Phelps set for five events in return to pool

American swim star Michael Phelps is ready to take the plunge again after capturing a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics and suffering a stunning public humiliation.

The 23-year-old superstar makes his return to competitive swimming after a nine-month layoff starting here on Friday at the Charlotte UltraSwim, where he is expected to swim in five events over three days.

Phelps, who also won six gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said last month that he intends to train for the 2012 London Olympics after surpassing legend Mark Spitz by claiming eight golds in an epic pool effort at Beijing.

"Deep down inside, I was the one who needed to decide what I was going to do, if I still had passion and still had drive to get back in the pool," Phelps said. "I still have four more years and then I'll be done.

"There are still more things out there that I want to do and that I can do to help change the sport, and that's why I'm back - because I want to do it."

In February, a British newspaper published a photograph of Phelps holding a bong, a pipe commonly used to smoke marijuana, at a party in Columbia, South Carolina, only about an hour's drive south of here.

"I did make a mistake. It was stupid," Phelps said. "There are also some important lessons that I've learned. It is all about recognizing that I used bad judgment and it's a mistake I won't make again."

Phelps lost a sponsorship deal as a result and USA Swimming imposed a three-month suspension that ended last week, but no charges were filed as a result of the picture, which brought humbling worldwide attention.

"I will move forward and dive back into the pool, having put this whole thing behind me," Phelps said.

Phelps is expected to compete in the 200m freestyle and 100 butterfly on Friday, the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke on Saturday and the 100 freestyle on Sunday.

The meet begins with two distance events on Thursday, when Phelps is set to participate in a news conference promoting the event. Phelps is expected to swim one other tuneup event before July's US and world swim championships.

Phelps used his break from the pool to enjoy his fame, making numerous television appearances and filming commercials with other sports stars and Hollywood celebrities.

Editor: Zheng Limin | Source: Xinhua