Phelps ready for meets and greets

September 10, 2004|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps returns to Baltimore today with a schedule as packed as the one he kept in Athens.

From a morning swim session with kids at Loyola College to an autograph signing event in Towson to Disney's "Swim with the Stars" program in College Park tonight, Phelps has a full day.

The Rodgers Forge resident has not been in Baltimore since before last month's Summer Olympics, where he won a record-setting six gold and two bronze medals. He flew from Athens straight to Orlando, Fla., for the kickoff of Disney's "Swim with the Stars" - an exhibition that will serve as an extended victory lap of sorts, taking him to 12 cities in just over a month.

In each city, Phelps stars in the swimming program and also participates in a separate event for local schoolkids. Meanwhile, he's led a parade at Disney World and appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly and Access Hollywood.

Through it all, he's had to find two hours each day for training; the FINA World Swimming Championships get under way in Indianapolis starting Oct. 7. Often, said his mother Debbie Phelps, he arrives at events early to practice in the pool with his Disney tour co-stars, Lenny Krayzelburg and Ian Crocker.

"He's having a wonderful time," Debbie Phelps said yesterday. "He's loving every moment."

Phelps was not available to comment yesterday, but at a tour stop in Atlanta last week he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I'm so pumped to go home to see my family and friends and relax."

It's hard to imagine he'll have much down time. Phelps' day begins at the Loyola College Fitness and Aquatics Center, where he'll take questions from 500 Riverview Elementary School students and then participate in a relay race with nine of them. The event is closed to the public.

Phelps has had a long association with the Lansdowne school, appearing last spring to pump up the kids before their state testing began and again in June for a parade.

"To watch him stand in the hallway giving high-fives to kids, that's what it's all about - giving back to the next generation of children," Debbie Phelps said. "He really connects with the kids."

At some point today, Phelps may stop by Pete's Grille, the lunch counter in Waverly where he would scarf down 3,000-calorie breakfasts when he was preparing for the Olympics. Pete's co-owner Lou Sharkey, who's been in touch with Phelps, said yesterday, "He just can't wait to get home."

It is certain, however, that Phelps will be stopping by one of his paying sponsors - AT&T Wireless. He'll be signing autographs at its store in Towson Commons from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The public is welcome.

After that, Phelps will head to the University of Maryland, College Park for the 7 p.m. "Swim with the Stars" event at the natatorium at the Campus Recreation Center. Tickets, which cost $30, will go on sale at 5 p.m. at the center.

The tour has sold out shows in Atlanta and New York, forcing second shows to be added, and will include races, swimming demonstrations and discussions on swimmers' styles and strokes. And, as at Loyola, some spectators will swim on teams with the Olympians.

Sometime after the end of that event at 9 p.m., it is assumed Phelps will sleep in his own bed in Rodgers Forge for the first time in weeks before waking again for more training and a parade and festival in Towson. The parade will start at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at Towson High School and the festival at noon at Courthouse Plaza.

On Sunday, he's off to Chicago for the next stop on the tour, where, maybe, he'll find some time to relax. But don't bet on it.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.