Phelps to miss shot to train with Thorpe in Australia

17-year-old back in Sydney, but rival is in Brisbane


April 29, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Michael Phelps continues his 2003 stroll down memory lane this week with a trip to Australia, but he'll be denied a long-anticipated meeting with his rival for the title of world's best swimmer.

Earlier this month, the 17-year-old from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club lowered his world record in the 400-meter individual medley to cap an eventful return to Indianapolis. It was his first trip there since he qualified for the 2000 Olympics as a 15-year-old, but the April 6 Duel in the Pool turned into a bust when Ian Thorpe withdrew with illness.

On Sunday night, Phelps, training partner Jamie Barone and Bob Bowman, their coach at the NBAC, flew from Los Angeles to Sydney, Thorpe's hometown. When Bowman made arrangements in November with Australian swim officials to conduct clinics there, Phelps accepted a long-standing offer to train with Thorpe, but the latter plans were canceled last week.

"I got an e-mail [last Wednesday] from Thorpe's coach that they'll be in Brisbane instead," Bowman said. "She has to go to a meet there, and Ian needs to go there to train. I wish we would have known earlier. This would have been a rare opportunity for the two best swimmers in the world to train together."

Phelps, a senior at Towson High, could not mask his disappointment.

"Ian said if we ever wanted to come over and train, to let him know," Phelps said. "It would have been interesting to see what he trains like. I'm very disappointed, but it's understandable, and hopefully we'll get a chance to do this in the future."

Phelps and Barone will train at the International Aquatics Center at Olympic Park in Sydney today, tomorrow and Thursday. They'll then travel north to the Gold Coast for several days' worth of practice with Grant Hackett, Australia's gold medalist in the 1,500 freestyle. Phelps also plans to do some sightseeing that he was unable to do in 2000, when he finished fifth in the 200 Olympic butterfly.

"I want to see the Great Barrier Reef," Phelps said. "We'll see a lot more than we did in 2000. Other than going to the pool, I left the Olympic Village twice in 2000, to see my mom and dad at the family center downtown."

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