Saturday, November 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

For Michael Phelps, there’s no place like home

By
August 06, 2014 |

BALTIMORE — Sitting on the deck at his beloved Meadowbrook, Michael Phelps glances toward the pool where he was once afraid to put his face in the water.

“This is me,” he said, a slight smile curling off his lips. “This is home.”

This is where Phelps put in most of the work to become the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. This is where he’s looking to add to that legacy after an aborted retirement, his eyes firmly on the Rio Games two years away.

And as the world’s greatest swimmer takes his comeback to its biggest stop yet — this week’s U.S. national championships in Irvine, California — it’s important for him to remember where he came from.

Why? Because for all the hoopla over LeBron James returning to Cleveland, there’s no bigger homebody than Phelps.

He still trains at the pool where he learned to swim, a nondescript building in Baltimore’s inner suburbs, right in the middle of the Jones Falls flood plain.

Drive past the shuttered ice rink with weeds growing up at the edges and there it is, a rectangular cube of gray concrete blocks.

Inside, kids do cannonballs off the side of the pool, teenagers sun on the faux beach with umbrellas stuck in the sand, geriatrics glide slowly through the water looking to ward off the advancing years.

In the middle of this scene out of Anywhere USA, there’s Phelps and his star-studded training group, an impressive collection of gold medalists, world champions and national record holders.

“It’s funny,” said his longtime coach, Bob Bowman. “When I come out here and see kids playing around, that’s just what Michael did every day when he was a little kid. When I first met him, he was just playing around in the pool, playing games with his friends.”

As they wrapped up preparations for the national championships, Phelps and Bowman shared an exclusive look at what goes on behind the scenes with The Associated Press.

___

TRAINING FOR GOLD

Before the Athens and Beijing Olympics, Phelps would push himself to the brink of exhaustion in practice, swimming up to 16,000 meters a day. Now, he’s putting in about half as many laps in the pool but doing longer sessions in the weight room, resulting in a more muscular physique.

Even though Phelps is only 29, an age that many consider the prime for a male athlete, there’s a lot of mileage on those dangling arms and shorter-than-expected legs (an unusually long torso is one of the anatomical keys to Phelps’ success). His body doesn’t recover as quickly as it once did, so he’s focused on becoming bigger and stronger, in hopes of going faster over shorter distances. No longer will he compete in the 400-meter individual medley, a brutal event that is essentially four races within one. He dropped the 200 butterfly, as well, giving up one of his signature events.

At nationals, Phelps’ longest event will be the 200 IM. He’ll also compete in three 100s — freestyle, backstroke and fly. Still a daunting program, but nothing like rival Ryan Lochte, who’s entered six events, or 17-year-old Katie Ledecky, who put her name in eight.

But perhaps the biggest change for Phelps is those he trains with on the Meadowbrook-based North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

There’s Yannick Agnel, the towering Frenchman who won two golds at the London Games; Allison Schmitt, who captured five medals at the last Olympics; Lotte Friis, a bronze medalist from Denmark; plus Conor Dwyer and Matt McLean, both with a relay gold to their names.

“If I want to be the best in the world, I needed to have the best coach and the best group in the world,” Agnel says. “Where else can I find that but here?”

From Bowman’s perspective, this is just what Phelps needed, too — stiff competition, on a daily basis.

“It used to be if Michael was on fire, nobody could beat him,” the coach said. “Now, if Michael’s on fire, there are maybe a couple of people who can still beat him. They’re that good.”

___

HOME SWEET HOME

When Meadowbrook opened in 1930, it was not designed for competitive swimming. There were fountains in the middle, giant slides and high dives along the sides. Things changed in the mid-’80s, when a floating deck was installed to mark off the 50-meter racing distance. In 1995, a second pool was built, this one covered by a roof and surrounded by three walls, with tarps that can be lowered on the fourth side to keep it running in the winter.

Phelps’ two older sisters were competitive swimmers at Meadowbrook, so it was only natural for him to take lessons when he was 6. Cathy Bennett was his first instructor.

“It sounds pretty important, doesn’t it?” she said, laughing. “It didn’t feel important at the time, I’ll tell you that.”

Phelps, to put it bluntly, was a handful.

“I hate to say that about Michael,” Bennett said apologetically, “but he had every excuse in the world to get out of the pool. ‘I need to go to the bathroom. It’s too cold.'”

Actually, the youngster didn’t feel comfortable putting his face in the water. Bennett told him to swim on his back. Within a few weeks, Phelps flipped over.

