Coach: Michael Phelps' priority is 2012

Updated: September 13, 2010, 3:28 PM ET
Associated Press

HUNT VALLEY, Md. -- The longtime coach of Michael Phelps acknowledged Monday that the 14-time Olympic gold medalist currently isn't the finest swimmer in the world.

Bob Bowman said Ryan Lochte deserves that distinction.

Lochte beat Phelps in the 200 individual medley and 200 backstroke finals at the U.S. national championships last month, then won six gold medals to Phelps' five at the Pan Pacific championships.

Phelps I think one of the biggest things that motivates me now is having that summer that I had -- not being able to compete at the level that I want and having other people competing better than me.

-- Michael Phelps

"Obviously, Ryan Lochte is the best swimmer in the world this year. No question," Bowman said. "That will be a huge challenge for Michael going forward, hopefully a motivator."

On those rare occasions when Phelps loses, he does not take it well.

"I think one of the biggest things that motivates me now is having that summer that I had -- not being able to compete at the level that I want and having other people competing better than me," Phelps said. "It's frustrating, but I really think that's going to play a big role over the next two years to keep me being in the best shape.

"That's one thing I absolutely hate -- coming away from a meet really disappointed."

Regardless of his expectations, which weren't all that high at the Pan Pacific championships.

"Some of the things that happened at Pan Pacs were frustrating, but at the same time I knew it was going to happen," the 25-year-old Phelps said. "I expected that to happen. I wasn't expecting to go out and do my best time. I was hoping, but I gave everything I could, and I think that's all that matters."

The goal for Phelps is to be the best in the world at the 2012 London Olympics. That's when he will try to come up with a suitable encore for his record-shattering performance at the 2008 Games in Beijing, where he won eight gold medals.

"The only meet that matters to Michael is in London," Bowman said.

Phelps' next important foray into the pool will come in 2011 at the world championships. But even that prestigious meet will be nothing more than another step in his quest to excel at the next Olympics.

"I know I need to have a great world championships this summer to set up a good program for London," Phelps said. "I know what I have to do to get there."

Said Bowman: "We want him to swim well in the worlds because that leads up to [London], but honestly, it's a long buildup. I don't want to get him ready too early and have to hold onto it. I'd just rather have him ready.

"I feel like he's progressing OK toward the worlds," Bowman said. "I think he ended up this summer about as well as he could end up [considering] what he had done. If he moves forward off that, we'll be in really good shape. If it's the same, it will be iffy."

Phelps and Bowman spoke at the first Michael Phelps Foundation Golf Classic, a charity event at Hayfields Country Club.

Phelps took up golf less than a year ago. He bought a set of clubs on a Friday and was on the course the next day. He took his clubs with him to Hawaii last week during a vacation.

His best score is a 91. Along the way, Phelps discovered that golf has something in common with swimming.

"Just like anything else, the more you work at it the better you're going to be," he said. "After I retire, I'll be spending a lot of time at golf, and we'll see how good I can get."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press