Phelps prepares for London

CALIFORNIA - The 2012 London Games are more than two years away, but swimming superstar Michael Phelps's latest Olympic campaign is already building steam.

CALIFORNIA - The 2012 London Games are more than two years away, but swimming superstar Michael Phelps's latest Olympic campaign is already building steam.

Phelps, whose unprecedented eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics took his tally of 14, said 2010 will be a pivotal year, despite a dearth of major international championships.

"Those are the two most important years that are coming up for me, being able to have a good World Championships next year to set up hopefully a good Olympics," Phelps said on Friday.

He was preparing for USA Swimming's Southern California Grand Prix at Long Beach.

His schedule will include US Grand Prix meetings in Missouri and Charlotte, a meeting near his training base in Baltimore and a trip to the Paris Open in June.

The US national championships and the Pan Pacific Championships for Pacific Rim countries in August will determine the US team for the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai.

Phelps is slated to swim five events in Long Beach - contested in short-course yards - a format rarely swum outside the US.

He admitted that getting into the swing of training in late last year was hard, so his recent stint of altitude training in Colorado was a welcome chance to narrow his focus.

"For me, being able to go out there, I'm eating, swimming, sleeping - that's it. There's no time for anything else . it's easy for me to get back in a routine, get back in a rhythm," Phelps said. - Sapa-AFP

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