Physically, swimmer Michael Phelps seems to be ready for next month's world championships in Barcelona, Spain.
Competing in six events over the past four days at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club Invitational Long Course Championships was meant to test the 17-year-old phenom's endurance and conditioning. Winning all six events - and posting times like 1 minute, 57.94 seconds in yesterday's 200-meter butterfly final - showed that Phelps breezed through the test with the same ease he breezes by competitors.
"I would have liked to have gone a little faster but for right now that was a pretty good swim," Phelps said. "It's all [about] the times right now. ... I always want to get as close to my best time as possible every race. Once I start doing best times every race, I will start being happy - more happy."
While his 200 fly performance was 3.36 seconds shy of the world record he set in July 2001, it was an encouraging time, especially considering how hard Phelps has been training in recent weeks.
Overall, Phelps' performance at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center event - which also included wins, normally by hefty margins, in the 50- and 200-meter freestyles, 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter fly and 400-meter individual medley - left his coach, Bob Bowman, confident that the recent Towson High graduate is on track for a standout performance in Barcelona.
"I feel really good about where he is," Bowman said. "He gets a lot out of a meet like this just physically because he swims a lot of events and he does work hard when he swims. But mentally he needs to race against a higher level of competition to kind of tune him up."
Bowman said Phelps will face that type of competition at the Santa Clara (Calif.) Swim Club XL International Invitational at the end of this month.
In the meantime, Phelps will go head-to-head with Kevin Clements, 23, who recently finished a superb college career at swimming powerhouse Auburn. Clements, who won the 200-meter backstroke and 100-meter freestyle yesterday at the NBAC event, is in Baltimore to train with Bowman and Phelps.
"He [Phelps] is a great racer in workouts. He doesn't like to lose and I am the same way, so it is going to help both of us out," said Clements, who plans to compete in the 200 individual medley at the world championships.
After the Santa Clara event, Phelps, Clements and other world championship entrants will head to France on July 7 to train until the main event in Barcelona, which will take place July 20-27.
In preparation for that event, where Phelps plans to enter the 200 and 400-meter individual medleys, 100- and 200-meter flys and two or three relays, Bowman said it is time to start easing up on his best swimmer.
"The first change we will make is we will drop the volume of the work. The intensity will stay the same, but instead of covering 14,000 or 15,000 meters in a day, maybe it will be 12,000," Bowman said. "Then we will gradually bring that down, and then right before the [world championships] we'll also start cutting the intensity of it so that probably three days before the meet he is not doing anything but warming up.
"I think he is on target to do something good next month."