ATLANTA — The U.S. swimming team has just one practice left before it leaves for the Rio Olympics.
Women's coach David Marsh likes what he's seen at the 12-day Atlanta training camp.
"It's been a beautiful camp so far," he said. "The captains are leading it well. Very relaxed. There's nothing having to be contrived here to create things."
The team's most prominent co-captain, Michael Phelps of Baltimore, was the big draw Saturday for the near-capacity crowd at the Georgia Tech aquatic center.
Phelps has said he will retire after his fifth Olympics, and fans started lining up at 5 a.m., over six hours before the team walked onto the deck.
Phelps occasionally waved and smiled during the nearly three-hour workout, but mostly kept to himself. Despite doing no interviews with reporters, his influence was felt everywhere.
"We were talking about it at dinner the other day without him," said women's co-captain Allison Schmitt, a three-time Olympian and member of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. "People didn't know anything [about swimming before Phelps]. It was embarrassment to be a swimmer. No young boy was a swimmer. Now there's probably more guys in the sport than there is girls. He has definitely changed it a lot and he will continue to change it a lot past his retirement."
The most decorated athlete in the history of the games, Phelps will try to add to his 18 golds and 22 overall medals before he retires for the second time. He won the 100-meter butterfly, the 200 fly and the 200 individual medley at the U.S. Olympic trials r this month in Nebraska.
His personal coach, U.S. men's coach Bob Bowman, said Phelps looks as strong as ever.
"He never surprises me anymore," Bowman said. "As soon as you think you've seen it all, he'll give you something else."
Bowman declined to say if the 31-year-old will compete in a relay event.
"I do know," he said. "I'm not going to tell you."
First-time Olympian Chase Kalisz, another NBAC alum and Bel Air native, has known Phelps for several years and says it's easy to see why television insisted on starting the finals, which begin next Saturday, so late each night.
Phelps means big ratings for NBC.
"Our sport wouldn't be what is without Michael," Kalisz said. "You look at all the coverage we get because of him and all the opportunities we get because of Michael. You look back 20 years ago, and it wasn't like that. There wasn't this kind of excitement. I think he's ready to go out the way he wants to go out and close that chapter on his own terms. I think it will be good for him."
The team has already adapted to a new sleep schedule, getting in the pool each night at Georgia Tech at 10 p.m. That's what time the semifinals will begin in Rio. Some finals could end after midnight.
Swimmers have grown accustomed to the uncustomary hours over the last few weeks.
"It's kind of a college kid's dream," said Gunnar Bentz, a first-time Olympian. "We get to stay up late and we get to sleep in. It's kind of nice, honestly, but training at 10-11 p.m. is a little weird. You get used to it, but I think will work really well in Rio."