BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. -- The half-inch purple scar on Michael Phelps' right wrist is almost unnoticeable. The swelling already has gone down, and, in time, it will be but a memory. The jagged purple line will fade to pink and the bone beneath it will become whole.
But the questions will linger: Is Phelps' broken wrist a big deal? And how will it affect his preparation for the Beijing Olympics less than a year away?
"I've had a rocky start so far," Phelps acknowledged last night at the Golden Goggles Awards, USA Swimming's annual red-carpet party to celebrate achievements in the pool. "But I was able to be back in the water the day after surgery. We've just been really cautious with everything, just taking things very carefully to make sure it heals so I can be back to 100 percent by [the Olympic] trials."
Phelps' bum wrist, which he says he injured when he slipped while climbing into a car in Michigan in October, has been the talk of the swimming world. Supposedly, it's not serious. But in an Olympic year, with a shot at eight gold medals at stake, everything is serious.
"I really am a fish out of water," Phelps said. "I was falling, I went to catch myself, and I tweaked it. I'm lucky it wasn't a major issue, but just to be extra safe, we had it pinned."
Phelps said he didn't think much of the slip until he woke the next morning and saw how swollen his wrist was. X-rays revealed a tiny break that would have healed on its own, but after talking it over with his coach, Bob Bowman, Phelps opted for surgery to speed his recovery.
Phelps acknowledged that he had a moment of panic when he heard there was a break.
"I think, though, that you're always going to have things stand in your way," Phelps said. "Hopefully, I'll bounce back from it."
Phelps said he plans to test the wrist next month at the Short Course Nationals in Atlanta.
"I just want to see where we are in training," he said. "The timing wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. If it was any later, it really would have put us strapped for time and called for desperate measures. But I feel fine right now."
After Christmas, Phelps plans to spend four weeks training in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Things have gone much smoother recently for Towson's Katie Hoff, the world-record holder in the 200 and 400 individual medleys. She continues training at North Baltimore Aquatic Club with an eye on 2008.
"Everything is going great," Hoff said last night. "We really got back into it after Worlds and I was pretty happy with my times at Nationals. ... It's nice to come out here and get dressed up and see everyone you compete against. Tonight is all about having fun and celebrating a bit."