Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps takes practices Thursday in preparation… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )
Reporting from Santa Clara, Calif. — Eight, apparently, was just enough.
Swim icon Michael Phelps couldn't have been more emphatic on the burning topic of again trying to go after eight Olympic gold medals. There is no doubt he won't be winning eight gold medals because he said he won't be competing in eight events in 2012.
Been there, done that.
But that is only part of it. Phelps pulled off the record, three summers ago at the Olympics in Beijing. He won five individual gold medals and three more in the relays. Phelps talked about the golds, and goals, still looming, sitting down with a handful of reporters on a sun-splashed Thursday morning.
"There are still things I want to do, that's obvious," Phelps said. "I wouldn't have come back if I still didn't have things to accomplish. I won't be doing eight again; that is out of the question. There are still some small goals I want to accomplish that will probably be just as challenging."
Long-time coach and mentor Bob Bowman was sitting next to Phelps at the swim complex and put the situation in proper context in his usual succinct way.
"I think there are things he needs to do if he wants to, performance-wise," Bowman said. "But he's climbed Mount Everest. I don't think he needs to do it twice to show he can do it. Everybody saw it."
Not that anyone would mind seeing the sequel.
From the vantage point of base camp, it's become increasingly obvious that Act Four will be different. The fourth Olympics for Phelps probably will not feature one of his signature events, the 400-meter individual medley. The event is almost like swimming's decathlon.
Phelps, who is coming off an intense training camp in Colorado Springs, will be swimming in four events at the Santa Clara Invitational, the 100 freestyle, the 100 butterfly, the 200 backstroke and the 200 butterfly. Phelps and Ryan Lochte are the headliners of the meet, which features many of the top American swimmers and a sprinkling of international athletes.
The meet — the last significant competition before the World Championships next month in Shanghai — started Thursday night with two distance events, and Phelps will be in two events Friday, the 100 freestyle and the 100 butterfly. The 200 backstroke is Saturday and Phelps will swim the 200 butterfly Sunday.
Lochte is coming off a strained left knee, which has hampered his breaststroke preparation. He hurt it about two months ago when he went to get something out of the back seat of his car. The knee twisted and Lochte said his medial collateral ligament popped.
"I wish I did it doing something like break dancing," Lochte said.
Here, Lochte will swim the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke and will swim the 400 individual medley for the first time since the Pan Pacific Championships last summer in Irvine. If it does not go well, Lochte said he could drop the 400 IM from his World Championship program.
Lochte talked about what Phelps is trying to do, post-Beijing.
"I give credit to Michael for just coming back," he said. "He's done everything there is to do in the sport of swimming. What else is there to prove? He's done it all. I'm just glad he's still in the sport and just wanting to race against him. I love racing against him."
What Phelps will not do is retire after London and then come back more than a decade later. It is certainly not wildly impossible, considering he will turn just 26 on June 30. The topic came up when he was asked about the current comeback of Janet Evans, who returned to competition for the first time in 15 years.
"I'll say one thing: that will not happen," said Phelps, grinning.
Bowman: "I told him when he decides to do that: Forget my phone number. I won't be back when he's 30. This is it.
"This is our glory days right now."