By Stephen J. Thomas and Phillip Whitten
SYDNEY and INDIAN, April 5. MICHAEL Phelps, America's top male swimmer is planning to train with Aussie swim superstars Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe when he and his coach Bob Bowman visit Australia in early May.
The scenario arose after Bowman had decided to attend the Australasian-Oceania Swimming Professionals Convention on Queensland's Gold Coast and to take his star pupil along for the experience.
Bowman has been in contact with Thorpe's coach Tracey Menzies and Hackett's coach Denis Cotterell and both were happy to have Phelps, the world record-holder for the 400 IM and 200 fly, take a splash with the two Aussie champions. The plan is for Phelps to train three days with Thorpe at the Sutherland pool after he arrives in Sydney before heading north to Queensland and the Miami pool on the Gold Coast which is only minutes from the Conference location.
Bowman said he hopes to have Phelps train for six days with Hackett in Miami.
Until recently the three men, who were ranked as Swimming World's top three male world swimmers in 2002, did not compete in each other's events, Now Thorpe has muscled into the 200 IM with considerable success and Phelps this week has shown he can swim a pretty mean 200 free, a world-class 200 back, and a near world-record 100 fly.
Comparisons between Thorpe, 20, and Phelps, 17, have become more frequent as the American continues to explore his swimming potential. As the youngest member of the US Olympic swim team in Sydney, Phelps placed 5th in the final of the 200 fly, becoming the youngest man, at fifteen years and nine months, to set a world record in that event the following year. Since then he has only gotten better.
Thorpe has pulled out of this weekend's Duel in the Pool so perhaps we might see Hackett — a former world record-holder in the 200 free — and Phelps race in the 200 free.
Grant Hackett might at least feel safe in assuming that the 1500 free is not on the agenda of either Thorpe or Phelps anytime soon.