OMAHA, Neb. Michael Phelps has a big believer when it comes to his quest to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals at the Olympics.
In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, the star of the 1972 Munich Games left little doubt that he expects his 36-year-old mark to be on the Olympic books for only another month or so.
"What do I project for Michael Phelps in Beijing?" Spitz said. "A success story for all times sake."
Phelps came up just short of Spitz's iconic record four years ago, winning six gold medals in Athens but settling for bronze in his other two events.
Now 23 and coming off a historic seven-win performance at last year's world championships, Phelps is expected to swim the same program in Beijing. Approaching the midway point of the Olympic trials in Omaha, he already had locked up spots in three events and was a heavy favorite in Wednesday evening's final of the 200-meter butterfly.
"You haven't seen nothing yet," Spitz said in a telephone interview, two days before he was scheduled to arrive at the trials himself. "He could break his arm before Beijing, but as long as they have some duct tape, they can just tape him back up and he'll swim and win."
Not that eight golds is a sure thing, of course.
Spitz pointed to the most likely stumbling blocks on Phelps' expected program of five individual events and three relays.
"He has two hurdles, or maybe three," Spitz said. "He doesn't really know what the relays are going to do. Someone could false start. No. 2, he's got that first event to get through. He's got a pretty good competitor in the 400" individual medley, referring to Ryan Lochte.
Both Phelps and Lochte went under the previous world record on the opening night of the trials, but Phelps touched first.
In Beijing, Phelps is expected to swim only one individual event in which he doesn't hold the world record. Fellow American Ian Crocker has the best time ever in the 100 butterfly, but Phelps beat him in Athens and at last year's worlds in Australia.
"If the world recordholder wakes up and decides not to feel sorry for himself, Phelps could have a hard time in the 100 fly," Spitz said. "The way I see it, that's the most difficult hurdle he's got."
In Spitz's view, Phelps "will put the gauntlet down in the 400 IM" and he won't spend any time worrying about all the things that could go wrong in the relays because "all he can control is being prepared and totally rested." He'll devote most of his steely focus to beating Crocker again on the biggest stage.
"Michael will be real cordial to the press in Beijing for about a day," Spitz said. "You're not going to be able to get to him after that, because he's got a job to do."