Phelps ready for his final races in the U.S.

Sun Jun 26, 2016 5:39am EDT
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By Steve Keating

OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) - After the cut-throat competition of the U.S. Olympic Trials, the Rio Games will be a swim in the park, Michael Phelps said on Saturday as the most decorated Olympian of all time prepared for his final races in the United States.

A reflective, relaxed and at times playful Phelps was in a sentimental mood as he and longtime coach Bob Bowman, now referred to as "Grandpa Bob", met with the media on the eve of the trials where Phelps is down to compete in five events.

With only the top-two finishers in each event clinching tickets to Rio, the 18-time Olympic gold medalist will face the same pressure packed challenge as every other swimmer climbing onto the starting blocks during the June 26-July 3 meeting.

"I think for us being as strong of a swimming country as we are, I think there's probably more pressure at Trials than the Games," said Phelps. "We have almost 2,000 people here, and a maximum of 52 will make the team, so it's a pretty small chance.

"So it is challenging, and I think this is more pressure, I don't want to say more excitement, but more pressure here than the Olympics for sure. It's harder here."

Phelps will have a new motivation and a new fan among the soldout crowd of close to 14,000 on the days when he races with infant son Boomer in the stands watching his famous father.

Determined to share his journey into retirement, Phelps said that if he makes the U.S. squad and qualifies for his fifth Olympics, Boomer and his partner Nicole will also make the trip to Rio for his competitive swan song despite Zika fears.

"I'm looking forward to having him here and just being able to have my son, my first child, be able to watch me at some of my last competitions I think is pretty special," said Phelps.   Continued...

Aug 9, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; Michael Phelps swims in the men's 200 meters individual medley (IM) final during the Phillips 66 National Championships at Northside Swim Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports