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Michael Phelps To Compete In 4 Events At U.S. Swimming Nationals In Irvine

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(FILES): This August 17, 2008 file photo shows US swimmer Michael Phelps competing in the men's 4 x 100m medley relay swimming final at the National Aquatics Center during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing. USA Swimming suspended Olympic superstar Michael Phelps for three months on February 5, 2009, a "reprimand" after a published photograph showed him apparently smoking marijuana. The national governing body of the sport stressed that the punishment was not for a doping violation, but said they wanted to send a "s trong message" to Phelps about his status as a role model for young people.

Michael Phelps (Photo Credit: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images)

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IRVINE (AP) — Michael Phelps will match his most grueling program since coming out of retirement, entering four events at next week’s U.S. national championships.

The winningest athlete in Olympic history will compete in the 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 100-meter freestyle and 200-meter individual medley at the meet that begins Wednesday in Irvine.

“I feel good,” Phelps told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Just staying relaxed is the biggest thing, not putting too much pressure on myself. I’m just going out and continuing what I’ve been doing throughout the year, just having fun. That’s how I’ve been able to swim my best.”

The national championships, along with the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia a couple of weeks later, will determine the American team for next year’s world championships.

Phelps retired after the London Olympics, having won a record 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall. He had accomplished all his goals and said he had no desire to swim into his 30s.

But he began plotting his comeback less than a year later and began serious training in September.

Since announcing a return to competition in April, the 29-year-old Phelps has competed in four meets, swimming four events in one meet, last month’s Santa Clara Grand Prix. But this will be his most daunting program yet, giving him a chance to gauge just how far he has come in a relatively short time. His longtime coach, Bob Bowman, said Phelps has shaken off much of the rustiness in his technique, improving his starts and turns. Conditioning is the biggest question mark, especially as he takes on more events.

Phelps is more concerned with his mental approach.

“A couple of races, I’ve tensed up a little bit. I tried to take it super seriously, and I didn’t have good success in those races,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens. There’s going to be more heats, more training, where I can correct things if they don’t go as planned next week.”

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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