug 27, 2015, 6:51 AM EDT
Pistorius could be out of prison in weeks.
Aug 26, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT
The first female Olympic ski jumper reinjured her right knee.
Aug 26, 2015, 2:14 PM EDT
Wylie went into sudden cardiac arrest on April 21 and was in a medically induced coma for two days.
Aug 26, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT
The Opening Ceremony conflicts with a PGA Tour event.
Aug 26, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT
A 10-year-old girl competed in Kazan earlier this month.
Aug 26, 2015, 10:28 AM EDT
Dodger Stadium and The Forum are potential venues.
Aug 26, 2015, 10:19 AM EDT
A two-time Olympic champion in the 200m moved into another runner’s lane during a semifinal.
Aug 25, 2015, 1:13 PM EDT
Johnson could become the first African-American woman to compete on an Olympic water polo team.
Aug 25, 2015, 11:42 AM EDT
Marvin Sharp coached Bridget Sloan and Samantha Peszek.
Aug 25, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT
Paweł Fajdek reportedly paid his taxi fare with his World Championships hardware.
Aug 25, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT
One medal favorite’s shoe came off during her race.
Aug 24, 2015, 3:41 PM EDT
Many have tried. None succeeded in making the Olympic team in all four events.
Aug 24, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT
Ledecky may also swim a non-freestyle event at trials.
Aug 24, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT
See video and photos of the splash landing.
Aug 24, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT
Liliya Shobukhova provided “substantial assistance” in the fight against doping.
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