ROME - Michael Phelps has somehow slipped under the radar while preparing for the world championships.
The Fells Point resident who won a record eight Olympic gold medals at last summer's Beijing Games has been getting over jet lag, eating pizza and adjusting to the Mediterranean sun without much commotion. Which is just what his team wanted.
"It's actually been real calm here, and that's what we were looking for when we chose this location," Mark Schubert, head coach and general manager of the U.S. national team, told the Associated Press from Riccione on Italy's Adriatic coast.
"He's been asked for a few autographs by fans and they've been polite, but it hasn't been huge crowds," Schubert said, speaking by phone. "I think he's a little lower on the radar in Riccione."
Swimming events in Rome begin next weekend and the U.S. team won't arrive in the capital until Thursday. The team has access to indoor and outdoor pools in Riccione.
"The training has been going really well," said Bob Bowman, Phelps' personal coach. "The last three-four days we've just been acclimating and getting over the time difference. It's a beautiful setup here."
Phelps will swim only three individual events in Rome - the 200 freestyle, and 100 and 200 butterfly - plus all three relays.
"You don't have to do quite as much conditioning, but the pressure is probably greater with fewer events," Bowman said. "Michael has been kind of following the normal practice patterns, sharpening a few things up a little bit. He's just got to rest up and get mentally ready."
At the U.S. national championships in Indianapolis this month, Phelps set a world record in the 100 butterfly, although he pulled out of the 100 free with a sore neck.
A couple of days ago, two-time defending 100 freestyle world champion Filippo Magnini of Italy intimated that Phelps withdrew from swimming's signature race because the Baltimore-area native realized he wouldn't win.
"He wasn't there. I was there and I saw him," Schubert said. "[Magnini] is entitled to his opinion, but he's not stating the facts."
Bowman added that Phelps would return to the sprint event in the future, perhaps at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai.
"It will all work itself out in time," Bowman said, noting that Phelps had limited training for what was supposed to be his new event.
Phelps was suspended for three months by USA Swimming after the publication of a photo showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe in February.
"We come into this meet with three months of training and I changed his stroke," Bowman added. "He will absolutely do [the 100 free] in the future."
Phelps won seven golds at the last worlds in Melbourne, Australia, two years ago. In Montreal in 2005, his haul was five golds and a silver.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun