Phelps to lead U.S. vs. Europe

Updated: October 28, 2009, 2:41 PM ET
Associated Press

Michael Phelps will lead the U.S. against a team of European swimmers at Duel in the Pool, likely the last major international meet for high-tech bodysuits.

USA Swimming announced a 36-person team on Wednesday to face a combined squad from Britain, Germany and Italy at Manchester, England, on Dec. 18-19. The Americans won the last three Duels, all against Australia.

The roster includes 17 Olympians, including Phelps, who broke Mark Spitz's Olympic record by winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games and is coming off another strong performance at the world championships in Rome this past summer.

Olympic gold medalists Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol and Rebecca Soni also were selected, as was Jessica Hardy, who'll be competing in her first major international meet since completing a one-year ban for a failed doping test. The European team has yet to be announced.

"We have a good team going," Lochte said. "We're just going to go out there and have some fun. That's what this meet is about, having fun and racing."

The meet also is expected to serve as the last hurrah for sleek bodysuits that helped rewrite the record book over the past two years.

New standards are scheduled to take effect in January, limiting males to old-style jammers that run from the waist to just above the knees and requiring females to wear suits that only cover the area from the shoulders to the top of the knees. Governing body FINA passed the rules during the world championships, where 43 world records were set.

USA Swimming has already put the new rules into effect for its sanctioned meets and had hoped that Duel in the Pool would fall under the guidelines, too. But this meet is just before the new standards take effect, providing the chance for one last assault on the record book.

"I'm comfortable with wearing the same suit I wore at worlds," said Lochte, referring to Speedo's LZR Racer. "But we're all going to be ready, no matter what suit we're wearing. The suit doesn't make the swimmer, the swimmer makes the suit."

Phelps has already said he'll switch to the jammer when he competes in two European World Cup meets next month and at Duel in the Pool -- even though it could put him at a disadvantage against swimmers still wearing suits that cover more of the body.

One of the most anticipated races at the Manchester meet will be the 200-meter freestyle, a rematch between Phelps and Paul Biedermann. The German, wearing a polyurethane suit that will soon be outlawed, upset Phelps at the world championships and took away his world record.

The swimmers say they're eager to put the whole swimsuit controversy behind them.

"Going back to the old-style suits will make swimming go forward," British star Gemma Spofforth said. "This will show people that the best swimmers are those who are training hard, who are fit, instead of maybe those who had a few extra pounds and just stuffed it into the suit."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press