Is Michael Phelps slipping?

Michael Phelps said he was “furious” with himself this weekend after a lackluster performance at a swim meet in Paris in which he twice lost to a French teenager and finished last in the 100 freestyle.

The 14-time gold medalist won two of his four events at the Paris Open, but his struggles in the 100 and 200 freestyles left him concerned with the state of his training two years out from his probable Olympic swan song in London.

“Hopefully, it’s a wake-up call. If it’s not, then I have to change a lot. I blame myself. You’ve got to be responsible for your own action.

“I know what I have to work at to improve. I thought I had done better training (after his first meet of the year in May) but clearly I have not. I’m the only one who can fix it.”

Yannick Agnel, 18, beat Phelps in both freestyle events, setting a French national record in winning the 200. He said he was thrilled to beat the most decorated swimmer of all-time, but realizes that Phelps wasn’t in the best shape.

Phelps concurred. He said he’s “way behind” other swimmers in his training. “I’m the one who needs to catch up,” he said.

That’s a loaded statement from the greatest swimmer ever. If Phelps really believes that he’s playing catch up to the new kid on the block, that would theoretically be devastating to any hope for Olympic glory in 2012. But to the contrary, this swimming malaise is the best thing that could have happened to the swimming giant.

Now that we’re at the halfway mark between the two Games, Phelps finally can get London in his sights. It was always going be difficult for him to stay motivated in the four years between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, particularly after reaching the summit of the sport in China. Though he was solid at the 2009 World Championships, Phelps has been more known for controversy since Beijing than anything else. (Remember when this was the biggest news in sports?) There was little to keep Phelps hungry.

Now he has it. There are new stars in the sport trying to topple the king of swimming. London, and the chance to become the greatest Olympian in history, is 25 months away. Michael Phelps is aware of both these things. And it sounds like he’s about to start getting ready.

Author: Jason Zajdel

Learning as I go along. It's an awesome ride. =-)