Michael Phelps is attempting a racing schedule nearly as ambitious as what he did at the Olympics. But this time he won't be swimming as far.
Six weeks after winning six gold medals and two bronzes in Athens, the teenager will swim six events in a 25-meter pool at the World Short Course Championships that begin Thursday.
The whole world knew Phelps was chasing Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals at the Olympics. He just missed, but still left Greece as the biggest star of the games.
"He really put himself out there. He made a statement and took a risk," Australian Coach Leigh Nugent said. "He put himself under enormous pressure. For someone to do that and come up with the goods shows what they're really made of."
This week, Phelps isn't sure what he can accomplish.
"I'm just going in and have fun," he said on Wednesday. "Just having an opportunity to swim in front of our home crowd is the most important thing. There's going to be a lot of good, screaming fans."
Phelps met plenty of shrieking teenage girls during his post-Olympic Swim With the Stars tour, which took him around the country with fellow Olympians Ian Crocker and Lenny Krayzelburg.
"Every single town we went to there's a standing ovation, tons of screaming fans, smiles on kids' faces. It's all been incredible," he said. "Lenny said, "It's kind of like aqua Beatles."
Simply walking around became a different experience.
"Sometimes people would give me looks or come up to me and ask, 'Are you Michael?' " he said. "They'd stop at that and I liked to joke, 'My name is Michael, what are you asking?' "
This week, the Indianapolis newspaper is urging readers to call in and report any sightings of Phelps away from Conseco Fieldhouse, where temporary competition and warmup pools were built over the floor used by the NBA's Indiana Pacers.
The 19-year-old from Baltimore smiled at the prospect of being gossip column fodder.
"I'm here to swim," he said. "They can see me walking from my hotel and back to the hotel. That's about the only two things they'll see me doing."
Teammate Amanda Beard, whose provocative layouts in men's magazines have caused a stir, noted Phelps is turning up in celebrity magazines.
"I see this boy inside, his hot bod," she said, jabbing a blushing Phelps in the arm. "It doesn't happen in swimming very often. I hope it's not an every four years' thing."
Coming so soon after the Olympics, Phelps acknowledged he is competing in the five-day meet mostly to support its first staging in the United States and plug the sport.
"People think of swimming as a once every four years' sport," he said. "We swim every single day and we compete in major meets every year and the rest of the public needs to see that."
Phelps has limited experience in short course meets, having competed in his first one in 1999. "He did absolutely terrible," Coach Bob Bowman said.
But he was 6 for 6 at last year's short course World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, and just missed setting two world records.
Phelps is entered in the 200-meter freestyle, 200 butterfly, 100, 200 and 400 individual medleys and 800 free relay. The pool is half the length of what he usually swims in, giving him less space to maneuver his slender 6-foot-4 frame into the turns.
"There are more turns, which aren't really my forte. I'm going to stay open-minded," he said.
And what if the shorter pool exposes Phelps as a mere mortal?
"That's perfectly fine," Bowman said. "That will just give him more incentive to get back into training. He's clearly proven himself and what happens at this meet is not going to change people's perception of that."