By Ian Hanson Chief Australian Correspondent
GOLD COAST, Australia, July 15: Michael Phelps held court on Australia's Gold Coast today and was quick to predict that world records would fall at next week's FINA World Championships in Shanghai.
And the eight-time Beijing Olympic gold medallist had plenty of support from USA National Team Director Frank Busch and his fellow world beating team mates Ryan Lochte and Natalie Coughlin who all sang from the same hymn sheet that the 2011 Worlds would be fast.
And that world records would definitely be under siege.
Phelps led the 51-strong US team into their staging camp at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre and looked relaxed, refreshed and ready to lead the world's premier swimming nation into a meet that he says will set the records straight.
A huge media throng, over 100 school children, local swimmers and some of Australia's leading coaches turned out to watch the might of the US team and its all-star cast.
But Phelps, the man who showed off his butterfly technique with amazing ease with some effortless push 50s, was the man they came to see and they were not disappointed, both in and out of the water.
"I can see no reason why there won't be world records broken in Shanghai," said Phelps, who says he has awoken from his slumber since those heady, history-making days in Beijing and in the aftermath of the "suit fiasco."
Although there won't be eight events for the master in Shanghai, he still has a busy eight-day program with four individual events – the 100 and 200m butterfly, the 200m individual medley and the 200m freestyle and if things go accordingly, you would think all three relays.
"To be honest I think we are going to see faster swimming than what we've ever seen. We are going to see faster swims even than the Olympics or the World championships in 2009, even with the suits we have now," says Phelps.
"I think people want it more now and I think they are more excited now so I think we will see world records.
"You have to be in better shape and worry about the small things and seeing some of the guys on our team how they prepare in and out of the pool, you can see they have taken the time to focus on the little things that make a big difference and I definitely think you will see world records."
And what of Phelps himself after experiencing the highs and the lows of the world's greatest swimmer, will he be hitting his peak in Shanghai?
"I hope so, I hope I'm a lot better than what I was last year," said Phelps, who for his standards had an "off year".
"I feel better than I was last year. I feel more confident than I was last year. I am definitely in better shape than last year and as long as I'm making steps in the right direction for next year I'm happy," said Phelps.
When asked how important Shanghai was in the build up to the 2012 Olympics in London, Phelps was adamant it was "super important" and he was "excited" – which could spell danger for the rest of the world.
"This is like a pre Olympic meet, it shows you how everyone else is preparing and what you need to do," said Phelps.
"Hopefully (I'll be swimming) faster than last year. My training has been going well and I've been able to swim faster times in work out than I have in the past. I'm feeling better in the water, my strokes are feeling better and I'm starting to fine tune some small things here."
Phelps admitted things had been "kind of rough" the first two years after the extraordinary eight-gold medal haul in Beijing.
"Over the last six to eight months I've been able to feel more myself in the water and get into a better rhythm," said Phelps.
"I am in better shape mentally and physically and I'm happier around the pool. That is something that really has changed in recent months. I'm a lot more confident than I was and I'm enjoying it again."
And what does the future hold?
"I still have a lot of personal things I want to accomplish. Whether it's times, records, medals, anything. I know what I want to do. It's not going to be easy but it's something Bob (Bowman) and I can both accomplish over the next year. If I do you'll know what it is, but it won't be eight that's for sure."
And then there's the comeback by Australia's superfish Ian Thorpe, who Phelps admitted he had "been waiting for."
"I'm excited about (Ian's) comeback. To have someone like Ian Thorpe back, maybe in the 200m freestyle will be a lot of fun," said Phelps.
"We only raced once in that event in 2004. He's the kind of person that if he wants something bad enough he's going to do whatever it takes to get back. He's talented enough to get back up top.
"I think it's amazing to have Ian come back…I've been waiting for that for a long time and now we'll finally got the chance."
But before Thorpe's return for London, Phelps has Shanghai on his mind and some fast times…even world records maybe.