He never looked back.

Even as his fame grew, Meadowbrook remained pretty much the same. When it’s time for training outside the pool, Phelps and his teammates trudge down a rocky path, to a “weight room” that is nothing more than slab covered by a tent. For pull-ups, they grab a U-shaped pipe and yank themselves off concrete blocks. On this day, Schmitt cut the bottom of her foot while walking back toward the locker room without shoes.

“It might not be the prettiest or the best facility to train in, but it gets the job done,” Schmitt said, patching up her foot and spraying blood off the deck. “It’s kind of homey.”

Agnel prefers it this way.

“When you have something so fancy, you forget everything about hard work, the tough life,” the Frenchman said. “In some kind of way, this helps us to be mentally tough, as well. It’s pretty cool.”

For Phelps, it’s more than cool.

It’s home — so much so that he and his coach now run the place.

“Who would think the greatest Olympian of all time would come from suburban Baltimore?” Bowman said. “But he’s got to come from somewhere. It might as well be here.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Courses designed to boost health yield positive results

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Bands shine, Scouts serve, dogs win across region

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Police: Child flees attacker in Fairfield

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
 
Quail Run appeals 2nd ruling over wage claims

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

Settlement reached in Fairfield Inn suit over fall

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Assessors association taps Tonnesen as president

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Timm, Hunt maintain leads in tight council races

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A9

Afternoon crash kills 1 in Vallejo

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A9

 
Fairfield police log: Nov. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Nov. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
.

US / World

House intel panel debunks many Benghazi theories

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
A look at how FDA-approved robotic leg braces work

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Marine with robotic leg braces gets Bronze Star

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Oregon festival’s giant nutcracker: 41 feet

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

San Francisco window washer falls onto moving car

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Zookeepers had safety concerns before gorilla died

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California storms bring scattered rain, mudslides

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Judge declares wrongly convicted woman innocent

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

$139M deal reached in school molestation case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Senate leader lays off dozens of office employees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

UC expands legal services for immigrant students

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Man pleads not guilty to emailing nudies of ex

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Stymied? Republicans seek immigration response

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
LA animal shelter slashes prices on 100 pets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Agency rejects solar project in Silurian Valley

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Iran nuke talks stalled, despite Kerry efforts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Biden urges Russia to uphold east Ukraine truce

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Police: 3-year-old set fire that killed his family

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

93-year-old woman marks 75 years with same company

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
UK police spied on reporters for years, docs show

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Agency: Schools helped Lanza’s mom ‘appease’ him

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Bandits in Guinea steal suspected Ebola blood

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

With snow still piled high, Buffalo faces flooding

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

GOP can trump Obama’s bad immigration plan

By Lanhee Chen | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoons: Nov. 22, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Batson column falls short of truth

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

.

Living

Community Calendar: Nov. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Nov. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

My sister kicked Mom out of her house and won’t let her have the car

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

 
Horoscopes: Nov. 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

Blanket drive for homeless gets help from Colts player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

Bill Cosby show set for Vegas casino canceled

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Matt Czuchry says ‘Good Wife’ arc is at right time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

‘Queen Latifah Show’ to end after its 2nd season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

Vacaville downs Del Oro to advance to section semis

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

 
Sparano savors 1st win with Raiders

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Panthers youth football prepares for Super Bowl

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1

France levels tie against Switzerland in Davis Cup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Ibanez, Cash, Wakamatsu finalists to manage Rays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Federal judge denies sports betting in New Jersey

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
JC women’s basketball: Solano advances to tourney title game

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Ciganda, Granada tied for lead at LPGA finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sharks trade Demers to Stars for Dillon

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NFL will hear Adrian Peterson’s appeal Dec. 2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
49ers’ Dorsey is out of Sunday’s game against Redskins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

Toyota recalls nearly 423K Lexuses for fuel leaks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Ford’s new F-150 to get 26 mpg, tops among pickups

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

CEOs in 10 big mergers to get $430M: Equilar study

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
California unemployment unchanged at 7.3 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

White House: Immigration steps would boost wages

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Obituaries

Arthur Irving Weiner

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 11/22/14

My brothers said, pay double the rent or move out

By Tim Jones | From Page: HSR2

Ask a Designer: from clutter to decor

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2

Real estate transactions for Nov. 22, 2014

By Maureen Fissolo | From Page: HSR3

US 30-year mortgage rates drop to 3.99 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3