By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, September 9. AUSTRALIAN Swimming today confirmed that the world’s number one ranked male swimmer, American Michael Phelps, will make the trip across the Pacific to compete in the Qantas Skins in Sydney, November 26 and the Aussie leg of the FINA World Cup in Melbourne, November 28-30.
In what will provide Australian fans with a feast of world class swimming, Phelps the triple World Champion and world record-holder in the 200m fly, 200 IM and 400 IM will join Aussie World Champions Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Matt Welsh and Italy’s Olympic champion Massi Rosolino along with many other international stars including Americans Amanda Beard and Lindsey Benko which will guarantee to fill the stands.
Of great interest to swimming aficionados will be to see if the multi-talented Phelps gets the opportunity to race Thorpe and Hackett over 200m and 400m freestyle at the World Cup in short course format. Thorpe holds the short course world record for the 200m and Hackett the 400m.
There has been much speculation in recent weeks since the brilliant 18-year-old from Baltimore followed up his emphatic performance in Barcelona with five titles at the Summer Nationals including American records in the 200m and 400m free, that he might include these two events in his Olympic program. Phelps swam 1:45.99 for the 200m, a time that would have given him the silver behind Thorpe in Barcelona and 3:46.43 for the 400m sufficient for bronze behind Thorpe and Hackett. His coach Bob Bowman recently indicated that these events are indeed options for his dynamic charge but there are many options and that the final mix will be kept under wraps until after the Olympic trials next July.
Phelps indicated in a press release to announce his visit that he was looking forward to the opportunity to race Down Under. “I just love coming to Australia and every time I’ve been there it has been fantastic. The Olympics was a lot of fun and it was great to head back to Sydney and the Gold Coast earlier this year. The Skins meet sounds like a lot of fun and I have not swum too many major short course meets so visiting Melbourne, site of the 2007 World Championships will be great,” he said.
Organizers are still to confirm what events Phelps will contest in both the Skins and the World Cup but have tentatively entered him in the butterfly and middle distance freestyle.