Michael Phelps will continue his back-to-the-future transition to old-style swimsuits when he leads an American team against the best swimmers from Britain, Italy and Germany in the "Duel in the Pool."
Phelps is the star attraction in Manchester for the short-course contest today and Saturday but is returning to Europe after a lackluster trip last month for World Cup meets.
Phelps, who ripped up the record books by winning eight Olympic gold medals last year, described the trans-Atlantic trip that yielded no victories as "pretty awful."
The difference? While his rivals continued to swim in high-tech suits that will be banned beginning Jan. 1, Phelps reverted to wearing old-style, textile knee-length suits that make him slower.
"At this point, it doesn't matter; a race is a race. I get up and swim, and I know for the time being I'm as prepared as I can be and whatever happens here, happens," Phelps said. "It's not really what happens now that really matters, it's what happens at the end of my career that matters."
But British swimmer James Goddard could wear one of the performance-enhancing suits that will be outlawed. Goddard finished sixth behind Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley at the Beijing Games.
"If you've got a better shot of getting more points when you've got a newer suit on, should we take it or not?" Goddard said. "If you want to do what's best for the team, maybe you should put a faster suit on to get more points.
"The suits are going to change next year anyway so we'll all see what happens in the future."
In the Manchester Aquatics Center, where Ian Thorpe dominated at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Phelps will be competing for the first time in England as part of the 36-person U.S. team.
"He is the kind of god in sport, isn't he?" said Rebecca Adlington, the British Olympic 400- and 800-meter freestyle champion. "He's just kind of the ultimate competitor. ... He is just absolutely unbelievable, and for him to be able to come over here and compete and for us all to get a chance to see him in the flesh is just such a brilliant thing."
Adlington will be among the six female and six male swimmers from each of Britain, Germany and Italy making up a European side. There are 30 races, including four relays, over the two days with three swimmers from each team competing in each individual race.
Like Phelps, Adlington will be ditching the polyurethane-clad suit before the ban by FINA, the world governing body, starts.
"I've decided to wear the suit because for the rest of my swimming career, that's the suit that I'm going to be wearing," Adlington said. "I might as well get used to it now. It seems silly to wear the old one at this point in my career. I'm quite comfortable in a knee suit so it's not such a big thing.
"I haven't really trained in it. I've done a couple of lengths in it but nothing major, which is why I'm quite looking forward to trying it in a race."
"He's going through a hard time right now, I assume - I've no idea what he is going through - but it can't be easy. I just wish him the best for himself and his family," said Phelps, who's in Manchester, England, for the "Duel in the Pool" swim meet. "I'd be the first to admit I've made a lot of mistakes both in and out of the pool."
Phelps, who won a record eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing, was photographed three months later inhaling from a marijuana pipe.