Phelps, U.S. swim team escape clamor of Athens

Group heads to Mallorca for pre-Games quiet time

Athens Olympics

9 Days To Go

Aug. 13 - 29

August 04, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Michael Phelps and the rest of the American Olympic swim team have checked into Athens, but they were to leave Greece today for a few days of peace and quiet on a Mediterranean island 100 miles off the coast of Spain.

The 19-year-old graduate of Towson High spent most of July in California. After another meet of historic proportions - the U.S. team trials - which concluded July 14, Phelps, 20 other men and 22 women then spent more than two weeks at Stanford University.

They left that training camp earlier this week and traveled by charter flight to the site of the 2004 Olympics.

The team has gone through processing and spent several nights at the athletes' village in Athens, but now it is seeking solitude at another training camp on Mallorca, a Spanish isle known as a vacation spot.

Olympic swimming begins Aug 14, when North Baltimore Aquatic Club teammate Katie Hoff figures to be a big factor in the women's 400-meter individual medley and Phelps will begin what is expected to be an unprecedented eight-event program in the men's 400 IM.

He's the favorite in the 400 IM, and in the 200 butterfly Aug. 17 and the 200 IM Aug. 19. The first man to attempt five individual events at the Olympics, Phelps will be an underdog to Australia's Ian Thorpe in the 200 freestyle and American teammate Ian Crocker in the 100 butterfly.

Phelps will anchor the American 800 freestyle relay team, and is also expected to have a role in the 400 freestyle and 400 medley relays.

Eddie Reese, the American men's head coach, told The Sun on July 12 that Phelps isn't guaranteed a spot on the 400 freestyle relay team. Phelps and Bob Bowman, his coach, were bemused by recent news accounts hinting the swimmer was surprised to learn of that.

While at Stanford, Phelps met Muhammad Ali, Carl Lewis and other Olympic legends during the taping of an ESPN program scheduled to run this weekend, but he did not treat the camp as a vacation.

Phelps is the most versatile swimmer ever despite shaky starts and turns, technical matters that have led Bowman to seek outside opinions.

At the 2000 Olympics, Mark Schubert, then the men's head coach and now the women's boss, worked with a 15-year-old Phelps on the deck in Sydney, Australia.

Last month, after he became the first American to qualify to swim six individual events in the Olympics, Phelps was in the practice pool at 8 a.m. the next morning, working on his starts with Pete Malone, a coach for the Kansas City Blazers Swim Team. More recently, Reese has been offering pointers.

"Michael's worked on his starts a lot," Bowman said last week. "We've taken parts from a lot of people and put them together."

The U.S. trials were Phelps' last meet as a member of the NBAC. Bowman is the new coach of the University of Michigan men, and sometime in the fall or winter Phelps will follow him to Ann Arbor and become a Woverines volunteer assistant coach.

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