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Phelps tweaking technique to focus on shorter races

MICHAEL Phelps is following up his record performance at the Beijing Olympics by changing some of the swimming technique that carried him to eight gold medals.

As he shifts to focusing on shorter races, he hopes the new freestyle technique will increase his sprinting speed when he returns to competition next month.

"You'll all have to see. I'm not saying anything until we unveil it," Phelps said with a grin when asked how he's tweaked the stroke. "It's a significant change. You'll be able to tell exactly what I did as soon as I take my first stroke."

Phelps will reveal the new technique at the Charlotte UltraSwim from May 14-17 in North Carolina, his first meet since Beijing. He plans to swim four events, including the 100- and 200-meter free and the 100 butterfly.

"I'm going to try it this year. If it works, it works," Phelps said. "If it doesn't, I'll go back to the old stroke."

Phelps was in Manhattan on Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new store of long time sponsor Omega. The watch maker stuck by Phelps after a British tabloid published a photo of him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.

"This is something in his private life," said Omega president Stephen Urquhart. "Michael reacted very well. He went out, he apologized. This has no bearing at all on what he's done, his sporting activity, what he's done with the media. He's always been fantastic with us."

Judging by the throng of tourists clicking away to get a shot of Phelps, he's still a big draw.

Inside the store, Phelps signed a photo of the underwater view of his razor-thin victory margin in the 100 butterfly at the Olympics, where Omega is the official timekeeper.

Sporting a goatee, Phelps said he's lost the kilos he gained during his post-Beijing time off. He's altered his weight training as part of his goal to get stronger and faster for the shorter events.

About seven weeks back into serious training, he joked, "I feel like I can swim. When I got back in, I didn't feel like I could move."


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