Video courtesy: USASwimming.org
Here is Michael Phelps’ press conference from before the Charlotte Grand Prix.
We didn’t get the answer to the big question, which is: will Phelps swim the 400 IM at the Olympic Trials? (In fact, Ryan Lochte got asked the question more times than Phelps did). But his coach, Bob Bowman, did let us know that he will swim only the 200 free on Friday and the 200 fly on Saturday before jetting off to a pre-Olympic media circus in Dallas on Sunday; joking that the entries are done so far before Grand Prixs these days that by the time meets roll around, it’s hard for a coach to remember what they entered their swimmers in.
Most of the conversation revolved around bigger-picture issues, and specifically how far the sport has come since Phelps made his first Olympic team in 2000 in Sydney. Phelps shared some cool anecdotes about a friend who watched his 100 fly win in Beijing on board an airplane, and how much the support for the sport has grown in the United States.
Even with a more limited schedule (he’ll scratch the 100 breast and 50 back), don’t expect any superstar times from Phelps; he was obviously still fairly worked, as was obvious even from something as subtle as the groans when he sat down.
But he’s clearly in a better place mentally than he has been for years. He’s absorbing everything, he’s enjoying everything, and he seems like he’s finally embracing what he means for the sport and how important he is to the sport. That was a big criticism for him in the past when he’d scratch meets even as big as the Grand Prixs the night before competition started.
This year’s Phelps is certainly going to be a faster and more conditioned Phelps than what we saw last year, but even more importantly he’s a more likable Phelps. He’s saying and doing the right things to win back at least some of the hoards of swim-nerds who moved into Lochte’s corner in the last year.