Michael Phelps could be a medal factor in eight of the 13 individual events at the 2004 Olympics, and for 11 months the swim world has speculated on what he will include in his program in Athens, Greece.
The American men who are awaiting word on his intentions will probably have to wait 24 days or longer to discover his plan of attack for the U.S. trials, which will begin July 7 in Long Beach, Calif.
"In all likelihood, there won't be an announcement beforehand," said Bob Bowman, Phelps' coach at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. "He'll enter everything he's qualified in, within reason, and then we'll just swim. We'll monitor how he's doing and make some decisions along the way."
Peter Carlisle, Phelps' agent, acknowledged that he has been approached by media outlets willing to pay for exclusive rights to his plans for the trials.
Phelps is qualified in 11 of the 13 individual events. Other than the obvious, the 1,500 freestyle and 200 breaststroke, he'll enter eight or nine events, then probably scratch some leftovers, like the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke, as he sees fit.
A likely part of his trials program is the 200 freestyle, which Phelps dominated last night at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club's Argent Mortgage Long Course Championships.
Competing at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center, the only pool he has called home, the 18-year-old cruised to victory in 1 minute, 48.25 seconds.
Former Towson University star Aaron Krause, now of the Tigerfish Aquatic Club, was well back in 1:55.11. Considering that he has been at his Rodgers Forge home only a few nights after 17 days training at altitude, Phelps was happy.
"I wanted to be where we were in Indy," Phelps said, referring to an April meet in Indianapolis. "I did 1:48.3 there. Last year at this meet, I did 1:55 in the morning [preliminaries] and 1:50 at night. Today, I did 1:52 and 1:48."
Phelps' American record is 1:45.99. Ian Thorpe is the world-record holder. Phelps would love to be the underdog for a change and challenge the Australian in Athens, but it might be his sixth-best event.
Katie Hoff won the women's 200 freestyle in 2:02.14, more than a second in front of Kate Ziegler of the Fish in Virginia.
Hoff, a 15-year-old from the NBAC's Harford satellite team, made her eighth trials cut. It was her first in a freestyle event, but her trials focus will be on the individual medleys and breaststroke events.
Phelps also was on the winning 400 free relay team. Krause came back to win the 100 butterfly in 57.19. Other men's winners were the NBAC's Jamie Barone in the 100 breaststroke, in 1:04.44, and Kevin Cargill of the Dynamo SC in Georgia, who took the 400 IM in 4:42.40.
The NBAC swept the women's races as Marianne Limpert took the 100 butterfly in 1:02.76, Claire Hutchinson the 400 IM in 5:01.74 and Lindsey Gottschalk the 100 breaststroke in 1:16.95.
The meet will continue today. Phelps will swim the preliminaries of the 200 breaststroke and the 100 backstroke, though he may not swim both in the evening's finals.