13 Jul 2009

Phelps all set for the World Champs

10:41 am on 13 July 2009

The longest layoff of Michael Phelps's career doesn't appear to have dimmed the American swimming superstar's status as a gold-plated favorite heading into the world championships later this month.

Phelps punched his ticket to Rome in the 100 and 200 butterfly and the 200 freestyle.

His 100m butterfly victory in 50.22sec delivered a world record he had long coveted - and missed out on despite making it one of his eight victories at the Beijing Olympics.

Phelps won't get a chance to try out his new 100m freestyle technique in Rome, after pulling out of the event at the US trials that ended yesterday with a stiff neck.

But coach Bob Bowman said that Phelps, in fact, wouldn't have swum in the 100m free in Rome anyway, preferring to focus on the 200m fly - an event in which Phelps has indicated he has "unfinished business."

Phelps will almost certainly swim three relays, giving him six events as he bids to add to a collection that includes 15 world titles and 14 Olympic gold medals.

Also ready are Aaron Peirsol, who notched world records in the 100m and 200m backstroke, Ryan Lochte, the world number one in the 400m individual medley since Phelps has turned his attention from that event.

Nathan Adrian, winner of the 50m and 100m free at the trials and breaststroker Eric Shanteauau are other key elements of the men's team.

Dara Torres, 42, is the marquee name on the women's side, with Natalie Coughlin taking time off after the Beijing Games and struggling Katie Hoff failing to qualify.

Torres, battling a sore left knee, is qualified only to swim the 50m free and relays.

Otherwise the women's team is a mix of proven champions like Olympic 200m breaststroke gold medallist Rebecca Soni and youngsters such as Elizabeth Beisel and Elizabeth Pelton.

Beisel is a veteran of international competition at 16, while 15-year-old Pelton has booked three individual events in her first trip to the World Championships.