Baltimore May Become Elite Training Hub

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bob Bowman and swimming great Michael Phelps envision the North Baltimore Aquatic Club becoming a training hub for professional swimmers when both return there after the Summer Games in August.

Bowman, who recently accepted a post as the club's chief executive, said he and Phelps hope eventually to recruit a stable of the sport's elite athletes and model the club on others in California, at the University of Texas and at their training home for the past four years, the University of Michigan.

That shouldn't be difficult. Phelps, who won eight Olympic medals at the 2004 Summer Games before moving from Baltimore to Ann Arbor, will rejoin Katie Hoff, who captured three gold medals at last year's world championships and has grown up in the North Baltimore pool under Coach Paul Yetter.

But some in the sport wonder what will become of Michigan's Team Wolverine program after losing Phelps and Bowman simultaneously, along with a number of the team's other top performers who are expected to retire or leave Michigan in the fall. A new head coach is expected to be named soon.

Team Wolverine sent five athletes to the Olympics in 2004; four in 2000; and its most ever, eight, to the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta under former coach Jon Urbanchek, who remains there as an assistant.

"We created an Olympic culture," Urbanchek said. "My thing was to get a new coach that would retain that culture, somebody that would take the job 24/7, 365 days a year."

Several other Team Wolverine Olympians are planning their exits. Kaitlin Sandeno is expected to retire after Beijing. Erik Vendt said he intends to spend next year in Italy. Peter Vanderkaay said he probably will compete, but only through 2009. Bowman said he would not attempt to lure his former athletes from Ann Arbor.

"A lot of us realize this is probably the last few months we'll spend together," Vendt said. "They're such good guys. I've never been around a team that, from top to bottom, is just great guys."

-- Amy Shipley

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