Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 22 News List

Phelps works on bulking up ahead of test in Athens

AP , LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Michael Phelps' biggest problem on his path to the Athens Olympics is weight.

At 1.93m and 88kg, the lanky swimmer is struggling to bulk up. He and his teammates at an aquatic club in his hometown of Baltimore even have contests to see who can consume the biggest breakfast.

"The most I ever had was an order of french toast, three pancakes, an omelet, a bowl of grits and three breakfast sandwiches," Phelps said during a recent visit to Long Beach, site of the US Olympic trials next summer. "I'm going to keep eating like this until I can't."

He has added 13kg to 15kg and grown 10cm since the 2000 Sydney Games, where he was the youngest member of the US men's Olympic swim team since 1932.

But his weight fluctuates by as much as 3kg to 4kg in any given week. He lost 4kg after having his four wisdom teeth removed. Phelps needs to at least maintain his current weight to help him in everything from the 100m butterfly to the 400m individual medley, which features four different strokes.

"I can go from 195 to 190 in a day. It's very frustrating," he said in between bites of a medium rare steak and mashed potatoes.

Besides the weight factor, the grueling racing schedule, along with illness, injury and competitors like Australian Ian Thorpe could also derail Phelps' bid to win seven golds in Athens -- and tie Mark Spitz's record.

Phelps and Thorpe are considered the world's two best swimmers.

"People are trying to knock Thorpe off his pedestal," said Phelps, who so far has escaped serious injuries or illness in his career.

It won't be easy.

Like athletics, the swimming schedule isn't always favorable to athletes attempting multiple events. And swimmers must compete in preliminaries and semifinals before going for a medal in the finals.

"He'll probably be conserving as much energy in the semis and prelims as he can," said Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman. "He'll probably never have a prelim swim where he's pressured, but it just adds that extra layer of stress. He'll probably be saving his best efforts only for the finals."

Phelps tested himself at the world championships this summer in Barcelona, Spain, where he smashed five world records, including two marks in two different strokes on the same day.

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