By John Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., March 28. ENTERED in seven events at the United States World Championship Trials, Michael Phelps has not yet firmed up his program for the competition, set to get under way Friday. That was the indication during a Monday conference call.
With four days remaining until the start of the Trials, which will serve as the selection meet for this summer's World Champs in Montreal, Phelps said he and coach Bob Bowman were working on his gameplan. Phelps is entered in the 200 and 400 individual medley events, the 100, 200 and 400 freestyles, the 100 butterfly and the 200 backstroke.
"We still have four or five days until the meet starts and we're trying to fine-tune some things," Phelps said. "I'm not 100 percent on what I'll swim yet, but by the time we get there, we'll be 100 percent and we'll move forward from there."
In the past, Phelps has taken the route he is currently traveling: Not revealing his schedule until the 11th hour, or slightly before. However, he has suggested in the past few months that he was looking to tackle some events not on his Athens slate.
Last summer, of course, Phelps collected eight medals at the Olympic Games, including gold in six disciplines. Individually, Phelps claimed gold in the 200 I.M., 400 I.M. and both butterfly events. He also claimed bronze in the 200 freestyle.
Although Phelps attempted to keep his schedule under wraps, there were clues that the 100 free and 200 backstroke could be on the agenda. At one point in the conference call, Phelps discussed the 42.5 he clocked in the 100 free last month at the American Short Course Championships in Austin, Texas. That swim certainly proved his speed.
As telling was Phelps' response to a question from Phillip Whitten, the Chief Media Officer of Sports Publications. Whitten asked Phelps about his desire to race the best competition, such as last summer when he faced Ian Thorpe, Pieter Van Den Hoogenband, Grant Hackett and Klete Keller in the 200 free in Athens.
Whitten asked Phelps about his thought process concerning the 200 backstroke, which features Aaron Peirsol and Ryan Lochte. Peirsol is the world record-holder and reigning Olympic champ while Lochte recently slashed almost a full second off Peirsol's American record in the 200 yards backstroke.
In response to the question, Phelps suggested that it would be a tremendous race. With his history, that response could indicate the intention to contest the event.
Regardless of what he swims, count on Phelps being a leading contender for a Team USA berth. After all, since 2000 it's rarely been any other way.