Phelps expects tight races in bodysuit-less era

Irvine: Beijing Olympic star Michael Phelps is looking forward to see how the world`s best swimmers handle the ban on the now-banned bodysuits that created world records until being outlawed by FINA.

Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at Beijing, will swim five events this week at the US national championships, a qualifier for the Pan Pacific meet here in two weeks as well as next year`s World Championships in Shanghai.

Times worldwide have been slower since polyurethane bodysuits were banned this year after 43 world records were set at last year`s worlds in Rome, but Phelps expects close races even if the speeds are not at unprecedented levels.

"I still think you`re going to see tight races," Phelps said. "I would rather see a tight race than watch a world record get obliterated by five seconds."

Phelps says he looks forward to seeing which swimmers who shattered marks in bodysuits can back up their efforts with success now that the attire aid no longer exists.

"It`s really going to be interesting to see who can make the transition between wearing (normal) suits and not wearing (banned) suits," Phelps said.

"It`s going to show who`s willing to put in more work to be able to be in better physical shape. You`re not going to be able to float as easy on top of the water as you were with the (banned) suits."

Phelps plans to swim the 200-meter freestyle, 100 and 200 butterfly, 200 individual medley and 200 backstroke at the US meet. His first day in the pool will be Wednesday, when he competes in two events, making it his busiest day.

Phelps was disappointed with his performance at a June meet in Paris, saying his stroke and timing were off but that he has improved in the past few weeks.

"It is a lot better than it was a couple weeks ago," he said. "I feel like I can actually swim freestyle again. That`s always a good feeling coming into a nationals meet."

The frustrations have made Phelps all the hunmgrier for success this week.

"I`m more motivated now than I have been all year," he said. "Not being where you want to be is frustrating. You know what you need to do to get back and you know what you need to change."

Phelps, a 14-time Olympic champion who is two years out from the London Olympics, says his challenges this week are as much for his mind as his body because he expects to be unsatisfied after the meet concludes Saturday.

"Not being as satisfied as I want to be leaving here, I think, is more than likely going to happen," Phelps said. "It`s going to be a meet that is more mental than physical."

The top two finishers in each event qualify for the Pan Pacific meet and that group will be used to decide next year`s US world team. A poor US meet effort could keep a swimmer out of key meets until the 2012 US Olympic trials.


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