Michael Phelps, the 17-year-old world-record holder from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, will have his first encounter with the swim world's newest phenom this weekend, when the FINA World Cup series stops in Long Island, N.Y.
Phelps will lead the American men tomorrow and Saturday into the 25-meter pool at the Nassau County Aquatic Center.
The international field will include China's Peng Wu, 15, whose progress closely resembles the path followed by Phelps, as well as Pieter van den Hoogenband, 24, the Dutch freestyle sprinter who tamed Australian Ian Thorpe at the 2000 Olympics.
The fastest all-round swimmer ever despite the fact that he's still a Towson High senior, Phelps is the world-record holder in the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley. He burst on the scene in the summer of 2000, when he became the youngest American male swimmer to qualify for the Olympics in 68 years.
Peng, who was born in 1987, enjoyed a similar breakthrough last month. He starred at the Asian Games with wins in the 200 fly (1 minute, 56.63 seconds) and 400 individual medley (4:15.38), times that showed he plans to challenge Phelps at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Phelps will have a full plate at this year's only American stop of the FINA World Cup, which will offer $60,000 in prize money. The professional will compete in the 100 free, 200 fly and 100 IM tomorrow. On Saturday, he'll race in the 200 free, 200 IM and 200 backstroke. Phelps displayed his versatility at this meet last year, when he swept the individual medleys.
The women's field is headlined by American Natalie Coughlin, who established world records in both backstroke events at last year's meet.