Phelps eyes return to glory days
By Bobak Esfarjani, USA TODAY
Michael Phelps swims this weekend in East Meadow, N.Y., his first national or international event in six months, he will take a large step toward becoming the Phelps of old.
After experimenting with the 100 and 400-meter freestyle where he finished seventh and failed to qualify for the finals, respectively, at last summer's World Championships, the eight-time 2004 Olympic medalist has spent the last six months re-focusing on what first made him a success.
"We're getting back to the basics," says Bob Bowman, Phelps' coach. "That doesn't mean you won't ever see him swim those events, but they probably won't be in the program at the end. He'll be getting back to his traditional program."
This weekend, Phelps will swim the 100, 200, and 400-meter individual medleys, plus the 200 freestyle at the World Cup event. In Athens, Phelps won gold medals in the 200 and 400 IM, in which he holds the world record.
Bowman has added a twist to Phelps' training program by implementing a weight-training routine, a first for the swimmer. Using free weights and machines, Phelps lifted twice a week during the fall semester, in addition to his usual four hours per day in the pool.
"He's quite a bit stronger," Bowman says. "[At worlds] he wasn't in the kind of shape he wanted to be. It takes a long time to deal with the aftermath of success like that. Now, we're consistently progressing to the level of training he did prior to Athens."
Also scheduled to swim this weekend are fellow Athens Olympic medalists
Brendan Hansen and Neil Walker. Two-time worlds gold medalist Kate Ziegler is expected, too.
Phelps has spent his time away from the competitive spotlight becoming more acclimated with Ann Arbor, Mich., where he attends the University of Michigan.
"He has finally settled into a good rhythm here," Bowman says. "He's growing just like all 20-year-olds. Around that age, every year you mature quite a bit."
Despite the time away, Bowman is not nervous about Phelps' return.
"He did some exhibition swims [at Michigan], and he swam around his best times for those events," Bowman says. "I think he's looking forward to racing somebody."
Crossposted to athens_daily and mphelps_daily.
P. S. - Please keep an eye on mphelps_stills. Things will be back up and running soon :)!
P. P. S. - Who else is planning on going to Beijing in 2008? I want to, sooo badly!