Phelps toweling off, but Beijing whets appetite

He's going to take some time off from swimming and enjoy the rewards his accomplishments have brought him, but in typical Michael Phelps fashion, he can't avoid thoughts of his next Olympics.

Phelps did his 11th news conference in 12 days yesterday, but he perked up when the topic became the Beijing Olympics."I wouldn't count anything out," Phelps said. "I would definitely keep all options open."

The $1 million bonus in his Speedo contract for matching Mark Spitz's seven gold medals carries over to 2008, so let speculation about Phelps' program for Beijing begin.

Phelps will march in the closing ceremony Sunday, then go home with six gold medals. No Summer Olympian has ever won 10 overall, although legends such as Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi, Spitz and Carl Lewis came close.

Phelps was one of only two teens on the American men's swim team. He would be 23 in Beijing and hardly an old man in 2012, which would be his fourth Olympics.

"A lot can happen in four years," he said. "A lot can happen in a week. We're going to take it one day, one week, one year at a time, but it would be great to have the opportunity to possibly swim my last Olympics in the United States, if we get that bid. I hope to swim for another eight to 10 years, but we'll have to see."

New York is among the 2012 finalists, a field headed by Paris and London.

When that decision is announced, Phelps will have established residence in Ann Arbor, Mich. He's about to shift his allegiance from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club to Club Wolverine, but he'll also be the volunteer assistant to Bob Bowman, the new coach at University of Michigan.

Phelps has taken orders from Bowman since the age of 12, and the two must create a new dynamic.

"We were kidding around, about who can last longer," Phelps said. "Our relationship will get stronger, but we both have our little space now. It's good to be able to sit back and relax, and I'm sure he feels the same way."

Bowman, a thoroughbred owner, went to an equestrian event yesterday with Paul Bergen, a major influence, and John Urbanchek, the outgoing Michigan coach. Bowman took the Wolverines job over other offers because he doesn't have to create a work ethic, just tweak the one Urbanchek left behind.

Phelps will move to Ann Arbor in late October and study sports business or marketing when he finally gets around to enrolling at Michigan.

"I am looking forward to sort of starting a new beginning," Phelps said.

Between Athens and the world short-course championships in October, Phelps will take a North American tour that includes a tentative stop in Baltimore.

"I miss going to breakfast at Pete's," Phelps said of the Waverly grill where he refueled after morning workouts. "I miss my car, my house, my cat."

He left the Sydney Olympics as a curio item, the youngest U.S. male Olympian since 1952. A television reporter asked the face of the Athens Olympics what it's like being a sex symbol for American teenage girls.

"All this is a new experience for me," Phelps said. "I don't know how to answer that."

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