Michael Phelps' news conference in Charlotte was quite an event, with about 50 media members anxiously leaning in to ask questions of the 14-time gold medalist Thursday afternoon.
There wasn't much news in the 16-minute press conference, but Phelps seemed anxious to get in the pool and compete after not swimming in an official meet since the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, when he went 8-for-8 in gold medals.
Phelps' coach Bob Bowman later clarified the star swimmer's schedule for me. Bowman said Phelps will swim the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly on Friday, meaning Friday night will be the only time he is in two finals.
Then, on Saturday, Phelps will swim the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke in the morning preliminaries and then pick only one of those to swim in the night final "because they are back to back," Bowman said.
Bowman indicated Phelps would most likely pick the 100 backstroke for Saturday night, where he would be on a collision course with 100 backstroke king Aaron Peirsol.
Then, on Sunday, Phelps swims the 100 freestyle, where he should meet up with Charlotte's Ricky Berens and Cullen Jones in a scintillating final.
So to sum up, that will mean Phelps should swim four finals here (not five, as was previously thought, since he won't do the double on Saturday night). That's barring any more changes.
Tickets are going fast or already gone for a number of sessions -- check www.CharlotteUltraSwim.com for more details.
How will Phelps do in Charlotte?
"I have no idea," Phelps said. "We’ll see. I’m just going to hop in the water and see what happens."
Phelps flew in to Charlotte Thursday morning, but this isn't the first time he has competed here. The last time came in the UltraSwim meet in 2006. I remember walking over to him at the pool in uptown Charlotte then and asking for a one-on-one interview. No other media folks were around. Phelps took off his headphones and cheerfully complied.
He wasn't unknown then, either, having already won six gold medals. But now, of course, he transcends his sport, which is part of the reason why reporters from Europe and Asia also are covering him here, as well as reporters for The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and many others.
It should be a fun weekend. Look for much more on Phelps' visit here and the UltraSwim meet in Friday's Charlotte Observer.
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